At the South Carolina GOP debate the other night, Rudy Giuliani's shrill response to Texas Congressman Ron Paul over the war in Iraq made me wonder if America's Mayor wasn't going to break down and cry right there. He's got this rep as the can-do guy who'll know what to do when trouble hits. But when 9/11 comes up, America's Tough Guy loses it on a regular basis. He sounds more and more like one of those professional victims you see on TV, like Nancy Grace. Bring up 9/11 and Rudy tells us we can't elect a Democrat or we'll be attacked again (never mind who was in charge on 9/11). Talk Homeland Security, and he gives us Bernard Kerik, who at least looks like that bald cop on The Shield, and is apparently just as corrupt. His most recent panic attack, published here in a New York Times transcript of the event, shows a man still in recovery from 9/11.
All it took was Paul's stating the factual reasons al-Qaeda gave for attacking us, not just on 9/11, but every attack on America leading up to 9/11, to set Rudy off. We stationed our armed forces in Saudi Arabia to fight the Gulf War and kept them there for a decade after. From that, Paul drew the conclusion that we need to understand the region before we impose ourselves on it. Al-Qaeda fanaticism can't drive our foreign policy, but his point is that we need to know our enemies and the consequences of our policy in advance.
And that's when Rudy hit the panic button: "That's an extraordinary statement, as someone who lived through the attack of September 11, that we invited the attack because we were attacking Iraq. I don't think I've heard that before, and I've heard some pretty absurd explanations for September 11th. (Applause. Cheers.) And I would ask the congressman to withdraw that comment and tell us that he didn't really mean that. (Applause.)"
Rudy, take a deep breath, the big bad man from Texas really meant it, and we all know you were there. You also misstated his comments, but a man in your nervous state doesn't always make sense. Paul not only did not take the statement back, he went further:
MR. PAUL: If we think that we can do what we want around the world and not incite hatred, then we have a problem. They don't come here to attack us because we're rich and we're free. They come and they attack us because we're over there. I mean, what would we think if we were -- if other foreign countries were doing that to us?
"Can I have 30 seconds, please?," Rudy begged the moderators, who tried to calm him down, "They are coming --".
Whose coming? Sit down Rudy, take a deep breath. Rudy got big applause that night. In a room, one should add, where all the pro-torture candidates got big rounds of applause. That Rudy never heard any of Paul's six-year-old news before, that he never read any of the Why They Hate Us pieces that came out after 9/11, is understandable. If Rudy is still too traumatized to talk about it now, to the point where he demands Paul "tell us he didn't really mean that," well, no surprise he never bothered to learn much about why his city was attacked. Rudy's still freaked about 9/11. So am I -- and I live in LA. But Rudy wants to be president. We've already got one that doesn't feel he needs to understand the region, whose response is fear-based politics and vengeance-based foreign policy, and we don't need another.