The Firefighters’ video can do a lot of damage to Rudy Giuliani’s reputation.

If I were Giuliani’s campaign manager, I’d be sweating bullets about the Firefighters’ attack video. Cut up into 30-second spots, it would be devastating. It makes several points, and it makes them hard:

1. The NYFD’s radios failed during the first WTC bombing in 1993. The Giuliani Administration, despite cutting various corners &#8212 a no-bid contract, no field testing &#8212 didn’t get new radios into the field until April of 2001. They promptly failed. Orders went out to evacuate the two towers in plenty of time for the first responders to get out, and in fact all of the police officers escaped. But 321 firefighters died, apparently because they never got the order.

2. Giuliani testified to the 9/11 Commission that the radios worked fine; the firefighters must have received the orders and heroically refused to leave the building. That was a lie.

3. Giuliani chose as the City’s emergency command center WTC 7, despite the fact that the World Trade Center was an obvious target. When WTC 7 collapsed, the City was left without an command center.

4. Shortly after the Bank of Nova Scotia’s $200 million in gold was recovered from Ground Zero, the Mayor ordered an end to the search for bodies and valuables. Everything left, including the bodies of many firefighters, was to be scooped up and taken to a landfill. Firefighters who protested were arrested at the Mayor’s orders. As a result of the protest, the search efffort continued for another several months. But the effort was terminated a second time, and as a result families never got to hold funerals.

5. In sum, Giuliani has made tens of millons of dollars, and is now running for President, as the Hero of 9/11, but he didn’t earn his reputation; his performance was poor, and he’s been lying about it.

The NYT, the Daily News, and the AP apparently all swallowed replies from a couple of Giuliani cronies as if they represented legitimate expert opinion. The two cronies are quoted a pooh-poohing the accusations, but not rebutting any of the details, except for claiming that the radio failure was actually in one of the transmitters rather than the receivers. (That doesn’t explain why Giuliani invented the “heroically-disobedient firefighter” story to tell the 9/11 Commission &#8212 under oath, of course.) The best they can do on the story of the bodies is to claim that Giuliani allowed some of the rescue efforts to continue, which the original video specifically reports, attributing it to the firefighters’ protests.

None of the stories provides a detailed summary of the charges made in the video, or quotes any independent source evaluating those claims. The Times, in criticizing the video, misstates the point the video makes about the gold: the video doesn’t claim that Giuliani gave priority to finding the gold over digging up the bodies, merely that once the gold had been dug up he was willing to haul whatever and whoever was still buried at Ground Zero off to the dump.

Unless one of Rudy’s Republican opponents picks this up, it won’t hurt him much in the Republican primaries. But Willie Horton didn’t hurt Mike Dukakis much in the Democratic primaries in 1988. The video goes after the Mayor on his signature issue, and it scores some body blows. I think the Democrats’ chances of taking the White House just improved.

Fearless prediction None of the people who criticize the Firefighters’ attack as “swiftboating” will have actually denounced the Swift Boat lies when they were told.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com