There’s more 9/11 bathos—New Hampshire seems awash in it. Holding hands, Rudy and Judi are shuttled into a conference room for photos. When Rudy emerges, Jan Mercieri, the wife of a local fire chief, asks him to autograph Portraits: 9/11/01, the New York Times book of short biographies of the 9/11 dead. Giuliani signs, Mercieri gets teary, and they embrace. Mercieri is then deluged by the media pack. What did he say? What did he write? What does she think about his stance on abortion? “Those issues don’t matter,” said Mercieri. “After 9/11, I’d vote for him in a second.”
Up on the dais, it’s Rudy’s turn to raise the subject of the terror attacks. September 11 is proving to be a versatile tool. In Delaware, he used it to invoke heroism. Here, it’s all about scaring the bejesus out of country folk. Someone asks him what his management style would be as president if there was another Katrina or terrorist attack.
The secret is to be prepared for anything, Rudy says. Terrorism can happen in New York or Boston or in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, “one of the smallest towns in the United States.”
The punchy good cheer of this small town is replaced with grave attention. Rudy notes that he once spoke to the Shanksville high-school graduating class. “But for the grace of God and the bravery of the people who brought that plane down,” he says, “those kids wouldn’t be with us.”
Tonight’s attendees, of course, have a far greater chance of being killed on an icy road on the way home tonight than via a plane falling out of the sky. But those are facts; Giuliani is playing on emotion and fear.
After his speech, Rudy never gets a chance to eat. There are too many people wanting pictures, too many people wanting a hug, too many people offering one variation or another of what one woman says: “Thank you for keeping us safe.”
Before 9/11, the idea of Rudy Giuliani running for president would have been laughable. That morning, Giuliani had breakfast at the Peninsula Hotel with Bill Simon, a longtime friend. Simon, a business executive and the son of a former Treasury secretary, was contemplating a 2002 California gubernatorial bid. Giuliani agreed to help, but wasn’t sure he would be of much assistance. “I could endorse your opponent,” joked Giuliani. “That might help you more.”
A few minutes later, Giuliani’s cell phone rang. As the towers fell, President Bush read a children’s story, and Dick Cheney disappeared into a bunker, Rudy Giuliani was in harm’s way. By 11 a.m., he was on television asking for calm. That night, he famously proclaimed, “New York is still here. We’ve undergone tremendous losses and we’re going to grieve for them horribly, but New York is going to be here tomorrow morning. And it’s going to be here forever.”
By the end of that day, Rudy was no longer just a big-city mayor with a mixed record. He was a legend.
September 11 has been Giuliani’s alpha and omega ever since. After leaving office, the mayor formed Giuliani Partners, an omnibus security-consulting firm. Giuliani offered his clients his post-9/11 expertise—and his gold-plated name; in return, they paid handsomely and basked in his fame. Mexico City paid Giuliani’s firm more than $4 million to help make its city safe. The makers of OxyContin hired Giuliani to beef up their security, and to help persuade the federal government not to curtail access to what came to be called “hillbilly heroin.” (Giuliani recently moved to divest himself of the investment-banking arm of Giuliani Partners, Giuliani Capital Advisors, to avoid potential conflicts.)
Giuliani became a rock star on the speaking circuit. At first, he did the events for free. Eventually, he would charge $100,000 an outing. Last year, Forbes estimates, Giuliani made $8 million from speaking gigs.
Since 2002, Giuliani has also used his 9/11 fame to help his fellow Republicans, stumping for more than 200 of them, and collecting valuable political chits in return. In a three-day period the weekend before the 2006 elections, as we learned from the leaked campaign memo, Giuliani appeared on behalf of GOP candidates in Florida, Virginia, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania.
Everywhere he went, he played the 9/11 card, dismissing the Democrats as squishy on terror. More often than not, it worked. “Ask anyone, and they will tell you that their Giuliani event raised the most money,” says Ralph Reed. (Last year, Giuliani campaigned for the former director of the Christian Coalition during his unsuccessful, scandal-marred run for Georgia lieutenant governor.) “People don’t forget that.”
On Meet the Press the Sunday before the 2004 election, Giuliani told Tim Russert that Osama bin Laden “wants George Bush out of the White House.” It may have been crude, it may have been crass, but just about everyone allowed it was effective.