Whitman smokescreen

The Brooklyn Paper
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This week’s 9-11 commemorations hit many of the right notes. Even five years after this generation’s “date that will live in infamy,” New Yorkers still yearn for their towering skyline, still crave the collective spirit that followed that horrific day, still want to think the best of their elected officials even when those officials try to control the legacy of the terror attacks for their own craven purposes.

That is why we were pleased to hear that some Democratic congressmen — including our own Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-Bay Ridge) and Anthony Weiner (D-Sheepshead Bay) — are demanding the appointment of a special prosecutor to determine whether former Environmental Protection Agency head Christie Whitman should be charged with endangering the lives of hundreds, if not thousands, of rescue workers, residents and employees in Lower Manhattan in the weeks after the terror attacks. Lest we forget, a wide swath of Brooklyn was also caught in that toxic plume, sickening many.

A Teflon coating seems to cover the political “heroes” of 9-11 — Whitman, for one, but also “America’s Mayor” Rudy Giuliani — but many of them failed New York at its time of greatest need.

In Whitman’s case, her own EPA analysts said (as reported by the underappreciated Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez) that post-9-11 air at Ground Zero was toxic. Like so many other science-based reports that didn’t conform to the Bush Administration narrative, Whitman whitewashed the findings and declared the air safe.

Indeed, in 2003, the EPA’s Inspector General found that the White House instructed the EPA to downplay air-quality concerns. It is appalling that the Justice Department still has not investigated that shocking finding.

At the same time, Giuliani failed to enforce some of the most basic worker-safety rules, resulting in widespread illness and some deaths. For this, he considers himself presidential material.

Whitman, however, is the biggest target, as Nadler points out, because she “repeatedly declared the air safe.” The congressman said he was moved to action after Whitman went on 60 Minutes recently and “tried to blame everybody else for her misdeeds.”

“She must be held accountable,” Nadler added.

We agree.

Unfortunately, that is unlikely, considering how President Bush’s former counsel, Alberto Gonzalez, runs the Attorney General’s office like a private law firm for his former client.

What can you expect from a political hack who works for an administration that has, at every turn, ignored scientific experts in favor of faith-based partisanship?

The real heroes of 9-11 deserve better.

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