Ex-New York mayor Giuliani says no successful terrorist attacks took place pre-Obama - seemingly forgetting 9/11

Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York, addresses delegates on the first day of the Republican National Convention on July 18, 2016 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.
Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York, addresses delegates on the first day of the Republican National Convention on July 18, 2016 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. PHOTO: AFP

YOUNGSTOWN, OHIO (Bloomberg) - Former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani seems to have forgotten that the Sept 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center ever happened.

While introducing real-estate mogul Donald Trump on Monday (Aug 15) at a rally at Youngstown State University in Ohio, the Republican and loyal Trump surrogate told the crowd that no "successful radical Islamic terrorist attack" had taken place in the United States in the eight years before President Barack Obama took office - referring to the presidency of Republican George W. Bush.

That line by Mr Giuliani, who presided as New York's mayor during the 9/11 attacks that brought down the Twin Towers, raised immediate questions.

He was using that to urge the crowd to back Republican presidential nominee Trump, saying: "Donald Trump is our only hope for change in the way in which we approach extremist terrorism, radical Islamic terrorism."

Mr Giuliani also returned to familiar attacks on both Mr Obama and Democrat presidental nominee Hillary Clinton, knocking the two Democrats for their handling of foreign policy, as well as Mrs Clinton's use of a private e-mail server while secretary of state.

"She has destroyed more e-mails than I have ever written," he quipped.

In Mr Trump's  following national-security speech at the Ohio University, he indicated that his plan to prevent terrorist attacks on American soil included a screening test meant to allow entrance only to immigrants "who we expect to flourish in our country".

"In the Cold War we had an ideological screening test. The time is overdue to develop a new screening test for the threats we face today," he said. "I call it extreme vetting. I call it extreme. Extreme vetting. Our country has enough problems. We don't need more. And these are problems like we've never had before."

The Republican presidential nominee said he also plans to halt immigration from nations with a "history of exporting terrorism" until new procedures are implemented by the government to properly screen applications from those parts of the world.

He also sharply attacked Mrs Clinton as "unfit" for commander-in-chief duties, saying she does not have the "stamina" to deal with threats to national security like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

For a week, Mr Trump has been laying the groundwork for contrasting his own approach to countering ISIS with Democrats, calling Mr Obama the group's "founder" and Mrs Clinton the co-founder.  "The rise of ISIS is the direct result of policy decisions made by President Obama and Secretary Clinton," Mr Trump said. "It is time for a new approach."

In one contrast, Mr Trump said he will end US involvement in nation-building and focus on halting the spread of Islamic terrorism.  "All actions should be oriented around this goal, and any country which shares this goal will be our ally," he said. "We cannot always choose our friends, but we can never fail to recognise our enemies."

Potential allies in the anti-ISIS fight included Israel, Egypt, Jordan and Russia, Mr Trump said.

Nato, which he's criticised as "obsolete", was also named as an organisation a Trump administration would work closely with. However, he did not detail tactics or strategy, vowing he "will not telegraph exact military plans to the enemy".

 Singling out Russia, Mr Trump said the US should "find common ground" with leaders in Moscow in the fight against ISIS. Russia is Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's leading patron and its jets have helped its army target rebels fighting to overthrow his regime.

But Mr Trump left out that the Obama Administration is already in talks with President Vladimir Putin's government over joint operations in Syria. A key problem has been separating out rebels worth backing from those allied with Al-Qaeda and other extremist groups.

"The Obama administration is trying like crazy to do that," said Mr Andrew Tabler, who studies Syria at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "The problem is finding terms you would find acceptable."

The Clinton campaign responded to Mr Trump's immigrant vetting proposal of the speech in harsh terms. 

"This so-called 'policy' cannot be taken seriously," senior policy adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement. "How can Trump put this forward with a straight face when he opposes marriage equality and selected as his running mate the man who signed an anti-LGBT law in Indiana? It's a cynical ploy to escape scrutiny of his outrageous proposal to ban an entire religion from our country and no one should fall for it."

A pro-Clinton super-PAC also attacked Mr Trump.  "His 'extreme vetting' proposal is simply a rebranding of his bigoted ban on Muslims," said Mr Brad Woodhouse, president of Correct The Record.

"He claims he wants work with other countries to fight ISIS, but has spent the past year disparaging our closest allies and undermining the Nato alliance."