Rudy Giuliani is trying to cast himself in the Ronald Reagan mantle as much as any other Republican presidential candidate. But Giuliani has been much more aggressive in touting Reagan-like moments during his term as New York City's Mayor.
Specifically, the New York Republican is attempting to deploy a 1995 event as his 'tear down this wall' moment. Whereas President Reagan challenged Mikhail Gorbachev at the Brandenburg Gate to let the Berlin Wall fall in 1987, Mayor Giuliani ordered Yasser Arafat, the deceased head of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, to be removed from a Lincoln Center concert that coincided with the United Nations General Assembly in October 1995. While Reagan was standing up to international communism, Giuliani likes to say he was challenging a known terrorist leader.
The incident was roundly condemned by President Bill Clinton and the press at the time as being undiplomatic and rude. But Giuliani has spun the event to show that his priorities are in the right place as America fights the war on terrorism. And just as Reagan's tout to Gorbachev has become more and more mythic as time has gone on, the ex-Mayor's decision to remove Arafat from the Lincoln Center becomes more and more of a fable as he told it yesterday before the Republican Jewish Coalition:
In 1995, when, as Sheldon mentioned, I had Yasser Arafat thrown out of the United Nations -- (applause) -- that was a Freudian slip. I didn't have him thrown out of the United Nations; I had him thrown out of the United Nations concert -- (laughter) -- at Lincoln Center. Think it was Freudian slip because you might have gotten the point of what I really would have liked to have done. (Laughter, scattered applause.) I helped to keep him away from the United Nations in the 1980s, but that's a different story.
When I made that decision, which had to be made right at the moment, because I went out to give a curtain speech -- it was for a performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony -- great work of art, a great piece of music, one that's dedicated to peace. And I did find some real incongruity in the idea that he was coming to that concert.
But the thing that really bothered me was, he didn't have a ticket. (Laughter.) He was a freeloader! (Laughter.) Just like he stole all that money and sent it to the south of France, he didn't pay for his ticket. (Laughter.)
With Giuliani's own Freudian slip, you can tell it won't be long before conservative supporters say how he indeed kicked Arafat out of the UN. And his beaming pride seems to have added some more haze to the particulars of the moment in his memory.
For instance, it's not at all clear that Arafat was a "freeloader" who "didn't have a ticket." Beyond the fact that most of the world's leaders were invited to the symphony as guests of the city, the New York Times reported at the time that, "The Mayor said Mr. Arafat was never invited to the concert, but was given a ticket to it by a country the Mayor did not identify."
The Palestinians denied that they had received no tickets. They showed the Times an invitation letter received three weeks prior to the event in which the United Nations, "included detailed instructions on how the tickets could be picked up."
Ultimately, Giuliani was not able to remove Arafat from the symphony. Bruce Teitelbaum, the mayor's deputy chief of staff at the time, told the Jerusalem Post in 1995 that, "Arafat didn't say anything. He sort of smiled and sat down."
In other press accounts, Arafat reported saying "Go to hell," to the Mayor's Chief of Staff.
Arafat did remain through much of the symphony, until the Third Movement precisely, at which time his staff claimed he left as scheduled for another event.
This fact brought the music critic out of Giuliani.
"He left sometime during the Second Movement and before the Third, and certainly before the greatest part of the symphony, which is the Fourth Movement, which is the monumental Ode to Joy," NPR reported Giuliani saying at the time. "Anybody that misses that Fourth Movement, misses the entire symphony."
The Huffington Post has not yet received a reply from Giuliani's campaign seeking clarification of the former mayor's account of the event on Tuesday.