Tom Friedman and Rudy Giuliani on 9/11

Clips from the Sept. 11, 2003, "Charlie Rose" show contain some worthwhile insights.

By Glenn Greenwald
November 19, 2007 9:12PM (UTC)
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(updated below - Update II - Update III - Update IV)

On September 11, 2003, Charlie Rose put together a one-hour retrospective on the Profound Meaning and Glory of September 11, featuring interviews he had conducted with the great heroes and icons created on that day. The entire show is below. Two of the 9/11 warriors -- Tom Friedman and Rudy Giuliani -- were featured, and different parts of what they said are notable.


First, Rose (beginning at 48:30) asked Friedman what causes all the rage and violence of the Terrorists. After explaining that Islamic radicals are very jealous of our freedoms and prosperity and feel rage over this (They Hate Us For Our Freedoms), Friedman said:

These young men are dwarfs, and dwarfs look for tall towers to bring down, to feel tall.

Indeed. Those are words to live by. There was apparently a time when Friedman was capable of great wisdom.

The other part of this show worth observing is how Giuliani for years has talked about 9/11 as though it is his personal event, and clearly sees its greatest significance as being all about him and his personal greatness (at 10:30):

GIULIANI: My very first feeling, when I first thought about it, maybe within an hour of the event -- was what a shame that I have to deal with this towards the end of my administration. And then immediately I said to myself -- No, that isn't the right feeling. Actually, thank God that I'm as experienced as I am. And this is what I know how to do. There are things I don't know how to do. But this is what I know -- I know how to organize an emergency.

ROSE: You know how to respond to a crisis.

GIULIANI: I know how to respond to a crisis. I've done that all my life and for some reason, I know how to do that. For some reason, that's something I've developed or it's a talent that I have.

ROSE: Did you believe at the time -- whatever my faults are -- at this moment, in this city, this is a thing that I can do better than anybody else?

GIULIANI: Yes. Yeah - I did. I did.

At another point (6:15), Giuliani dramatized the dangers he personally faced and the stoic strength he displayed in the face of this danger:

ROSE: Did you in your mind think your own life was at risk?

GIULIANI (Long dramatic pause. Audible, contemplative sighing): No. no. Not in the building. I knew we were in danger.

ROSE: Because you didn't know what was happening.

GIULIANI: Well, because the exits were blocked. And we couldn't get out. But it was a very fleeting thought: "we could be trapped here." But I didn't give myself time to think about that, because I tried to concentrate on: "how are we going to get out?"

There were millions of people in Manhattan on 9/11. Countless people had experiences of that sort, knew people who had died, etc. But I don't recall anyone ever -- let alone a full year later -- talking about their own personal experiences in such heroic terms, all because they were able to control their fears for their own safety.

Obviously, Giuliani had far more responsibility than the average person on that day, but he is clearly impressed with what he perceives to be his own personal courage. He obviously recognized the potential 9/11 payoff all the way back in 2002, as he displayed an unseemly eagerness -- along with a thorough preparedness -- to explain in highly dramatized ways why everyone ought to be equally impressed with his personal story:

UPDATE: Just one more thought on Friedman. Compare his rant yesterday about how the U.S. desperately needs Dick Cheney's crazed warmongering, to this sermon Friedman delivered back in 2006 on Meet the Press about how destructive the Bush administration is for transforming us into "a country that always exports fear":

In 2002, there were great pro-war winds blowing, so that's what Friedman spouted. In 2006, the opposite was true, so he suddenly found his anti-war voice ("the dark nature of the Cheneys and the Bushses and the Rices . . . this exporting of fear, not hope, has really left people feeling that the idea of America has been stolen from them"). But now, the media is back to persuading itself of the Greatness of the Iraq War, so Friedman once again loves Dick Cheney's deranged war threats.


I didn't intend to return to this topic but found both of these clips while searching for something else. At Obsidian Wings, both Hilzoy and publius have more on the incomparably small and absurd figure known as Tom Friedman, America's great and Serious (and "liberal") foreign policy expert.

UPDATE II: On the unique -- and uniquely threatening -- extremism of Rudy Giuliani, see here. Note as well even how dishonestly Giuliani describes the issues on which he's opining.

UPDATE III: Due to time constraints, I wasn't actually planning on posting today, but it looks as though this will turn into a stream of consciousness record documenting the dual (and not unrelated) horror of Rudy Giuliani and Tom Friedman. One can never have too many of those. Reader SEM emails with this superb 2003 nugget from the Seriousness Ouvre of Tom Friedman:

Now that it's become apparent that the Syrians have given military help to Saddam Hussein's army, and are alleged to be providing sanctuary for members of his despised clique, the question has been raised as to whether the Bush team might take out Syria's regime next. After all, when the Roto-Rooter truck's in the neighborhood, why not take advantage? . . .

For me, the best argument for pressuring Syria is the fact that France's foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, said on Sunday that this was not the time to be pressuring Syria. Ever since he blocked any U.N. military action against Saddam, Mr. de Villepin has become my moral compass: whatever he is for, I am against. And whatever he is against, I am for.

Friedman allows that while "we have no legal basis to do it now," "there are many good reasons for the U.S. to promote reform or regime change in Syria."

UPDATE IV: George Packer in The New Yorker:

Whenever [the GOP's] leading Presidential candidates appear before partisan audiences, they try to outdo one another in pledging loyalty oaths to the use of force, pandering to the war lobby as if they were Democrats addressing the teachers' union. Giuliani has surrounded himself with a group of advisers -- from Norman Podhoretz to the former Pentagon official Michael Rubin -- who, having got Iraq spectacularly wrong, seem determined to make up for it by doing the same thing in Iran. Giuliani approaches foreign policy in the same mood of barely restrained eagerness for confrontation with which, as mayor of New York, he went after criminals. He has essentially promised to go to war with Iran in order to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons, and he recently suggested that waterboarding is only torture when the wrong people are doing it, and blamed the "liberal media" for giving it a bad name. He has said that he would improve America's miserable image around the world by threatening State Department diplomats with unnamed consequences unless they defend United States foreign policy more aggressively. "The era of cost-free anti-Americanism must end," Giuliani snarled in the polite pages of Foreign Affairs, which had invited candidates to lay out their views. . . .

The room for genuine discussion in the Republican field is so limited that after Romney implied during a debate last month in Dearborn, Michigan, that war with Iran would need a legal basis and might require congressional approval Giuliani spent the next week ridiculing him, and the Wall Street Journal editorial page reacted as if John Kerry had just mentioned a "global test": "Egad. Call in the attorneys? Perhaps it is Mr. Romney's experience in business that taught him to want lawyers at his elbow, given that no CEO can survive without them these days. Or perhaps it is our hyper-legalized politics." You can be sure that Romney (who immediately afterward released his jihad-in-the-burbs ad) won't make the mistake of worrying aloud about the Constitution or the legality of war again anytime soon.

And let us not forget this as well.

Glenn Greenwald

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