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Rudy Giuliani’s near career as a priest, his abortion position, and conspiracy theories about 9/11

Friday, April 13, 2007
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HH: Mayor Giuliani, welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show.

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

HH: Good. When we talked in February, we were just getting into biography when we ran out of time. So I went to Fred Siegel’s book, and by the way, do you think that’s a pretty good book, The Prince of the City?

RG: I do, yes. Actually, I just saw Fred today, so yeah (laughing)

HH: Well, I find…but it doesn’t tell us much about your early years, born in ’44 in Brooklyn. You’re an only child, right, Mayor?

RG: That’s correct.

HH: And your dad had a run-in with the law, he had some tough years afterwards, but it’s a Catholic…give us some idea of what it’s like growing up ’44 to the early 60’s in your Brooklyn life.

RG: (laughing) You know, it was sort of a much calmer period of time. My first memories, actually, are of baseball. My father came from Manhattan, and my mother from Brooklyn. And my mother sort of required my father to live in Brooklyn near her family. And his revenge was to make me a Yankee fan right in the shadow of Ebbets Field. So my early experiences were being thrown in the mud by the Dodgers fans that have made me a very, very loyal Yankee fan. And then I remember my first Yankee game, Joe DiMaggio and Dominic DiMaggio were playing on opposite teams, Joe for the Yankees, and Dominic for the Red Sox. And I…baseball was a large part of my early life, both when I lived in Brooklyn…I lived in Brooklyn up until the time I was about seven, and then we moved to Garden City South, which is in Nassau County, and I went to parochial schools. I went to St. Francis of Assisi Grammar School, and St. Anne’s Grammar School in Stewart Manor. But then, it was a strange thing, I went to high school in Brooklyn.

HH: Okay…

RG: So I would commute back into Brooklyn everyday from the time I was 13, to the time I was 17.

HH: Was money tight in the Giuliani family?

RG: Yeah, it was. I mean, yes, yeah, I understood that there were limited amounts of money, and I didn’t grow up with anything like wealth, or I would consider it middle class, maybe, you know, there was money, but it was tight, and it wasn’t unlimited amounts of money by any means.

HH: And how did you pay for college, because you go to Manhattan College, you go to law school, how do you foot that bill?

RG: I had partial scholarships in both cases.

HH: Okay.

RG: Both to Manhattan and to NYU Law School, and that helped, that helped a great deal.

HH: Okay, and Brother O’Leary shows up in some of the stories I find. Who’s he?

RG: Brother Kevin…

HH: Yeah.

RG: That’s how I knew him as. Brother Kevin was a very, very big influence on my life, and he was an English, he was my English teacher and my homeroom teacher in the second year of high school, and he’s the one who really got me interested in reading, in opera, in writing, and sort of convinced me that there was a whole intellectual side of me that I could develop. And I really credit him with that. I mean, he and my mother, my mother was a frustrated history teacher. She always wanted to be a history teacher, and she came through the Depression, and she wasn’t able to go to college, she had to go to work, but she had a great interest in history, and in English. So I became her singular student. And the two of them probably developed, the two of them probably developed this tremendous interest in learning and reading, and the excitement of it that to this day that I have.

HH: And was Rudy Giuliani ever an altar boy?

RG: No.

HH: Okay, just checking on it.

RG: I was a very, I was a very religious kid, and wanted to be a priest for a good deal of my childhood. My real ambitions as a youngster were being a priest, or being a doctor. Those were the two things I went back and forth with during most of my childhood, and then a whole bunch of other ambitions came about, and different things to do, and I was on the verge of going in the seminary when I graduated from high school, changed my mind that summer, and then ended up going to Manhattan College.

HH: What changed your mind?

RG: I think celibacy, to tell you the truth.

HH: Ah, good argument.

RG: At least initially.

HH: Now how is the Catholic faith imprinted itself on you?

RG: Oh, I’m very, very grateful that I…you know, I studied religion through the time I was in college. I took four years of theology in college. At various times in college, I actually thought again about going back into the seminary, almost did at one point in my second or third year, I don’t remember exactly when. It’s been a very, very important part of my life.

HH: Now President Bush won the Catholic vote, the Mass attending Catholic vote in 2004, over Catholic John Kerry, largely on abortion rights stuff, Mayor. Can you keep that majority, given your abortion rights positions?

RG: Well, I hope that people look at the overall record. You know, they look at the overall record, and realize that there’s not ever going to be agreement 100% with anybody that’s running for president. There are going to be issues you agree on, issues you don’t agree on, and then you as the voter have to make the decision what’s most important to me right now. What are the big issues? And I think ultimately, people vote based on who they think is going to be the most effective leader, with the problems that we’re facing at a particular time. And right now, if we predict a year and a half ahead, it looks like the biggest problems we’re going to be facing are the terrorist war against us, which irrespective of Iraq, is going to continue, whatever happens in Iraq. I hope it’s successful. If it isn’t, the same thing is going to be the case. These people are planning to kill us in different parts of the world, and I don’t see their planning stopping in the next year, year and a half, two years. So I think that’s going to be a very big part of the decision. I think that there’s going to be a real difference between the Republican candidate and the Democratic candidate on how to deal with our economy. I think the Democrats want to move it much toward a kind of continental European economy, with government health care, with increases in taxes, increases in government programs, they seem to want to solve the health care consistently by expanding government programs. And my view is, we’re going to need a president who stands up for the private economy, and stands up for the principles of growth, lower taxes, smaller government, market-based solutions to health care. After all, that’s the only way you contain costs, is by making it even more of a private, competitive, consumer-driven system. Government systems always become much more expensive than anyone thinks, and always become much more inefficient than anyone thinks.

HH: But I want to stick for a moment on the life issue, Mayor, because do your cardinal buddies, and your bishop buddies, do they ever take you aside and say you know, Mayor, we’ve got to talk about this? And we’ve got to…

RG: I…do I talk? Sure, of course. Yeah, of course. I mean, I have spiritual counsel, but that’s all very private.

HH: Okay…

RG: You want to know my position on abortion?

HH: Yeah.

RG: My position is that I hate it, I don’t like it, I would advise anyone on a personal basis that they’d be better off using the option of adoption if…but ultimately, it’s an individual’s choice that I don’t see dealing with by trying to put somebody in jail over it.

HH: Would you like to see Roe V. Wade reversed, Mayor?

RG: I would…[pause, not indicating agreement]…what I’d like to see are abortions reduced, and adoptions increased. And I reduced…abortions declined about 15, 16% while I was Mayor, I think more than the national average. But most importantly, adoptions went up over 60%.

HH: But would it be a good day or a bad day for America if Roe V. Wade was reversed by the Roberts’ Court?

RG: Oh, I think that’s something the Court has to decide.

HH: All right.

RG: And I think that I would appoint strict constructionists as judges, I would not have a litmus test, there’d be a general test, a philosophical test, and that is are you going to interpret the Constitution as best you can based on what it means, not what you’d like it to mean? I can see conservative, strict constructionist judges coming to the conclusion that it should be overturned, or I could see some of them coming to the conclusion that it’s been the law for a substantial period of time, it is precedent, and applying stare decisis. So it’s not a litmus test.

HH: We’ve got to year to do that. I want to go back to biography, because I think people will get the issues over the course of the year. In the Siegel book, he talks about this first campaign with Dinkins, and this was just basically throwing hammers at ten feet for a year. Was that the toughest campaign you’ve been in?

RG: Well, both of them were. Both of them ended very close. I mean, ’89, I lost by about 2%, and ’93, I won by 2 1/2%. So it’s hard for me to distinguish between the two. They were both very hard fought, very difficult campaigns. I mean…

HH: In ’89, he sent surrogates out…

RG: Maybe ’89 was more difficult because I didn’t understand the process as well in ’89 as I did in ’93. I think I was a much better candidate in ’93.

HH: Yeah.

RG: …than I was in ’89.

HH: He sent out, Dinkins did, in ’89, surrogates to call you a draft dodger, and bring up the fact that you had deferments, and then got a high number. Is that going to be an issue this time around, given that Senator McCain’s in there. Now Romney’s got the same story, he had deferments and then the high draft number as well, but is that something that just Democrats play? Or will that show up in the primary as well?

RG: Oh, you never know what will. I mean, I think I have such a long record of serving my country, most of my life, not all of it, has been public service. And in some cases, under difficult circumstances, so I think people serve their country in all different ways, and I think I have probably one of the most diverse records in terms of government service and executive service, and having to operate under pressure, and having to deal with prosecuting the Mafia, and having them threaten you, and stuff like that.

HH: Yeah.

RG: Sure, I guess everything’s in plusses and minuses. So people have a right to look at all of that.

HH: Let me play for you a little Rosie O’Donnell on 9/11 looking back.

RG: (laughing)

HH: Have you heard this clip yet, Mayor? Have you heard her talking…

RG: I don’t know.

HH: Let’s play Rosie O’Donnell from a couple of weeks ago.

RO’D: I do believe that for the first time in history, that fire has ever melted steel. I do believe that it defies physics for the World Trade Center Tower 7, Building 7, which collapsed in on itself, it is impossible for a building to fall the way it fell without explosives being involved. World Trade Center 7. World Trader 1 and 2 got hit by planes, 7 miraculously, the first time in history steel was melted by fire. It is physically impossible.

HH: What do you make of that, Mayor?

RG: I just never thought of her as like an engineering expert, but you’d have to go back to the people who studied that. And World Trade Center 7, if I recall correctly, came down around 4 or 5 o’clock in the afternoon. And my partner, Mike Hess, who was then my Corporation Counsel, was one of the last two people to get out of World Trade Center 7. He almost died there. And I was in a building that was pelted by…what really happened is World Trade Center 1 and 2 bombarded World Trade Center 7. And I was in a building next to World Trade Center 7, and we were trapped in that building for 20 minutes, and that building took a considerable amount of building.

HH: But what do you make of public people…

RG: It was a little further away, so…

HH: What do you make of public people firing up this nutter conspiracy theory? Does that injure our understanding of what we’re in?

RG: Well, I’ve always thought that conspiracy theories, and I’ve heard all the wild ones, you know, I’ve been subjected sometimes overseas, sometimes here, you know, kind of really wild ones. I won’t even repeat them, they’re so wild. I’ve always been very clear on September 11, and I don’t know why we have to have conspiracy theories, when we know who did it. (laughing) You know, we know that these 19 people took those airplanes and flew them into buildings in order to kill innocent people. They’re the ones responsible for it. None of this would have happened unless they did that. Everybody else, you know, everybody else involved, and it was doing the very best they could to save as many lives as possible. Some did it effectively, some didn’t do it as effectively, but they were all trying, you know? This idea of going back and trying to figure out what did the Bush administration know, what did the Clinton administration know in order to blame people is really unfortunate. If either anybody in the Bush administration or the Clinton administration had known about September 11, I think they would have done everything they could to stop it. What we do is, we just…when we do that, we displace the responsibility where it belongs.

HH: Yeah.

RG: It’s squarely in one place. It belongs with the Islamic terrorists who planned it over a long period of time, and carried it out. And everybody else, everybody else tried real hard to do the best they could to save lives. And as I said, some were successful and some weren’t, and some of the decisions were right and some were wrong, but the criminal, horrible, inhumane decision was the one made by those terrorists.

HH: Mayor, I know we’re out of time. We’ll pick it up there next time. Thanks for the opportunity again.

RG: Thank you very much.

End of interview.

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