Republican Rudy Giuliani is painting President Barack Obama as weak on terrorism and is longing for the days of former President George W. Bush.
Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City and a candidate for president in 2008, appeared on Good Morning America on Jan. 8, 2010, to offer his assessment of the Obama administration's counterterrorist operations. He criticized plans to try suspected Christmas Day bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in a Michigan criminal court and questioned Obama's decision to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay. Giuliani said U.S. intelligence agencies stand to lose potentially critical information on other al-Qaida operatives and operations if the man at the center of the Northwest flight terror incident is tried in U.S. court.
"What he (Obama) should be doing is following the right things that Bush did -- one of the right things he did was treat this as a war on terror. We had no domestic attacks under Bush. We've had one under Obama," Giuliani said. "Number two, he should correct the things that Bush didn't do right. Sending people to Yemen was wrong, not getting this whole intelligence thing corrected was both Bush's responsibility and Obama's."
Giuliani, the mayor of New York City during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, claims there were no domestic attacks under the Bush administration. That's obviously a preposterous statement that would warrant a Pants on Fire rating. We can't help but remember now-Vice President Joe Biden's line during his presidential campaign, "Rudy Giuliani -- there's only three things he mentions in a sentence. A noun and a verb and 9/11."
Unfortunately, interviewer George Stephanopoulos never sought clarification on Giuliani's statement. After the interview, Stephanopoulos updated his blog to say Giuliani was wrong to say there were no domestic attacks under Bush, and then later apologized for not pressing him on the misstatement.
But let's treat this as if Giuliani meant to say there were no domestic attacks under Bush post-Sept. 11, 2001, and run that past the Truth-O-Meter.
The FBI offers a broad definition of terrorism, calling it "the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives."
Even stricter definitions would have to include:
The anthrax scare. Shortly after 9/11, letters laced with anthrax began appearing in the U.S. mail. Letters went to U.S. senators and news organizations. Before it was over, five Americans were killed and another 17 were injured. "The nation was terrorized in what became the worst biological attacks in U.S. history," according to the FBI.
The shoe bomber. In December 2001, admitted al-Qaida member Richard Reid boarded a plane in Miami with plastic explosives packed in special hollowed-out shoes. The bomb failed to ignite properly and no passengers were hurt. The incident, however, led to Americans having to remove their shoes during airport security screening.
The D.C. sniper case. John Allen Muhammad was convicted on capital terrorism charges for his part in the shooting of 16 people in and around the D.C. area in September and October 2002. Muhammad was executed last year. His 17-year-old accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo, was sentenced to life in prison.
All three events occurred after Sept. 11 and have been considered terror plots by the federal and state governments.
Media Matters For America, a liberal group that analyzes the news media, documented other examples of U.S. terrorism:
2002 attack against El Al ticket counter at LAX. Hesham Mohamed Hadayet opened fire at an El Al Airlines ticket counter at Los Angeles International Airport, killing two people and wounding four others before being shot dead. Media Matters found a 2004 Justice Department report that Hadayet's case had been "officially designated as an act of international terrorism."
Campus attack at UNC. In March 2006, a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill graduate drove an SUV onto campus, striking nine pedestrians. Reza Taheri-azar reportedly stated in a letter: "I was aiming to follow in the footsteps of one of my role models, Mohammad Atta, one of the 9/11/01 hijackers, who obtained a doctorate degree."
A spokesman for Giuliani attempted to clarify the former mayor's remark several hours after the GMA interview, saying the statement "didn't come across as it was intended" and that Giuliani was "clearly talking post-9/11 with regards to Islamic terrorist attacks on our soil," according to ABC News.
It wasn't clear to us, or most of the world. But okay.
Taking the literal definition of "on our soil," that would exclude the failed December 2001 shoe bombing incident since it happened in the air. But not the others. If you add the second layer of "Islamic terrorist attacks," the sniper and anthrax attacks could come off the list as well, because it is unclear if extremist Muslim ideology motivated either attack. Hadayet, the shooter in the Los Angeles ticket counter shooting, was killed during the attack by security personnel. So we don't know his motivation. Taheri-azar's own words make his motivation pretty clear.
But now we're getting to a lot of ifs. And more importantly, that's not what Giuliani said on national television.
Here's how Giuliani tried to clarify the issue during an interview later that day with CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "This is so silly," Giuliani said. "What I usually say when I say that, I usually say we had no major domestic attacks under President Bush since Sept. 11. I did omit the words 'since Sept. 11.' I apologize for that." Giuliani went on to say it's not clear if the anthrax attacks were perpetuated by Islamic fundamentalists.
We're not sure if Giuliani's claim that Obama has had only one domestic attack in his first year as president is right, either. Besides the Christmas Day bombing attempt, several U.S. lawmakers have already labeled the November Fort Hood shooting as an act of terrorism.
The Giuliani spokesman, whom ABC News did not identify, said the "one" attack that Giuliani says took place during the Obama administration was a reference to the alleged Fort Hood shooter, Maj. Nidal Hasan. (Again, excluding the Christmas Day bombing plot by using the "on our soil" addendum.)
Giuliani ran a presidential campaign based on the leadership he showed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. We would expect him to at least acknowledge that those attacks occurred while George W. Bush was president. But even considering that he was talking post-9/11, Giuliani is just plain wrong to suggest no terrorist attacks happened under Bush's watch. The clarifications added by a Giuliani spokesman are threaded so thin, it sounds like damage control more than anything. We say Pants on Fire!