The Record newspaper of New Jersey contributes its interpretation of the relative guilt of Christie Whitman and Rudi Giuliani in the health crisis affecting thousands of workers who helped clean up the remains of the World Trade Center.
The paper reviews Whitman's many statements declaring the safety of the air in lower Manhattan, as well as the EPA Inspector General's Report showing how "negative" information was removed from the EPA's press releases by the White House.
They note how Whitman admits that she recognized that there was something terrible going on -- workers laboring in a toxic stew without wearing respirators -- but she was handcuffed, impotent, powerless to act because NY City Hall -- Rudi Giuliani -- was in charge.
As for Ground Zero workers, Whitman acknowledges that they were laboring in air that was a toxic stew of chemicals. She says that EPA representatives repeatedly urged city officials to require workers to wear respirators, but she could see on news broadcasts that many of them were not complying. She was powerless to do anything about it, she says, because Ground Zero work was supervised by City Hall, not by her agency.So let me get this straight. And the Bush administration, which was soon to go to war in Afghanistan, invade Iraq, and launch a neverending war against terrorism -- didn't have to balls to stand up to Rudy Guiliani and force him to protect Ground Zero workers?
Jerrold Nadler, the Democratic New York congressman whose district includes Ground Zero, has asked why she did not assert the power of the federal government and just assume control of the work.
The short answer is another comparison of the Hurricane Katrina and World Trade Center disasters. The mayor of New Orleans was the ineffectual, gaffe-prone Ray Nagin. The mayor of New York was the truculent, formidable Rudy Giuliani. No one, not Christie Whitman, not even the president, was going to mess with Hizzoner, the only politician to be celebrated as a Sept. 11 hero.
I'm not buying it. But I guess it sounds better than "Hey, we had more important thing to worry about, like re-opening Wall St."