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Jewish World Review Sept. 21, 2001 / 4 Tishrei, 5762

Seth Gitell

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Make Rudy Giuliani the terrorism czar -- One bright spot amid the terrible tragedy unfolding in Washington and New York City has been the stellar performance of New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

Even before the attack last Tuesday, Giuliani - who is now fighting prostate cancer - seemed to have learned to rein in the bad instincts evidenced when he lashed out at those who protested police brutality in the wake of the Abner Louima beating. Now he is winning praise across the ideological spectrum for his handling of the crisis.

" Giuliani, in the last leg of his mayoralty, is the one leading the city back from a disaster of unspeakable magnitude, " wrote Joyce Purnick in the New York Times last Tuesday. Said Washington Post columnist Mary McGrory the same day: " The outstanding political figure in the landscape of death and pain, was, hands down, Rudy Giuliani, the mayor of New York. " And on Monday, radio-talk-show host Don Imus said, " He is our Churchill. "

Giuliani's finest hour comes with a bit of irony. The day disaster struck coincided with the date of the primary for the race that will replace him as mayor. A host of ordinary candidates are vying for his office. Public advocate Mark Green, comptroller Alan Hevesi, city-council president Peter Vallone, and Bronx borough president Fernando Ferrer are running on the Democrat side. The Republicans have fielded two candidates: Michael Bloomberg and Herman Badillo. Now the cry has gone out in New York City for Giuliani to be allowed, somehow, to stay in office. It is a crisis, after all - can't the rules be bent?

No. No matter how foolish the term-limit initiative passed at the urging of plutocrat Ronald Lauder - Lauder never forgot Giuliani's defeat of him in the 1989 Republican mayoral primary - the city's charter must remain as it stands. New York's government, like America's, makes no provision for wartime constitutional changes. There is no martial law.

So what should Giuliani do next? If President George W. Bush sees fit to use the opportunity, he should appoint Giuliani " terrorism czar " - a position that many in Washington are talking about. The terrorism czar would help coordinate the nation's impending war on the main suspects in the attack, Osama bin Laden and his followers. He or she would also manage all the intelligence coming in about terrorism. That means keeping tabs on both the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Giuliani would be well suited to this role. A veteran prosecutor, the former United States attorney of the southern district of New York, and one of the architects of New York's economic boom of the 1990s, Giuliani is the man for the job. In this role, he could continue to give public updates on the struggle.

The irony of Giuliani's political career is that none of this might have been possible had he stayed in the US Senate race against Hillary Rodham Clinton, who herself has performed well in the New York seat. Had Giuliani defeated Clinton, he would not be there for New York City in its hour of need - nor would he be there to serve as terrorism czar in the future.

Seth Gitell is a columnist for The Boston Phoenix. Comment by clicking here.


© 2001, Boston Phoenix