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Jeffrey Feldman Headshot

Rudy's Flop Shows '9/11' Can't Win Anymore

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Of all the words Rudy Giuliani used in his Florida concession speech last night, '9/11' was not one of them. 

The omission of his signature leitmotif from his only major televised speech was not an oversight, but a harbinger of big change in American politics.  Finally, after 7 years of Republicans exploiting 9/11 to win elections and pass policies, Giuliani's failure in the Presidential race will likely put that that strategy to bed. 

Thank goodness for small miracles.

At first,  Giuliani's '9/11' campaign theme seemed to be working.   Repeating '9/11' over and over again, he raised more money than other Republican candidates and shot to the top of the polls.

But then Giuliani's prospects went sour as the media and voters soundly rejected the strategy.

No single moment is to blame, but there were incidents that seemed to sum up the depths of Giuliani's cynical use of 9/11.

At one point in his campaign, Giuliani's had so thoroughly saturated his message with talk of 9/11 that his supporters organized a 'Donate $9.11 to Rudy' effort.  Rather than creating momentum, news of Giuliani exploiting 9/11 to raise money and win votes was the beginning of a long stretch of criticism and ridicule.  That stretch never ended.

Curiously, by moving 9/11 to the center of his campaign bid, Giuliani invited journalists and citizens alike to comb through his record with excruciating detail--more so than for any other politician including George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

What emerged was not pretty.

While claiming status as the hero of 9/11, Giuliani was slowly transformed into the man whose policy decisions most likely cost lives. Even worse, the more Giuliani campaigned on 9/11, the more rescue workers and families of survivors began to express their public discomfort and anger towards him.

In the end, Giuliani's decision to make 9/11 the one and only distinguishing feature of his presidential bid failed to transform him from a mayor into a statesman.  Instead, Giuliani became recognized by many as the man who cashed in on the greatest tragedy in recent American history.

As a direct result what Giuliani did in his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, '9/11' became the punchline in political humor--the ultimate one-liner about the depths a politician will plunge to scare people into supporting a candidacy. 

Giuliani's omission of '9/11' from his concession speech in Florida, last night, brought a well-earned respite for the memory of those who died and suffered as a result of the attacks seven years ago.

Right-wing pundits will no doubt continue to cash in on 9/11 by using it as political fodder on talk shows and in political books.  But it is unlikely that 9/11 will ever again become the theme for a winning political campaign.

I suppose we have Rudy to thank for that.

(cross posted from Frameshop)