Love shack

By Megan McArdle

Mark Kleiman and I have been discussing the theory that the disaster recovery bunker in WTC 7 was placed so as to make the best love nest for Rudy Giuliani and his then-extramarital-girlfriend (now wife). Mark has just responded to a post I made on my old blog:

She makes two points:

1. Traffic near City Hall was tied up on 9/11, vindicating the decision to place the command center should be within walking distance.

2. Giuliani and Nathan had other places to canoodle, including "her apartment and the City's many fine luxury hotels."

As to point #2, as long as Rudy and Judi were engaging in discreet adultery rather than flagrant adultery, having the Mayor visit her apartment, or taking a room in a luxury hotel, would have created certain ... security risks. Much better to have the city supply the love nest. As noted above, Barrett's flat assertion that the couple repeatedly visited the command center has gone uncontradicted, so far as I know. What do you think they were doing there: fire drills?

As to point #1, I don't pretend to be an expert on emergency management, but as far as I can tell no one but Giuliani supported the decision to place the command center at WTC7, or the "walking distance" criterion that justified that decision. That ought to raise red flags. This is not a case where "common sense" deserves serious consideration when it conflicts with expert opinion.

Yes, traffic near City Hall was tied up. But traffic near any disaster site was likely to be tied up. If the disaster wasn't near City Hall, the Mayor and his staff could have been easily transported to whatever command center had been chosen. (Apparently the favored location was actually in Brooklyn.) In a pinch, NYPD has helicopters.



On the point about their illicit liasons I am under the impression that, whatever the danger, they did in fact routinely visit hotels and her apartment, which is how the thing became common knowlege; certainly, showing up at the bunker together wasn't exactly a good way to keep it secret. I'm sure they did go to the bunker . . . and if I had such a place, I think I'd be tempted to at least neck on the desk near the secret button. But that doesn't mean it was therefore purpose-built for illicit assignations.

On the second point, it wasn't just traffic near the buildings that was snarled; that traffic may have been better than uptown. Remember, the island was sealed shut in the middle of rush hour. Police cars and ambulances can only clear a route to get somewhere if there is somewhere for the other cars to turn into. In Midtown and the financial district at rush hours, the streets are literally a solid block of cars. They would have to drive up onto the sidewalk to give a mayoral entourage a clear path--except that there are cars parked along the side of the street, so they can't do that.

In retrospect, of course, it was dumb. But hindsight bias distorts our perceptions. People who were against an idea remember having been against it much more strongly (and for better reasons) than they actually were at the time; people who were for it forget or play down their support; and people who didn't take part in the decision vastly overestimate the likelihood that they would have correctly predicted the actual outcome. Thus, it starts to make sense to look for conspiracies . . . a mole inside the organisation, or a venal politician who placed a bunker to use it as a love nest. It is not impossible that this was the case, but it doesn't strike me as particularly likely.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2007/08/love-shack/1752/