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Rudy Giuliani on Obama’s lack of experience on Georgia and energy.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008
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HH: Mayor Rudy Giuliani, welcome back.

RG: Hugh, how are you?

HH: Good. It’s the first time we’ve talked to you since we went live on NYM in New York on AM 970, so you get to talk to your former constituents.

RG: (laughing)

HH: Finally a good thing for us.

RG: Good to talk to you.

HH: Mr. Mayor, what’s your reaction to Russia’s rape of Georgia?

RG: I think this is one of the great international outrages, a country invading the sovereignty of another country on a pretext that seems like they’ve been planning this for quite some time. It seems like what they want to do is not just push back in Georgia, but they want to make a point in that entire region. It has implications to the Ukraine, it has implication for Eastern and Western Europe, and I think this requires a very clear response not only from the United States, but from Europe. We should re-evaluate, as Senator McCain has said, our relationship with Russia. We should seriously consider removing them from the G-8 until they decide that they’re not going to invade the sovereignty of other countries. And then we should look at other things that may be, might be necessary if they continue in their desire to…I mean, I know they agreed to a ceasefire, but from all the reports I’ve been getting, they’re not abiding by that. So we have to consider very serious penalties to Russia for what they’ve done. I think the President was quite right in bringing back the 2,000 troops, even though Russia objected to that. I think the President is correct in delivering humanitarian aid, and sending Secretary Rice. And we’ve got to keep very much on top of them. And we can’t fall into the impression that this is a matter of equal responsibility the way Senator Obama seemed to in his first statement.

HH: Earlier today at a press conference Secretary Rice was giving, this sounds like a Russian journalist, I don’t know, I’d like to get your reaction to the question he poses. Here’s the question:

Russian: Many people in Russia would say that what you did after 9/11 was very disproportionate to the threat and to the actual loss that you incurred. So the Russians are trying to ensure the security of their forces and their citizens and their peacekeepers. And they are moving, they are creating a buffer zone. What’s wrong with that?

HH: What’s wrong with that, Mr. Mayor, the analogy and the argument?

RG: (laughing) Well first of all, to be the same, there would have to have been an attack on Moscow, an attack on St. Petersburg, and an attack somewhere, you know, in the middle of Russian Asia. I mean, the reality is America was responding to an attack on the United States of America, on our largest city, the Nation’s Capitol, and then of course, the flight over Pennsylvania. Georgia did not attack Russia. The issue is did Georgia have troops in South Ossettia. And they’ve had troops there for quite some time. And that issue’s been going on for quite some time.

HH: And so do you think, is Russia…

RG: And Russia, and Russia, it would be as if for ten months before September 11th, we were building up troops for an invasion, and then reacted. The fact is, September 11 was a surprise attack. What happened in Georgia was completely planned, it looks to me like, by Russia.

HH: There’s also analogies that oh, this is just what you guys did with Kosovo, and that we pushed into Kosovo and made the Serbs leave, give up Kosovo. I hear that actually from Serbian Americans as well as from Russian apologists. How do you…

RG: Look, that was done at the request of just about the entire world, including Europe, because of the genocide that was going on. And we acted with a great deal of international cooperation in doing that. We didn’t act on our own. That was done during the Clinton administration, you might recall.

HH: Right. Here is a Secretary Rice responding to a lot of questions today at the press conference.

CR: This is not 1968, and the invasion of Czechoslovakia where Russia can threaten its neighbors, occupy a capitol, overthrow a government, and get away with it. Things have changed.

HH: Have they, Mr. Mayor?

RG: Yes.

HH: Do you think whenever you say something isn’t something, you end up running the risk that in fact, it becomes that.

RG: I think things have changed. I would say this is not at the level at all of the Cold War, having lived through it, been in the Reagan administration, that we should not minimize what happened here. It’s terrible, and we have to deal with it in a very strong way, but I don’t see Russia headed back to a Cold War with the United States of America. The disproportion in our two militaries is much too great for that.

HH: Now Mr. Mayor, let’s switch to some politics. There’s a report this afternoon that former Secretary of State Colin Powell will be endorsing Obama and speaking at the Democratic convention. Your reaction?

RG: I would be very disappointed if that were the case. But everybody, you know, makes their own choice. I think it doesn’t, none of the endorsements that Senator Obama gets make up for his lack of experience. I mean, Senator Obama is, and I think this is clearly true, the most inexperienced candidate to run for president in the last hundred years. And his reaction to Georgia is the perfect example of that. First, he talks about a moral equivalent between Russia and Georgia, then he talks about going to the U.N. Well, somebody’s got to remind him that the Soviet Union, or the Soviet Union originally, and now Russia, has a veto power in the U.N.

HH: It is rather stunning he doesn’t know these things. Mayor, the Atlantic Monthly has a new article out about the Clinton campaign, Mark Penn, her senior strategist, all of his internal memos have been leaked. I want to read one of them to you. He was writing about Obama, and Mark Penn wrote, “All of these articles about Obama’s boyhood in Indonesia, his life in Hawaii, are geared towards showing his background, his diverse multicultural, and putting that in a new light. Save it for 2050. It exposes a very strong weakness for him. His roots to basic American values and culture at best limited. I cannot imagine America electing a president during a time of war who is not at his center fundamentally American in his thinking and his values.” Reaction?

RG: Well, I can’t evaluate all that, you know, about his background and the things he did or didn’t do. All I can do is react to the things that he says now. And they strike me as someone that doesn’t have the experience, and someone that doesn’t have the instincts. I think about that debate last year with Hillary Clinton, in which he was asked how he would react if an American city were attacked. I think it was a nuclear attack, if I recall correctly. And he said he would check the emergency response first. And Hillary Clinton, I believe then, and I have to agree with Hillary Clinton, although I don’t usually, Hillary Clinton then pointed out that this was a very irresponsible reaction, and really, the reaction of someone who doesn’t have the experience to be president of the United States. I agree with that.

HH: Now Mr. Mayor, I think probably being mayor of New York is the second largest executive job – I mean, some governors would argue with me, Arnold would probably argue with me about that – but can you imagine having spent maybe two hundred days in the Senate actually physically there, taking over the United States?

RG: No, I can’t (laughing).

HH: I can’t, either.

RG: I can’t, and not only that, I think that there are two parts to this – experience and instincts. Clearly, Senator Obama doesn’t have the experience. But secondly, I think he’s demonstrated to us he doesn’t have the instincts. In time after time, he makes mistakes that he then has to correct. And I sure as heck don’t want to be dealing with his, you know, funding his on the job training as president of the United States.

HH: What you make about the people around him?

RG: I think he is more than most candidates probably very much influence by them, because these are things he hasn’t had experience with himself. I mean, look at the difference with this situation in Georgia. John McCain has been to Georgia, as far as I know, at least three times. He’s been to Ukraine. He’s been to Russia. He knows all these people. He’s dealt with all of them. When something like this happens, he gets advice, but he also has a whole context of experience, in which to evaluate that. When Senator Obama gets advice about this, as far as I know, he’s never been to Georgia, he never has really personally evaluated, never had enough time in the Senate to get involved in these things. So he becomes very much a creature of what other people say to him.

HH: What do you expect Putin is thinking about this? Do you think he has a preference in who he’d be negotiating with, or standing off against?

RG: (laughing) Oh, I don’t think we should get Putin involved in our presidential election, but I have a suspicion from Putin’s position that one would be, from his point of view, a lot easier to deal with than the other. I mean, look at John’s statement that we’re all Georgians today. I mean, that was the perfect thing to say.

HH: Yup.

RG: It was the perfect thing to say. You know, it didn’t escalate things to military involvement, but at the same time, it gave the people of Georgia a sense that we’re going to help them to the extent that we can, that we’re there, that we’re going to keep watching this, and we’re not going to just let them be victimized by Russia.

HH: Now I know this matters, and obviously, you know this matters incredibly, a great deal in a time of war. But how does the average American tune into that importance, and also the peril of inexperience in the executive?

RG: I think you know, unfortunately, situations like this are the ways in which you illustrate that. I mean, in other words, you’ve got to go, you’re projecting into the future who would be better as president, and you have to weigh it, look at the way in which they handle situations like this. Well, let’s look at the surge in Iraq. If Obama were president, we would have left Iraq before the surge had a chance to work. And we would have assured for ourselves an American defeat. Harry Reid announced, actually, America has lost, Obama’s leader in the Senate. John McCain supported the surge, said he would rather lose an election than see America lose a war, and the surge has worked, worked to such an extent that you know, it’s not commented on that much anymore in the media.

HH: Have you noticed a difference in the McCain campaign, Mayor? Is he punching back harder now as we get closer?

RG: Yes, I do, I believe that for the last three or four weeks, the McCain has been very strong. I think that look, I went through my own problems in campaigning, and you’ve got to keep making changes until you get the right combination. And I think John now has the right combination.

HH: Have you had a chance to read David Freddoso’s new book, The Case Against Obama?

RG: I have not.

HH: Well, a couple of things, I want you to put on your old prosecutor’s hat here, because some new information to me, it wasn’t new, it’s just new to me, from the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun Times in the Freddoso book, about Alexi Giannoulias, someone who Senator Obama has supported in his run for Illinois State Treasurer. And its turned out, according to the Tribune, that Giannoulias’ family bank, of which he was a vice president and a senior loan officer, made an $11.8 million dollar loan to Michael “Jaws” Giorango, who was a convicted bookmaker and a prostitution ring. And they loaned $10 million bucks to the Stratievsky family, that’s from the Sun Times, part of the Russian allegedly new mafia. Those kinds of loans to those kinds of people from an ally, is that an issue? Does the prosecutor’s nose start to twitch?

RG: I don’t know enough about it, Hugh, to really give you an opinion on it. I’d have to read it. I wouldn’t want to hesitate an opinion on something like that without reading the book.

HH: Okay, have you followed the Rezko stuff?

RG: To some extent, right, but not in great detail.

HH: Again, when you buy a house with someone, does that make you a little bit leery about his judgment and the appearance issues here?

RG: Well, sure. I mean, when you buy a house with somebody, you should…it is fair to take a look at what did he know, when did he know it, what should he have known. But honestly, I don’t think this election’s going to go off on stuff like that. I think this election comes down to experience, who’s ready for the job. I don’t think it’s even Republican or Democrat. I think that this, there’s such a wide, profound difference between these two men, that John should stick with that and he’s going to win.

HH: Let’s close by talking about drilling, Mr. Mayor. The tire gauge comment, obviously it’s a good idea to inflate your tires, and Senator McCain has said that.

RG: (laughing)

HH: But Obama’s tripled down on this silliness, that we can get as much oil, save as much oil from tire inflation as we can get from drilling. What’s that tell you?

RG: What that tells me is exactly what I’ve been saying. He’s not experienced. He really doesn’t know these issues. John has been involved in energy alternatives for ten to fifteen years. He understands it. He has analyzed this, he’s come around to the need for drilling offshore because of the situation we’re in, and because this is a matter of national security now. If Obama were president, we would be on hold, like we are right now. And I believe ultimately, we’re going to have to do nuclear power, and we’re going to have to do offshore drilling, except Obama will delay it as all of his supporters kind of fight with him about it.

HH: What about…

RG: McCain, a President McCain will immediately begin us on the road that we have to begin on. We’ve got to begin licensing nuclear power plants, and we have to being doing offshore drilling. Look at the situation in Florida. Off the shore of Florida, China can drill for what is American oil…

HH: Yup.

RG: …because you can’t drill within 300 miles in Florida. But Cuba has either licensed, or is going to license rights to China to drill. So China will be drilling 70 to 80 miles from the coast of Florida, taking our oil. And do you think that China will do it with the same concern for the environment that the United States will?

HH: Of course not. Now some of our friends…

RG: These things make so sense.

HH: Some of our friends, folks I’ve supported, folks I know you’ve campaigned for in the United States Senate, have come up with the “Gang of 10” compromise. What’s your assessment of that? Most people think it’s a bone-headed move on our part.

RG: Which is why?

HH: To open up some of the coasts but not all of the coasts, drill off of Florida and Louisiana, but keep California pristine, and have a state option in the northern part of the Atlantic coast.

RG: I think you have to do it with the permission of the states. But if it were me, I would be trying to persuade the states to open up on this. I can see a big, I mean, I understand the issue in Florida better than I do California, because I spend so much time in Florida. But the people of Florida have now come around, and more than a majority support offshore drilling. So I think that it makes sense to try to persuade these states to do it. But the President should be out there making the case for it, and it’ll happen much faster.

HH: Are you going to be speaking at the convention, Mayor Giuliani?

RG: I don’t know yet.

HH: And have you heard, you got any advice for John McCain on vice presidential selection?

RG: If I do, I’ll deliver that personally to John.

HH: Now you could use this show, Mayor.

RG: I spoke to him today, but we didn’t talk about that.

HH: All right, last, very last question. There’s this enthusiasm gap that some of the pundits are saying, Obama’s troops are all revved up, they’re going to march through, you know, broken glass, Republicans are down in the dumps and feeling the pain and all that sort of stuff. Can that be turned around?

RG: I can, and things like this do. I think that when, as the American people absorb the different reaction to the tragic events in Georgia, situations like this come up, I think they see a big difference. The whole offshore drilling thing has made a difference. I think American people see in Senator Obama the same kind of obstructionism that has existed in Washington for quite some time. And even though he’s talking about change, he’s really not going to bring about change.

HH: All right, Mayor, I hope to see you in St. Paul. Come by radio row, and we’ll continue the conversation.

RG: Thank you.

HH: Thank you.

RG: Take care now.

End of interview.

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