May 1 2007

A Pinch of Fascism

[Note: This piece is a sidebar to The Media’s Mayor.]

No national media figure has been more fawning toward Giuliani than MSNBC Hardball host Chris Matthews. On the Tonight Show in 2006 (7/18/06), more than two years before the national election, Matthews predicted that “the next president of the United States will be Rudy Giuliani.” Matthews has credited Giuliani with everything from being “the perfect candidate” (Hardball, 6/14/06) to getting “the pee smell out of the phone booths in New York” (Imus in the Morning, 2/7/07).

Even a little fascism was to be welcomed in the capable hands of New York City’s former mayor, said Matthews (Imus in the Morning, 2/7/07):

And this guy cleaned it up, and he made you feel like you had a right to walk the street safely. I think he did a great job. I’m sorry. And I think the country wants a boss like that. You know, a little bit of fascism there. Just a little bit. Just a pinch of it.

The high point of Giuliani’s career for Matthews, as for many journalists, was his leadership role on September 11, 2001. “Giuliani,” said Matthews (MSNBC Live, 2/5/07), “is a front-runner because the voters like this guy, because during 9/11 he was the one guy there on the street corner, not hiding like all the other pols did.”

But more than the fact that he didn’t hide, which ought to be a minimum requirement for a political leader during a crisis, Matthews seemed to be downright enchanted by Giuliani’s September 11 mystique (Hardball, 2/5/07):

I thought he really did show something almost magical on 9/11, something—it’s almost hard to say what it was, an intangible. But I guess the best way to describe it—and I will stick to this assessment—when we all grew up in big cities . . . when there was a four-alarm fire, the police commissioner, the fire commissioner and the mayor would be standing on the curb answering questions in real time. They’d be there answering for the catastrophe underway. And they would take responsibility for how the fire was put out.

Ironically, as demonstrated by Barrett and Collins’ reporting, and official reports like that of the September 11 Commission, Giuliani has not taken responsibility for “how the fire was put out” at the World Trade Center. Indeed, the mayor’s lax supervision of the WTC recovery and cleanup—which took place as the highly toxic fires continued to burn under the WTC through December—has been faulted for putting workers and local residents in such danger that some observers say post-September 11 deaths will exceed the number killed in the attacks themselves (Extra!, 11-12/06).—S.R.