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Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani Wednesday defended his decision to quit the Iraq Study Group before it finished its work, saying he realized it was “a mistake” to have joined the panel just as he was about to launch his presidential campaign.
Following a campaign speech in Des Moines, Iowa, Giuliani was peppered with questions about his short-lived service on the non-partisan panel, which Congress created to make recommendations about the future of the U.S. occupation in Iraq.
Published reports have said that Giuliani made paid speaking engagements at times when the group was scheduled to meet. Meanwhile, Giuliani reportedly was issued an ultimatum to either begin attending meetings or lose his position.
The controversy over Giuliani’s short tenure on the panel was first reported by Newsday.
Giuliani told reporters today that it was a “mistake” for him to have agreed to be part of the commission, since he, unlike other commission members, still harbored political ambitions.
“It didn’t seem I’d really be able to stay focused on a bipartisan, non-political resolution,” he said. “I started to listen to some of the discussions, and it was clear to me … by the time they made their report we were going to be in the political season.
“Suppose the report came out, I was on the commission, and then I did a dissenting opinion or people thought it was skewed in some way to help me. It just made no sense. It was not the right thing to do.”
Giuliani was making a rare campaign stop in Iowa, where he trails in the most recent state polls.
He recently announced that he plans to skip the GOP’s traditional Ames Straw Poll in August, a non-binding but closely-watched event that gauges Republican candidates’ early support leading up to the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses.
Giuliani told reporters that he plans to step up his campaigning in the state and that he’ll mount a serious effort for next January’s caucuses.
“Whether we make a tactical decision about one political process or not, we’re very committed to the caucuses,” Giuliani said.
“Once we do spend a lot of time here, I think you’re going to see those polls change dramatically. I think we’ve got a great message for Iowa. I think Iowa is a state that understands what we’re talking about today: fiscal discipline.”
At a press conference, Giuliani also was asked about current New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who announced Tuesday he was giving up his Republican Party registration. Although Bloomberg said he is focused on completing his term as mayor, his move fueled speculation that he might be preparing to run for president as an independent.
“I have nothing against Mike, except I am disappointed he left the Republican Party,” Giuliani said.
He was asked if he’s concerned that someone he once helped get elected mayor now might be a competitor in the race for the White House.
A new Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday suggested that in a three-way race in New York state, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, a Democrat, would beat both fellow New Yorkers, Giuliani and Bloomberg.
“How do we know if he’s going to run? How do we know if I’m going to be the candidate? I think I am. I think I am,” Giuliani said. “He says he’s not running. I take him at his word. If he does decide to run, he has every right to do it.”
(Contact M.E. Sprengelmeyer of the Rocky Mountain News at www.rockymountainnews.com.)