How to Swiftboat Rudy Giuliani

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The key to a good Karl Rove attack is not going after the target’s weaknesses, but going after his or her strengths. John Kerry had a number of vulnerabilities in the 2004 campaign, and he was attacked for them all, but nothing was so viciously slammed as his service in Vietnam, which, if you saw his acceptance speech at the Democratic convention, was meant to be his calling card and greatest asset.

 giuliani165.gifRudy Giuliani can be approached in the same way, argues a new Salon article. Instead of focusing on his support of civil unions, his support for abortion rights, his flip-flops to cover up these positions, his almost draconian gun laws, his many marriages (including one to his second cousin) and his estrangement from his children, his dressing up in drag, his voting for George McGovern, his yada yada yada — Rudy’s opponents should instead go after 9/11.

Sounds crazy, right? But Giuliani campaigns on 9/11 and little else, if you knock that out from under him, he’s toast. And as it turns out, that’s easier to do than commonly thought.

…the country’s largest union of firefighters hates “America’s mayor” with a passion.

The International Association of Fire Fighters, which represents most of the nation’s paid firefighters, initially declined to invite Giuliani to its bipartisan presidential candidates forum on Wednesday, March 14. Giuliani was the only major candidate from either party who didn’t get an invite. The organization drafted a blistering letter to explain why it was snubbing him. After the IAFF leadership relented on March 5 and decided to ask Giuliani to attend after all, they shelved the letter. When Giuliani said scheduling conflicts would keep him from attending the forum, the letter leaked out. It blasted Giuliani for his “disgraceful” order of November 2001 that forced hundreds of New York firefighters to stop searching ground zero for the remains of their fallen brethren.

“Our disdain for him,” said the letter, “is not about issues or a disputed contract. It is about a visceral, personal affront to the fallen, to our union and indeed, to every one of us who has ever risked our lives by going into a burning building to save lives and property.”

The Salon article also has the story of Rosaleen Tallon, who lost her brother, a firefighter, on 9/11 because his radio wouldn’t work and he couldn’t hear “mayday” calls from his superiors. Turns out, the firefighters had fought long and hard to have the radios replaced because they were known to be defective. The reason they weren’t replaced? The ineffectiveness or the unwillingness of Rudy Giuliani.

The whole situation is ripe for an attack ad. But it would be brutal, and it would have to reinvent a lot of the myths of 9/11. Is that territory Democrats will have the courage to revisit? It might pay dividends.

…imagine what a talented and aggressive Democratic media consultant could do with Giuliani’s real 9/11 record. Imagine Rosaleen Tallon and a Greek chorus of angry, bereaved New Yorkers in a spate of heart-tugging commercials. The ads could include not only the family members of men and women killed on 9/11, but also hard hats sickened by prolonged exposure to the toxic ground zero air that Giuliani declared safe to inhale within days of the attack. And the chorus could include the mayor’s downtown constituents, who were left to rid their homes of chemical dust without city assistance, risking their own well-being. The New York City government now estimates that 43,000 people have significant 9/11-related health problems. Many, no doubt, would gladly go on camera.

In the end, what’s more damning that angry firefighters? And boy are they angry. The Giuliani campaigns must have nightmares about these guys.

“He has alienated pretty much everybody in the 8,000-member fire department — by and large, we all resent him,” said New York City Fire Capt. Michael Gala… “We don’t forget. That’s the big thing — we don’t forget.”

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