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Rudy Giuliani on the war, waterboarding, gun control and immigration

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

HH: Mayor Giuliani, welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show.

RG: How are you, Hugh? Nice to talk to you.

HH: Thank you. Great work on the Russert show, Meet the Press. I’m wondering, Mayor, is that going to be your strategy as a general election candidate, and if you’re elected as president, go right at the mainstream media for as long as they want to talk?

RG: Oh, absolutely. That’s what I did as mayor of New York. One press conference a day. I used to…I told Tony Blair it was similar to the question and answer period that the British prime minister does. And you just get your side of it out, and then people disagree with you, people agree with you. But I think us, Republicans, have to over-communicate, because we have 70-80% of the who are against us. We’ve got to just over-communicate.

HH: Excellent idea. I agree with that. Do you think the Bush administration has, is to be faulted for their communication strategy on the war, Mayor?

RG: Well, you know, I admire his strategy on the war so much from the point of view of principle and courage, and sticking with it against (laughing) sometimes almost horrible attacks. Could the message have been communicated better? I think so, yes. It could have. But on balance, when you consider the courage they’ve had in sticking with what is necessary there, you know, I give them very high marks for that. And everybody could improve what they’re doing, and I would say the communication part is the area that probably could be improved, or could have been improved.

HH: Front page of the Washington Post, Mayor, waterboarding broke Abu Zubaydah, and he gave up information that stopped attacks. Your reaction?

RG: Well, I guess that answers the question as to not whether it’s torture or not, or whether it’s right or not, or whether it’s fair or not. But apparently, it works. And I mean, the question is was it…and it looks like it was legally authorized from the point of view of having gotten authorization from the highest authorities. It seems to me that what we’re talking about here is not a technique that should be used, a technique that generally should be not allowed, not used. Are there extraordinary situations, however, where the President and very responsible intelligence people and leaders have to have options? It seems to me Congress would be unwise to cut off options if hundreds and thousands, and who knows more lives, are involved. These things should be very carefully done, we should debate them in advance, they should not be allowed to be done as a matter of course under any circumstances. But I think what we’re talking about is does there have to be some kind of narrow situation in which intense means are needed if it’s a once in a lifetime, once in a decade situation.

HH: Do you think the waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah was justified?

RG: I think I would not second guess the President’s decision. I’d have to know exactly what was at stake, how many lives were at stake. The President of the United States needs some discretion when the lives of hundreds of thousands, thousands, millions of people are involved. The President needs some discretion in the area of national security. And second guessing of him after the fact is really easy. Making the decision at the time, that’s the thing that takes courage and leadership.

HH: Are you upset that the CIA destroyed the tapes of these interrogations, Mayor Giuliani?

RG: Hugh, I don’t know how they did it. There are three possibilities at least, right? It was done as part of the regular course of business that lawyers talk about, right?

HH: Right.

RG: Or it was done by mistake, or it was done deliberately to evade an investigation. I don’t know the answer to that. I think that’s why we have a Justice Department. I think if we try to answer this in the political environment, we’re going to get terribly unfair answers for the people that are involved. I have more than just some faith in Attorney General Mukasey. He happens to be, I should tell you, one of my oldest friends, and someone that I’ve tried cases with, been a law partner with. This is a man of extraordinary integrity and judgment, and he’s going to make the right decision.

HH: Last time we talked, you had begun reading Legacy of Ashes. Since then, the NIE has come out, and a lot of people are worried that there is still a war against the war within the intelligence community. Have you finished the book, and what do you think of the NIE?

RG: I haven’t. I was just reading it on the airplane coming down. I interrupted it for two other books, but I am still reading it. The NIE, I’ll tell you how I interpret it. And maybe because I’m familiar with intelligence, after all the years in the Justice Department, it’s exactly what it says. It’s an estimate. It’s not a fact. They…just think of the two things in it. They have a high degree of confidence that the Iranians stopped in 2003. They only have a moderate degree of confidence that they haven’t resumed. So what’s the difference between high degree and moderate degree? And the Wall Street Journal has an article today pointing out there was a similar NIE, what was it like, two or three weeks before the Cuban Missile Crisis.

HH: Right.

RG: So a president has to look at these things and say we still have to look at Iran as a dangerous situation. We have to realize that even if the NIE is correct, pressure worked. Pressure is the reason that they stopped, if they did stop. I don’t think the NIE is…actually outlines all the pressure. I don’t know why they didn’t include the fact that 2003 happens to be the year that we had, what was it, 130-140,000 troops in Iraq?

HH: Yup, yup.

RG: And we had done something in Iraq that had to shock the Iranian government. We had deposed Saddam Hussein in lightning fast time, after they had attempted to do it for eight years in a war that was fought to a draw. So here you have this bitter eight year war, you can accomplish virtually nothing against Saddam Hussein, and within what appeared to be overnight, an American army marches in, and does what you couldn’t do in eight years. I would think that would shake you up a little.

HH: Yeah. Let’s switch to some politics, Mayor. In Iowa, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee are debating in-state college tuition for illegal aliens. Romney’s against it, Huckabee’s for it. What does Giuliani think?

RG: I think that that would not be the right thing to do right now. But I can understand why…I don’t think they’re debating it as a current policy. I think they’re debating what Governor Huckabee did in the past, which I understand. I mean, none of us have a perfect record on immigration. This has been, and I think one thing the Republican debates have revealed is every single one of the Republican candidates, there’s no perfect record here on immigration, whether you look at mine or Governor Romney’s or Mike Huckabee’s. I think the real question is what do we do going forward? How do we deal with it? How do we fix it? Who has the best plan to fix it? And I think I have the best plan to fix it, and I think I have the most experience to fix it. I think that I would know how to do this out of my background and experience in getting extraordinary results in reducing crime in New York, extraordinary results as the United States attorney, being in the area of safety and security, and being able to provide bold leadership. I think I would be the one that could stop illegal immigration at the border, so we wouldn’t have governors debating something like this. Both of them are in very difficult situations, and both of them, while they were governors, had to make practical choices about this, because the federal government wasn’t doing their job. And me, too. I had to do that as a mayor.

HH: Let’s talk about the crime and the violence, Mayor, in our remaining minutes. On Sunday, a private citizen who had volunteered to provide security at the Colorado Springs New Life Church stopped a maniac who had already killed four and wounded more. What does that episode tell us about guns and law abiding citizens?

RG: It tells us that we should keep guns out of the hands of criminals, and that we should respect the rights of law abiding citizens to bear and carry arms. And if we can’t respect it, we should at least respect the Constitution who gives them that right.

HH: Now Tom Brokaw was on this program with me last week, and he had this to say about you and guns.

TB: And by the way, he’s now down there appearing before the NRA when he was here in New York, and he was arguing for gun control. And he’s done a 180 on it.

HH: You think he flip-flopped on guns?

TB: Yeah.

HH: What about that, Mayor?

RG: I believe that what I was doing as mayor of New York City was to reduce crime in New York. I had a terrible problem. I had 1,800-2,000 murders a year. I reduced shootings by 74%, homicides by 67%. I enforced the gun laws of New York very aggressively. I do not believe, however, that that would give me any right as a president to ignore the 2nd Amendment. I have respect for the 2nd Amendment.

HH: Were the gun laws of New York, in your view, Constitutional?

RG: Pardon me?

HH: Were the gun laws of New York, in your view, Constitutional?

RG: At the time, I thought they were.

HH: All right.

RG: I think in light of the Parker decision, I think some of them now, it would be seen as Constitutional. Some, there might be a question about. It’s going to depend on how the Supreme Court decides this decision. The way I read it, and I agree with the Parker decision, that wasn’t the law at the time. There was no such Parker decision when I was doing these things, that basically says that you can place limits, it’s an individual right. You can place limits. The limits have to go to criminal background and mental stability.

HH: Let me ask you, Mayor, because it’s our last question, but it’s a big one. Where do people like this killer in Colorado, and the one the week before in Nebraska, where do they come from, and what do authorities have to do to stop them, and what’s media’s role in this?

RG: Well, that’s a real big question. I mean, these are such deeply disturbed people, it goes into the roots of their, sometimes their faily life. It could go into the roots of their environment, all the things that happened. I mean, the main thing is you’ve got to provide safety and security to prevent things like this from happening. I don’t think we’re capable of getting so far into the psyche of people, of being able to just regularly predict something like this from behavior. Maybe someday we will be able to do it. So you’ve got to have safety in schools, you have to have very, very good patrol programs. I think you have to look at your gun laws in light of these things happening within the Constitutional restrictions. But that’s only one very small part of this. This is much more about behavior than it is about any particular instrumentality. And you have to have very, very good policing. The Compstat program that I had in New York didn’t eliminate crime, but it probably was the most effective program that anyone’s every devised to reduce crime. It’s still working. I didn’t devise it myself, by the way. I don’t want to say that I’m taking credit for it. Other people helped to devise this, like Bill Bratton and Jack Maple, but I contributed to it, and I certainly used it very effectively, and it’s working in New York right now, in a place which was of very high violence, and it made it into…people don’t realize that New York City is not only the safest large city in the country, it’s actually one of the safest cities in the country, even including small cities.

HH: Last question, Mayor. Your people are yelling at me…

RG: I would say the Compstat program would help.

HH: Should NBC have shown the tape of the Virginia Tech murderer?

RG: You know, I haven’t seen it, so I can’t really tell you whether they should or shouldn’t have. I would have to look at it. Look, I believe in free speech. I think NBC has to make that decision. I can’t tell you if that was a good decision or a bad decision, because I haven’t looked at it.

HH: Mayor Giuliani, I know you’re running, thanks for spending time with us today.

RG: Thank you very much. Take care, Hugh.

HH: Okay.

End of interview.

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