- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Online Exclusive | 1:50 p.m.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has spent the more than five years since the September 11 attacks making sure Republicans do not have the monopoly on anti-terrorism leadership.

The New York Democrat has secured money for ground zero workers health ailments and has fought for Congress to bolster anti-terror plans and funding for high-risk cities.

Her strength on homeland security will especially help her if she becomes the Democratic nominee and if front-running former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani becomes the Republican nominee.

“A crisis brought us all together, and we rolled up our sleeves,” Mrs. Clinton recently told a forum for 2008 presidential candidates hosted by the International Association of Firefighters.

Many in attendance lauded her for working with Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, to take care of those impacted by the attacks.

Mr. Schumer, a Clinton supporter, said White House candidates will always need tough terrorism talk because the attacks changed everything.

“Whoever is going to put together the best platform on that issue will prevail, and I think Senator Clinton will have the best platform because she knows the issue so well,” he said.

The two senators recently secured $50 million for treatment of September 11 responders and others suffering effects of the attacks, with Mrs. Clinton promising to “keep fighting until we have the necessary and long-term funds in place to prevent these vital programs from having to go cap in hand to that government as the money dries up.”

Mrs. Clinton has said she may call Mr. Giuliani as a witness for her Senate investigation into “World Trade Center cough.” He responded by saying he hoped the inquiry would be “above politics,” according to press reports. Giuliani staffers did not respond to requests for comment.

At the March firefighters forum, Mrs. Clinton took a subtle jab at Mr. Giuliani, who did not attend the event, saying she appreciated their New York groups endorsement of her Senate bid.

Some firefighters are irritated that Mr. Giuliani evokes the “Americas Mayor” label from his post-September 11 leadership. They blame him for problems with the radios that emergency workers used in the World Trade Center and are upset with him for halting the recovery of human remains at ground zero.

“Rudy Giuliani has got baggage on 9/11, and that will come out,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat representing portions of New York City.

Mr. Nadler, who endorsed Mrs. Clinton, said she took “immediate action” and became “a leader on it from the very beginning, fighting the Bush administration all the way.”

Mr. Giuliani often warns voters that he worries a Democratic president would adopt a “pre-September 11 mentality of being on defense” and says Republicans are better prepared to handle a terrorist attack. When he said it last week, Democratic candidates bristled.

Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois said the former mayor had “taken the politics of fear to a new low,” and Mrs. Clinton said protecting the U.S. from terrorists “shouldnt be a Democratic fight or a Republican fight.”

“The plain truth is that this administration has done too little to protect our ports, make our mass transit safer and protect our cities,” she added.

A Jan. 30-31 Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll showed the former first lady to be perceived as the “toughest on terrorism” by 16 percent of respondents, slightly ahead the 15 percent for Mr. Giuliani and Arizona Sen. John McCain.

However, an April USA Today/Gallup poll shows Mr. Giuliani would beat Mrs. Clinton 51 percent to 46 percent if the election were held today.

Mrs. Clinton, praised for saying in Thursdays debate that she would “retaliate” if the U.S. were attacked by al Qaeda, reprised the answer on the stump Friday.

“I know all too well the horrors of an attack on our own soil,” she said, adding that any president must “retaliate, because the United States must defend our interests, our people, our economy.”

She also benefited from Mr. Obamas stumbling answer to a debate question about his administrations response to an al Qaeda attack. He first brought up Hurricane Katrina and the need for “effective emergency response” and then talked about the need for trustworthy intelligence.

He later recovered, saying, “We have genuine enemies out there that have to be hunted down, networks have to be dismantled.”

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