Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani says the United States has let its economy and federal budget get so out of control that it has become a national security problem that could compromise the safety of the country.
"When this country has to worry about whether it's spending too much money to defend us, then it's a national security issue," Giuliani told an audience in Washington Tuesday, just days from the 10-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Giuliani, who came to symbolize New York's response to the 2001 attacks with his leadership and appeals for calm in the face of a national crisis, called 9/11 a "defining event" in the country's history that is "part of our present reality."
"The people who attacked us under that banner of distorted Islam still want to attack us under the banner of distorted Islam," he said.
He said the main reason the United States has been so far safe from a similar attack was because the country "went on the offense" against its enemies in Afghanistan and Iraq, which was "enormously effective" in slowing down militant groups like al-Qaeda.
The former mayor lauded both George W. Bush and Barack Obama's efforts to protect the United States from future attacks, which he said culminated in the killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in May.
But Giuliani, who is believed to be exploring another run for the Republican presidential nomination, also hit out at the Obama administration's plans for troop withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan, saying fighting wars with a timetable is "about the dumbest thing and most dangerous thing we could ever do."
"Despite public opinion polls, we have to be present in that part of the world until that part of the world stops making plans to come over here and kill us," he said.
"We should get the American people ready for that. We should make them understand the value in that."
'Change in direction' needed
When asked in a question-and-answer session after his address whether he would run for president again, Giuliani said, "I don't know the answer to that."
"I would very much like to see a change in the direction of our country," he said. "If I think we're truly desperate, then I might run."
Giuliani then suggested he would have a hard time securing the Republican nomination because of the party's complex primary system, and hinted the increased role of social conservative tea party movement in the process.
"I'm simply not that conservative on social issues, and I'm not willing to change just to become president," he said.
He also stopped short of endorsing Rick Perry, despite saying he had "a lot of admiration for" the Texas governor, who backed Giuliani's unsuccessful bid for the nomination in 2007.
"I'm not sure he's the right candidate yet," he said of Perry.
Giuliani said he believed any of the current top-tier Republican candidates would beat Obama if the election were held immediately because Americans want a change of approach on the economy.
"If he doesn't show improvement in the economy, he's going to lose," he said of Obama.