NEW YORK: The communications skills of New York's top politicians
were put to the ultimate test last week, as they wrestled to express
messages of sorrow, sympathy, anger, and dismay while giving out
Top media aides for Mayor Giuliani, Governor Pataki, and the two New
York Senators (Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton), set about
organizing a series of impromptu press events aimed at keeping the
public informed about the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center
New York politicians were on the air most of the day, openly admitting
there were questions they simply couldn't answer.
Mayor Giuliani was by far the most visible politician on Tuesday,
visiting the WTC just ten minutes before it collapsed mid-morning.
Throughout the day, Giuliani's message was simple: "The focus of our
efforts is recovering as many people as we can and saving lives." He
avoided putting numbers on the death toll.
Mid-afternoon, Giuliani and Governor Pataki held a joint conference
asking for people to stay out of Manhattan and announcing the arrival of
the national guard to assist the emergency services.
Around midnight, Giuliani, flanked by fire commissioner Thomas Von Essen
and police chief Bernard Kerik, showed both sensitivity and firmness in
dealing with the deaths of high-ranking fire officials and potential
public-disorder issues. Giuliani said he would come down hard on those
involved in price gauging, looting, and racially motivated attacks.
By the following day, Giuliani, wearing a variety of NYPD and FDNY caps
and jackets, allowed cameras to tour "ground zero," the area where the
towers once stood.
Later on, at a separate conference, Giuliani invited all potential
mayoral candidates to a briefing to get them involved in the relief
effort. The mayoral primary was to have been held Tuesday.
Governor Pataki spent much of Tuesday and Wednesday liaising with
federal agencies, as well as requesting financial assistance along with
the presence of the national guard.
Carrying seven press releases Tuesday and six on Wednesday, Pataki's
website gave some indication as to how hard his press reps have been
working to provide information to the media.
Senator Clinton, present at some of Giuliani's conferences with Senator
Schumer, called for the New York skyline to be rebuilt.
Clinton also made a moving statement on the floor of the US Senate, but
cancelled a late-night appearance with Peter Jennings on ABC.