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Giuliani defends Bush's use of 9/11 images

Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani
Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani

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America Votes 2004: Presidential Race
September 11 attacks
America Votes 2004
Acts of terror

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who won worldwide acclaim for his handling of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that devastated his city, said Thursday that using images from that day in campaign ads for President Bush is both "appropriate" and "relevant."

"The reality is that President Bush played a very, very big role in bringing our country through the worst attack in our history," he said. "So it's an appropriate thing for him to point out as part of his record, just like Democrats are going to attack parts of his record and say, 'We think it should have been done differently.' "

Giuliani is a Republican and a supporter of Bush's re-election.

The ads, which began airing Thursday, outline a series of challenges that the United States has faced since Bush became president, including the 9/11 attacks. The tag line is that Bush presents "strong leadership in times of change."

Some family members of people killed in the terrorist attacks object to the use of images from the tragedy in montages in the ads, including a brief shot of a firefighter carrying away a flag-draped victim.

"We can't help but look at the failures of that day," said Patty Casazza, whose husband died in the World Trade Center. "We lost loved ones, and anyone in our shoes would have to have a more critical view of the president."

But other victims' families said they see nothing wrong with the ads.

"It shows you firefighters carrying a brother out, and it shows you the American flag waving over the Trade Center," said Joe Esposito, a firefighter who lost both a brother and a cousin in the attacks. "I have no problem with that."

A local firefighters union, which has endorsed presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry, also charged that the ad goes too far.

"I don't think the death of any citizen, particularly firefighters, should be used in anyone's campaign," said Capt. Peter Gorman of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association.

But Giuliani told CNN "It would almost be false to list the challenges that President Bush had to face and not list as one of those challenges the worst attack in this country."

Asked if he would use similar images if he ran for office again, Giuliani said "that would be hypothetical" -- but he added that his record in handling the tragedy would be a legitimate matter for voters to consider.

"September 11th is part of my record," he said. "It would be unrealistic, if I was ever evaluated, for someone not to look at that."

White House spokesman Scott McClellan also defended the ads Thursday.

"It is vital to our future that we learn what September 11th taught us," he said. "September 11th changed the equation in our public policy. It forever changed our world, and the president's steady leadership is vital to how we wage the war on terrorism."

David Gergen, a former adviser to presidents of both parties, said using September 11 in campaign ads is acceptable within limits.

"They have to be careful not to exploit the emotions of the families," Gergen said. "But how can you tell the story of the Bush administration and leave out 9/11? That's the core of what happened. If he's re-elected, the single reason why is because of the days and weeks following 9/11."

CNN correspondents Jason Carroll and Dana Bash contributed to this report.

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