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NY firefighters douse Giuliani's hero claims

HIS heroism on 9/11 and the steadfast manner in which he rallied New Yorkers in their darkest hour led to him being anointed "America's mayor", but yesterday Rudy Giuliani was attacked by a group with a perhaps greater claim to heroism: New York City's firefighters.

According to angry FDNY firefighters, Mr Giuliani's campaign for the Republican Party's presidential nomination next year is based upon false pretences. They say front-runner Mr Giuliani has no right to cloak himself in the mantle of 9/11, still less to claim his track record on terrorism issues in New York qualifies him to become the next president.

According to a video posted on the internet by the International Association of Firefighters, Mr Giuliani, mayor of the city for eight years, is responsible for equipment failures that contributed to the deaths of 343 firefighters.

Mr Giuliani's campaign responded before the firemen even released their video yesterday. His campaign website detailed the mayor's "record of support for New York's bravest".

"He is running on 9/11, and it's a fallacy," Jim Riches, the father of a victim and a deputy New York fire chief said on the video. Mr Riches has accused Mr Giuliani, who has amassed a multi-million-dollar fortune from speeches and consulting since 9/11, of making "blood money" on the back of the tragedy.

The 13-minute video is titled Rudy Giuliani: Urban Legend and is the first major assault upon Mr Giuliani's credibility as a contender for the presidency.

Serving and retired firefighters appear on the video. They criticise Mr Giuliani for failing to upgrade firefighters' equipment and say faulty radios and poor communications were largely responsible for the deaths of 121 firefighters in the north tower.

Although a report delivered to Mr Giuliani on his first day in office explained the fire department's handheld radios often did not work in high-rise buildings or subway tunnels, the department was still using those radios in 2001.

"Virtually the whole thing goes back to him with the radios," added Mr Riches. "He's the guy on top, and he's the guy you yell at. He takes the hit. And my son is dead because of it."

Harold Schaitberger, the general president of the International Association of Fire Fighters, said: "Giuliani's biggest problem is that this video is a bipartisan condemnation of his record on 9/11."

The video contains statements from leaders of the city's two largest firefighters' unions, who say Mr Giuliani became rich and famous on his image as a post-11 September hero, while ignoring their needs.

"This image of Rudy Giuliani as America's mayor, it's a myth," said Steve Cassidy, the president of the Uniformed Firefighters' Association.

Peter Gorman, the president of the Uniformed Fire Officers' Association, added: "He's making millions, tens of millions of dollars on the backs of my members, as far as I'm concerned."

Mr Giuliani argued that he had increased the budget for the fire department, providing for a new fleet of ambulances and better equipment.

As a New York Republican with moderate views on controversial social subjects such as gun control, gay marriage and abortion, Mr Giuliani would have had little chance of securing the Republican Party's nomination had 9/11 - and his trenchant and inspirational response to the tragedy - not turned him into a heroic figure on the national and international stage. Consequently, Mr Giuliani rarely forgets to mention 9/11 wherever and whenever he campaigns.

NEGATIVE CAMPAIGNING WORKS - JUST ASK JOHN KERRY

AMERICAN voters insist they dislike and disapprove of negative campaigning. But political research and polling data reveals they are influenced by it: in other words, it works.

In the 2004 presidential election, John Kerry's much-decorated service in Vietnam should have been an asset to his campaign. Instead, it became a liability.

Remarks he had made more than 30 years earlier about his time in Vietnam and his criticism of the war provided material for a ferocious attack on his credibility. A group calling itself the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, funded by wealthy conservatives, launched an assault upon Mr Kerry's record, depicting him as a fantasist whose campaigning against the war after his return from Vietnam betrayed his former comrades and contributed to the United States' defeat.

Mr Kerry made the mistake of not responding to the attacks, dismissing them as a laughable phenomenon no-one could take seriously. But, helped by the internet and massive airplay on conservative talk radio, the Swift Boat attacks proved a turning point in the campaign.

For more than two weeks, the issue dominated the airwaves, putting the Kerry campaign on the defensive, preventing it talking about what it wanted to concentrate on, and contributing to George Bush's ultimate victory.

"Swift-Boating" has since become a term to describe malicious and highly personal negative campaigning. Every Democrat running for president this year has vowed they will not allow themselves to be "Swift-Boated".

 
 
 

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