ROCKVILLE -- Republican presidential candidate Rudolph W. Giuliani took his tough talk on security to a synagogue yesterday, noting his support for Israel, promising to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons and likening the threat of what he called "Islamic terrorism" to that posed by Nazi Germany.
The former New York mayor, who leads most national polls in the race for the Republican nomination, repeated a campaign pledge to keep America on the offensive against those who would harm it.
"If Europe had listened to Churchill in the 1930s and had confronted Hitler at a much earlier stage, there's no question lives would be lost," Giuliani told an audience of about 200 at a forum organized by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington. "But it would have been millions and millions and millions fewer lives."
Giuliani's remarks at B'nai Israel Congregation continued a theme he had outlined earlier in the day at a very different venue: Regent University, the conservative Christian college founded by televangelist Pat Robertson in Virginia Beach, Va.
In both appearances, he said the failure of the Clinton administration to respond more forcefully to the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center emboldened terrorists to strike again - at the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and the USS Cole in Yemen. He said Democrats still failed to appreciate the gravity of the threat facing the country.
"You have to understand, there's a terrorist war against us," he said. "George Bush is not making it up. ... Nobody's trying to inspire fear. What we're trying to do is get people to face something called reality."
After his comments at Regent University, the Democratic National Committee issued a statement saying, "Rudy's arrogance has gotten the best of him."
"How can a man who failed to prepare New York City for a second attack after the first one, who sent firefighters and emergency workers into Ground Zero without respirators and quit the Iraq Study Group to raise money keep America safe?" the DNC said in a statement, according to the Associated Press.
But at B'nai Israel, Giuliani drew applause several times - none louder than when he spoke of his message to Iran.
"Here's the bottom line," he said. "You are not going to be allowed to become a nuclear power. No way, no how, it's just not going to happen."
That message appealed to Eli Meltzer.
"Iran to me, [President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad, is the modern equivalent of a Stalin," said Meltzer, a 60-year-old retired federal employee, who described himself as an independent. "America has to understand that."
But fellow independent Jessica Goldings said she wished Giuliani had spoken about more than terrorism and security.
"I thought it was generally very good, but I'm interested in more than one topic," said Goldings, a 24-year-old research assistant with an area think tank. She said she wanted to hear more about Iraq.
Giuliani touched on the war only briefly, at one point warning against the consequences of a pullout. Here, he said, the violence that has erupted between rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah less than two years after Israel quit Gaza is instructive.
"What happened in Gaza I believe is a microcosm of what will happen in Iraq if you listen to the Democrats and precipitously leave with a staged, timed, planned-in-advance withdrawal that will put our troops in jeopardy," he said.