Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Rudy 'didn't want to politicize' Iraq study


BY CRAIG GORDON
Newsday
June 20, 2007

WASHINGTON - Rudolph Giuliani's campaign yesterday defended the ex-mayor's decision to quit the Iraq Study Group, saying Giuliani didn't want his impending presidential run to politicize the group's work, or time conflicts to limit his participation.

Newsday reported yesterday that Giuliani quit the blue-ribbon panel after failing to attend a single meeting - and delivered paid speeches and attended a political fundraiser on days when the group met.

Giuliani's campaign yesterday acknowledged his prior time commitments as a reason for quitting, without directly addressing whether he skipped the working sessions in order to deliver paid speeches.

Instead, campaign officials emphasized Giuliani's concern that his presence would turn the Iraq Study Group into a "political football" when the group was supposed to provide a bipartisan, consensus view of the way ahead in Iraq.

"I actually think that was the right decision," Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) said on MSNBC of Giuliani's resignation. "He was moving toward being a presidential candidate. For him to be on the panel would have been a political football, a political distraction."

Giuliani himself did not cite his concern about politicizing the group in his May 2006 resignation letter to Republican co-chairman James Baker, which offered only his "previous time commitments" as a reason.

In fact, Baker had made clear that he expected Giuliani to attend the meetings or leave the group, several sources told Newsday.

When the group's report came out in December, Giuliani said the reason he quit was so that the group could remain "apolitical" to prevent its findings from being viewed through a partisan lens. By that time, Giuliani had filed paperwork to explore a presidential run.

At that time, he also sought to distance himself from some of the group's key findings, including its goal of bringing most U.S. combat troops home by early next year - which conflicts with Giuliani's belief that setting a timetable for withdrawal aids the enemy.

Campaign manager Michael DuHaime also said Giuliani decided to quit when he saw his time conflicts would prevent his full involvement.

"When the mayor does something, he does it 100 percent, and as you can see when he was mayor of New York, he grabbed it 100 percent," DuHaime said this morning on MSNBC.

DuHaime also said Giuliani's decision to leave the panel shouldn't raise doubts that he is serious about defending the nation from terrorists - which Giuliani has made the central issue in his campaign.

"I don't think anybody can question the mayor's commitment to the Iraq war, or the mayor's commitment to the war on terror in general. This is somebody who for the last 30 years of his life has spent time working on and studying the Islamic terrorist threat to America," DuHaime said.

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