Rudy Giuliani became what was once known as a "Reagan Democrat" in 1980, when he switched his party registration from the consciously ambiguous New York City "Independent" to the bold and rare New York City "Republican." Giuliani remembers his conversion as a response to the inspiring candidacy of Ronald Reagan, who that year overwhelmed the struggling President Jimmy Carter to become the 40th President.
Now that Rudy Giuliani is running for the Republican nomination for President ("Yes, I’m running. Sure.") and quoting Ronald Reagan enthusiastically ("The future belongs to the free."), it is compelling to look again at 1980 for what may have contributed to Giuliani’s transformation, and why profoundly criminal events of that year for which no justice was done could boost Giuliani to become the 44th President if it comes to pass that he not only becomes the GOP nominee but also is opposed by Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York.
On April 7, 1980, President Carter, with Executive Order No. 12205, imposed a trade embargo on the nascent Islamic Republic of Iran — then in a chaos of massacre, looting and abuse — and two days later the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control implemented the President’s lawful order. Soon after, with new executive orders, the President also directed the Treasury Department to prohibit any payment or transfer of funds, with or without license, from the United States to any Iranian national or to the government of Iran. The President was moving in a measured response to the breakdown in negotiations to free the illegally detained and abused 53 American State Department personnel who had been imprisoned in Tehran, at the hands of thugs and provocateurs acting under orders of the despotic mullahs of the Council of Experts, since November 4, 1979.
Carter was also anticipating recommended covert action. On April 16, three American officers, Army Maj. Gen. James Vaught, Army Col. Charlie Beckwith, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Air Force Gen. David C. Jones, arrived at the Oval Office to brief the president on a covert rescue mission that had been developed by a secret planning group, Rice Bowl. The plan, now called Eagle Claw, was to insert Delta Force commandos into Tehran to rescue the hostages who were then reportedly held all together at the American Embassy Chancery. The strike force was to be flown on Navy Sea Stallions from the carrier U.S.S. Nimitz to a rendezvous 200 miles southeast of Tehran, a spot called Desert One, where the helicopters would be refueled for the round trip to Tehran by EC-130 Hercules transports carrying fuel bladders. After the hostage extraction, the rescue force, covered by an air assault on Tehran’s airport and by circling gunships, would return to Desert One, abandon the helicopters, and escape on C-141s.
President Carter, with his Administration sapped by Iran’s malevolence, approved: "I told everyone that it was time for us to bring our hostages home; their safety and our national honor were at stake."
The mission, launched on April 24, never got farther than Desert One and failed in a storm of accidents and bad luck. On April 25, President Carter on television took responsibility for the failure. The hostages would not be released until they were bartered for with unfrozen cash on the final day of the Carter presidency, January 19, 1981, even as President Reagan was being sworn in as commander in chief.
What did Rudy Giuliani learn from this episode and why could it be a defining dispute in the contest ahead if and when he meets Hillary Clinton on November 4, 2008?
The first thing Giuliani learned was a study in turpitude; that while his country suffered defeat, while the Delta Force at Desert One lost eight comrades dead and many wounded, there were super-rich crooks in New York who with avarice aforethought found a way to profit on America’s Iranian troubles and get away with it.
In April 1980, Giuliani was working as a litigator at the large New York law firm of Patterson, Belknap, Webb and Tyler, where, the following winter, the Reagan Administration reached out to make him assistant attorney general in Washington and three years later U.S attorney for the Southern District of New York. On September 19, 1983, Giuliani, then U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, indicted two New York oil traders, Marc Rich and Pincus Green, for dozens of racketeering, tax, and fraud offenses but most importantly for violating President Carter’s April 1980 executive orders with regard Iran.
Because they fled America for Switzerland in the summer of 1983, Rich and Green never answered any of the charges, particularly the most sinister one of entering into a conspiratorial scheme with the National Iranian Oil Company that they began arranging in April 1980, immediately after the Treasury Department’s prohibitions. Nevertheless, a brief citation of the indictment with regard Iran makes it clear that Rich and Green are accused of trading with the enemy even as the ground still smouldered at Desert One and the nation still cringed for the fate of the hostages.
"Beginning on or about May 1, 1980," reads the September 19, 1983, indictment by Giuliani and his prosecutors and investigators of the Southern District of New York, "prior to the delivery of this Iranian crude oil and fuel oil under the contracts AG [Rich’s and Green’s company] had with NIOC [National Iranian Oil Company], the defendants March Rich and Pincus Green — both United States citizens — negotiated from the offices of International in New York, New York, with the principals of Transworld Oil, Bermuda [the cut-out] for the sale of approximately 6,250,000 barrels of Iranian crude oil and fuel oil for approximately $202,806,291.00."
The second thing Giuliani learned was a study in cynicism, that the long arm of the law can be constrained by a President who acts unwisely to pardon fugitive felons.
On January 20, 2001, on the final day of his presidency, two hours before he left office, President Bill Clinton pardoned 140 American citizens for various crimes, and two of those pardoned were Marc Rich and Pincus Green. Clinton explained his decision ambiguously, saying that Rich and Green and others had "paid in full," and that he had spent "a lot of personal time" on the Rich case.
The reaction from professionals was incendiary. "A disgrace," said Sen. John McCain. "Inappropriate," said then-Democratic Senate Leader Tom Daschle. "Indefensible," said the editorial page of the New York Times.
Most voluble was Rudy Giuliani, who had chosen for health reasons not to run against Hillary Clinton for the U.S. Senate seat from New York and who was finishing his last year as New York City’s mayor. "He was involved in 50 million dollars’ worth of tax evasion and the president just wipes it away so his life can be easier?" Giuliani asked a radio audience during a discussion of Rich. "And the fact that his family, Marc Rich’s family members, raise money for the president," Giuliani added, referring to Rich’s ex-wife Denise, who was involved in fundraising not only for the President and the President’s affairs but also for Clinton’s senatorial campaign, "raises another question that I just don’t know why President Clinton would want that left behind as a legacy."
Giuliani did not mention Iran, but he did respond to a question mentioning that Rich was accused of "trading with the enemy." "He never paid any price at all of the crime he committed," Giuliani declared. "He ran away. He never pled guilty, never paid a fine. His business paid a fine but he never did and he never went to jail."
Giuliani did more than complain. Four days after the pardon, on Thursday, January 25, 2001, Giuliani refused to meet with Sen. Hillary Clinton in New York because he was "very upset" with the Rich and Green pardon. "I think what the president did was an outrage," said Mr. Giuliani. When asked if he blamed Mrs. Clinton for the pardon, Giuliani deflected suggestively: "I just don’t think this is a good time to have a meeting. I think we’d all get distracted on these questions." The day before, Giuliani had stated that some of "these questions" involved the several occasions since 1983 that he had been approached by Marc Rich’s representatives’ offering money in exchange for reconsideration of the indictment, and the fact that he had been approached by Denise Rich the year before, who, after a conversation with Giuliani, had decided not to give money to Giuliani’s brief senatorial campaign.
Six years after Giuliani and Clinton did not meet at city hall because of the Rich and Green case, both are running for the nominations of their parties. Because it is fair, 18 months from the fall campaign of 2008, to plan for the fact that Clinton will be the Democratic nominee, it is also fair to assume that, if the Republicans nominate Giuliani, he will have a potent story to tell to the American people about the perversion of presidential pardons done by Clinton’s husband with regard Rich and Green.
More, Giuliani will have a deal of hard questions for Clinton that involve the predatory, unstable and, in the mouth of its president and ayatollah, now genocidal Islamic Republic of Iran, such as, Does she join him in calling for an investigation of the decision to pardon men who greedily traded with the enemy Iran at the very instance valorous American soldiers burned to death fighting to defeat it? Does she rebuke her husband’s decision? Does she explain her senatorial campaign donations of $70,000.00 from Rich before the pardon? Does she address the American people with a promise that she will have the truth of the Rich and Green case in the event she is President?
In sum, Giuliani, as Republican nominee, would possess so potent a campaign challenge to Clinton, going to the heart of presidential mettle, that it might not have to be voiced by the candidate. The Rich and Green case is American justice delayed, not denied. It is the sort of treachery and trickery that, in the new presidential contest, will come back in the debate along with all the other debts run up by the tyrants of Tehran that America looks forward to marking as paid in full.
Ronald Reagan, Rudy Giuliani’s inspiration since 1980, underlined the ardent ambition of America in his first inaugural address, in which he also conveyed a softly spoken warning to America’s adversaries, even as the fifty-three hostages were being handed over like hunting trophies to the defeated Carter by the lawless Iran. It would be thoughtful of Giuliani to read over these words if he is the Republican to challenge Clinton, and if he is the lawman to remedy the Rich and Green capitulation: "As for the enemies of freedom, those who are potential adversaries, they will be reminded that peace is the highest aspiration of the American people. We will negotiate for it, sacrifice for it; we will not surrender for it — now or ever."