Interview with Former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani

Interview with Former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani

By The Situation Room - May 5, 2011

BLITZER: An emotional day for so many New Yorkers as the president made his first trip as president to the site of the 9/11 terror attacks, somberly marking the death of Bin Laden.

Rudy Giuliani was mayor on 9/11. He was with the president today most of the day. He's joining us now from New York.

Mr. Mayor, thanks very much for coming in and on this important day. GIULIANI: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Who called you from the White House and invited you to spend the day with the president at Ground Zero, at the fire station, at Precinct Number One?

GIULIANI: Bill Daley called me.

BLITZER: The White House chief of staff.

GIULIANI: Yes, the White House chief of staff called me two days ago, asked me if I would do it. I told him I would be honored to do it, and I just had to change my schedule, so I did and came in very early this morning from Michigan where I was giving a talk to a homeland security conference.

And I was very honored to be with the president because it seemed to me it was perfect statement to make. That this isn't partisan. It isn't Republican, Democrat, Liberal, Conservative. This is about America and it's about, you know, spanning two different administrations, America keeping its word to never forget.

BLITZER: Because we know that the -- the president also invited the former President George W. Bush, who declined the invitation because he is taking a rather low-key profile. But I -- what do you think out President Bush's decision and for that matter, former President Bill Clinton's decision not to attend?

GIULIANI: I think they didn't want to in anyway suggest that maybe they were taking spotlight off the president.

I spoke to President Bush. This was not an issue of his not wanting to do it. I just think he felt -- he felt it would be better for him not to try to look like he was taking some of the spotlight from President Obama.

And I can't speak for President Clinton but I'm going to guess that was probably the same thing.

You know, President Obama deserved this moment. So I don't quite take the spotlight from him, so it's a lot easier for me to do it.


BLITZER: So tell us what you -- yes, I mean, without getting into sensitive areas, but share us with what you and the president discussed as you went to the firehouse, when you went to the precinct, when you went to Ground Zero. What were you talking about?

GIULIANI: Well, we were talking about the incident, obviously, you know about -- about -- I told him how much I admired his courage and willingness to take a risk, because it was a very risky thing that he did, but a necessary one.

And he told me a bit about how he made the decision and some of the things that they were worried about during the time that the whole thing was happening.

Then after that, we started to get into sports, Yankees and the White Sox, and golf, which we both love very much.

BLITZER: Do you have a different attitude of this president now? We remember some of the tough talk during the campaign in 200 on inability, Democrats weak in the war on terror. But I assume you have a much respect for President Obama, right now and that gutsy decision he made to go ahead and send those Navy SEALs to Pakistan.

GIULIANI: I do, I do. Having been a chief executive in a city where you make, you know, tough decisions all the time, I can tell the difference between people who do and people who don't. And the minute I heard about this on Sunday night, my reaction was the president made a very gutsy call.

It took a lot of courage to take that risk because, as I said to him and have said publicly, if it had gone wrong, and there were a thousand reasons why it might have gone wrong, he would have been the one that would be blamed for it.

Shouldn't be that way. We should respect the president one way or the other however it turns out. But, you know, just a natural course of things are if it goes wrong, the president will get blamed for it, like Jimmy Carter was many years ago.

BLITZER: In 1979 when --


GIULIANI: Yes, you know, probably that was the right call --


BLITZER: Desert One.


GIULIANI: -- when Jimmy Carter, he couldn't control everything that would go on after that.

BLITZER: Yes. But fortunately, the -- this worked out a lot better as we all know.

So just to nail down this one point, do you have a heightened respect for President Obama now?

GIULIANI: Yes, sure. Not just from being with him but from the decision itself.

Also being with him -- look, when you deal personally with somebody, it always gives you a different perspective, which is one of the reasons why personal interchange between political figures is so important.

I had a very close relationship with Speaker Vallone, who was the Democratic speaker of the city council, and it got us over a lot of ideological battles because we both liked each other, we both knew each other. We could kid each other, we could have drinks together, cigars together. And we still had plenty of battles, but it usually meant that we could figure out a common ground.

That's very important in politics and we are missing that now. We're missing some of that.

BLITZER: I totally agree.

Let me get you to weigh in on the breaking news that Jeanne Meserve, our homeland security correspondent, was reporting at the top of the hour that among the information they found in bin Laden's compound in Pakistan, was information dating back almost a year or so that pointed to some sort of spectacular attack on al Qaeda would have liked to have done on the tenth anniversary of 9/11. which is coming up in September, on rails, trains, subways. And -- they -- the Department of Homeland Security has notified local and state authorities just to be on the alert right now.

This is pretty chilling when you think about it.

GIULIANI: It is, it is. But it really is just like a wakeup call. I mean, it's not -- to me, it is not unexpected. If you had told me, you know, four, five days ago that there is a possibility of this without in information, I would have said, of course. I mean, they are going to try to harm us coming up toward the anniversary of September 11.

They are going to try to harm us because of what we did to bin Laden, make no mistake about it. I think capturing him was absolutely necessary, bringing him to justice was totally necessary. Long term, it's going to make us much safer; short term it puts us in more danger, there's no question about it.

BLITZER: Because they might try to retaliate, is that what you're saying?

GIULIANI: Absolutely right. For the same reason that it was so important to take him out, because of -- his symbolic power that he has, just think of the reaction for those people who admire him for some strange reason, and how they will be trying to do something either to us or our allies or American interests abroad or wherever they can -- they can get back at us.

And I think we have to be on much higher alert now at least through the anniversary of September 11, because they are going to be trying to harm us.

But long term, this will help us a lot. Taking him out was a very, very significant step in winning this war, not the last one by any means, but a big one along the way.

BLITZER: And I'm told that the information that they found in the compound is very, very important. It is a treasure trove of information. It might even lead to the capture of Ayman Al-Zawahiri and others, Mullah Mohammed Omar, the former leader of the Taliban, but we will have to wait and see.

Mayor, thanks for spending a few moments with us.

GIULIANI: Thank you, Wolf. And terrific coverage on Sunday night.

BLITZER: Thank you very much.

GIULIANI: You guys did a great job.

BLITZER: America's mayor, Rudy Giuliani, joining us on this very special day, appreciate it very much.


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