Reality Check recently posted an entry regarding some of the inconsistencies in Rudy Giuliani’s security record and his rhetoric out on the campaign trail. Flip-Flops are not limited merely to shifts in rhetoric, after all, but can also emerge when candidates’ past actions do not match their campaign positions. Since 9/11 looms so large in Giuliani’s campaign, scrutiny of his record is bound to intensify as the primaries approach.
Over the weekend the New York Times published an article that highlights the dispute of at least some firefighters with Giuliani’s rhetoric regarding national security and emergency response.
Their images are permanently etched in photographs after the fall of the World Trade Center towers, Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and firefighters cloaked in the same gray dust. For months afterward, they stood together at funerals. Mr. Giuliani, in his eulogy, always asked for a round of applause to celebrate the dead firefighter’s life.
It would be easy to assume, then, that Mr. Giuliani can count on the support of the 11,000 men and women of the New York City Fire Department as he runs for president. But that would not be entirely true.
Interviews with more than 50 firefighters and department officers show a mix of admiration and disdain for the former mayor. Many firefighters praise his years in office, citing his success in reducing crime and his leadership after the terrorist attacks. Others harbor a deep resentment for what they describe as his poor treatment of the department before and after Sept. 11.
Some still speak bitterly about a contract that left firefighters without a raise for two years. Some also say Mr. Giuliani has exaggerated the role he played after the terrorist attacks, casting himself as a hero for political gain. The harshest sentiments stem from Mr. Giuliani’s decision nearly two months after 9/11 to reduce the number of firefighters who were allowed to search for colleagues in the rubble — a move that he partially reversed but that still infuriates many firefighters. […]
“I think they assume that we all love him,” said Robert Keys, 48, a battalion chief and 25-year department veteran, referring to people outside New York. “He wound up with this ‘America’s Mayor’ image. Those of us who had to deal with him before and after 9/11 don’t share that same sentiment.” […]
On the campaign trail, Mr. Giuliani frequently invokes the Sept. 11 heroism of “my firefighters,” as he often calls them, as emblematic of American patriotism and resolve. But some firefighters have begun organizing efforts to dispel the notion that they are in his corner.
The International Association of Fire Fighters, an umbrella union based in Washington, spoke out against Mr. Giuliani in March. The group is also preparing a short DVD outlining its grievances that it plans to send to fire departments across the country. Meanwhile, a small group of Sept. 11 family members and firefighters has been protesting outside many of Mr. Giuliani’s campaign appearances.
One of those protesters, Deputy Chief Jim Riches, who lost his firefighter son that day, said Mr. Giuliani did nothing on Sept. 11 to warrant hero status. “He’s making a million dollars a month with his speeches,” said Chief Riches, 55. “It’s blood money.”
Though no one actually uses the word “flip-flop,” these groups and protestors are essentially claiming that the Giuliani campaign’s solidarity with and support from firefighters is overstated — that his rhetoric does not match his record. It seems comparable to when some black commentators emphasize that Barack Obama is not “the blacks’ candidate” but rather a black candidate that some blacks support. In this case, though, 9/11 ratchets up the intensity of the feelings involved.