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MORNINGS WITH PAULA ZAHN

Rudy Giuliani: "Time's Person of the Year"

Aired December 24, 2001 - 07:37   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: After weeks of speculation and frankly, more than a little bit of worry it might be Osama bin Laden, "Time" magazine's choice for Person of the Year went to New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. The choice has hit a positive chord with almost everyone.

Mr. Mayor joining us now from his office. Welcome to you, sir, and congratulations.

RUDY GIULIANI, MAYOR OF NEW YORK: Thank you very much, Miles, and Merry Christmas.

O'BRIEN: Merry Christmas to you.

How did you find out about the honor, did you just what go to the newsstand and see your picture there?

GIULIANI: I got a call about midnight on Saturday going into Sunday from my communication's director Sunny Mindell, and she told me that I had been selected as Person of the Year by "Time" magazine. And I was, you know, frankly stunned for a short period of time.

And then I said wow and was able to put it in the context of this honor being an honor for the people of the City of New York and the way they responded so heroically to this worst attack on America in our history.

O'BRIEN: That -- you know I was talking to one of the editors of "Time" yesterday, and he said they felt that was the story, the response was the story and that you, in a sense, embodied the response. I sort of said in turn, well why not, you know, make it the firefighters or the rescue workers? Do you feel at all uncomfortable sort of being the embodiment of this whole thing?

GIULIANI: Sure, but you know that as the mayor I have been that for almost eight years now so you get -- you get used -- you get used to that, not on this kind of dramatic scale, but sure, you're the embodiment of the people who work for the city of New York and for good or sometimes for bad if people feel that they're angry about something that was done by the people who work for the city. So...

O'BRIEN: Yes, I guess I...

GIULIANI: ... you do -- you do -- you do -- you do get used to that.

O'BRIEN: It kind of cuts both ways, doesn't it?

GIULIANI: Right.

O'BRIEN: Undoubtedly you were plugged into the debate in advance of this. Of course many people who are news purists would tell you Osama bin Laden should have been the choice because the criteria is who -- a person, for better or worse, who changed the world, impacted news events of the world. And a lot of people would tell you that hands down that would be Osama bin Laden. Did you pay much attention to that or what are you thoughts of it now that this is...

GIULIANI: No, this is not -- this is not a -- this is not a contest. It's not like a political contest. You really have to leave it up to their -- to their judgement as to the criteria that they're going to use. And I think that -- you know I think I -- the one thing that I really did feel fortunate about was that it wasn't him. So I mean I could think of a lot of other people that also could have received it, but not him.

I also think, if you think about his impact, it was over with, really, in a day. It just took a little while to realize that. The spirit of America overcame what he tried to do to us immediately by the actions and activities of the rescue workers and the people and the way in which they reacted, not only in New York, but in Washington and Pennsylvania. Think about those people on the -- on the airplane that brought the airplane down that was headed, you know, possibly for Washington, possibly for the White House. All of that, I mean I realized that in the first three or four hours, even as I was dealing with it, that the spirit of America was strong enough to absorb this and turn it around and turn it into in a very, very strange and I think very solemn way something positive, even in spite of the fact that we're going to have to deal with the mourning and the sorrow forever and ever.

O'BRIEN: Well, yes, it's such an unfortunate way to see that spirit come alive, of course. Of course you know I sort of get the sense we saw it on American Airlines Flight 63 the other night there,...

GIULIANI: Yes.

O'BRIEN: ... that sense of people pitching in and participating in ways perhaps they wouldn't before.

GIULIANI: We recognized that we have to fight for freedom and democracy if necessary, that it is not something that just comes to us as a gift for free, that there are times in which sacrifices and extreme sacrifices are required if you want the kind of freedom, the kind of democracy and a country that's ruled by law and hope and pray that that can spread and expand all over the world so that we're all safe. But it is, we have to be willing to defend ourselves just like our ancestors were.

O'BRIEN: For all of us since September 11, it's been sort of like one long day and certainly that goes for you. I'm curious if you've -- if you've had a chance to really sit down and reflect at all? I know you've had to respond and react and take action so much, but have you had a chance to really think about it, try to put it in perspective for yourself personally?

GIULIANI: A little bit, not the way I'll be able to do after January 1 and really want to do. I'm in the midst of writing a book, so I've had a chance to do some work on that, not a lot, and so I reflect there.

O'BRIEN: How did you find time to -- how did you find time to write a book through all of this? Were you still working on it through all of this?

GIULIANI: Yes, I haven't -- I had to take a lot of time away from it,...

O'BRIEN: Yes.

GIULIANI: ... but -- and not the amount of time I thought I was going to spend on it. I also get to reflect because I've given probably close to 200 eulogies at funerals and memorial services and at other occasions. So each time you do that, you focus on the event, you focus on the significance of it, the spirituality of it, the religious meaning of it, so yes, I have had a chance to reflect but never in the concentrated way in which you would really like to do.

O'BRIEN: All right, briefly before you get away, we've got to ask you about the future. We have a poll. I just want to bring up the numbers very quickly. When asked, Americans see you, well, senator, 68 percent say yes; governor, 68 percent as well; vice president, 45 to 43; president, you don't do as well, but in any case, given those numbers and given your thoughts about the future, do you -- do you see public office in your future immediately? And do you want to make any announcements right now here on CNN, and why not?

GIULIANI: No, no, and I'm not -- I'm not -- because I'm not thinking about public office right now. I'm thinking about time in private life and doing a lot of things like you talked about before and I don't rule anything out. You shouldn't, but I have no plan right now so there's nothing to announce.

O'BRIEN: Rudy Giuliani, Person of the Year,...

GIULIANI: Thank you very much.

O'BRIEN: ... Mayor of New York, thanks for being with us.

GIULIANI: Merry Christmas.

O'BRIEN: Merry Christmas to you. All right.

GIULIANI: All right.

O'BRIEN: Good to see you.

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