Rudy to sick 9/11 workers: I was at Ground Zero as much as you were; Update: Rudy "clarifies"

The third “oof” this week from a prominent Republican, the first being Mitt’s “they also serve who work for my campaign” defense of his sons and the second Bush’s loathsome description of the 9/11 hijackers as “19 kids.” The latter two will shake off their blunders but conditions at Ground Zero are a major line of attack on Rudy and Michael Moore’s already baptized the workers with official left-wing Absolute Moral Authority by tying them into the pitch for socialized medicine in “Sicko.” He’s going to have to “clarify” this before very long:

“This is not a mayor or a governor or a President who’s sitting in an ivory tower,” Giuliani said. “I was at Ground Zero as often, if not more, than most of the workers. I was there working with them. I was exposed to exactly the same things they were exposed to. So in that sense, I’m one of them.”

His statement rang false to Queens paramedic Marvin Bethea, who said he suffered a stroke, posttraumatic stress disorder and breathing problems after responding to the attacks.

“I personally find that very, very insulting,” he said.

“Standing there doing a photo-op and telling the men, ‘You’re doing a good job,’ I don’t consider that to be working,” said Bethea, 47.

Ironworker Jonathan Sferazo, 52, who said he spent a month at the site and is now disabled, runs a worker advocacy group with Bethea and called Giuliani’s comments “severely” out of line.

“He’s not one of us. He never has been and he never will be. He never served in a capacity where he was a responder,” Sferazo said.

It’s not a disastrous response — he was down there a lot, of which it can’t hurt to remind people — but I suspect it won’t be hard for the Times or whoever to go through his old schedules and compare the time he spent there to people who were on the pile for 12 hours at a time. You can almost see the news graphic bar chart: “Among the Ruins: How Rudy Stacks Up.” No doubt the Clinton campaign is working on it as we speak.

Meanwhile, though, he’s still bulletproof. Only seven points ahead of Fred in CNN’s poll, but look at Gallup’s new party favorable ratings for the GOP field: Fred at +35, McCain at +17, Mitt at +16, Rudy at +64, almost as much as the other three combined. The only candidate on either side who beats that is Hillary among Democrats with +71, but that’s cancelled out by a -71 from Republicans. Rudy’s rating among Democrats? -7.

Finally, I can’t resist:

Rudy Giuliani evokes his Catholic upbringing as he campaigns for president, yet he refuses to say whether he is a practicing Catholic…

“I believe in God,” Giuliani said. “I pray and ask him for help. I pray like a lawyer. I try to make a deal — get me out of this jam, and I’ll start going back to church.”

Exit question: First atheist president? He may just get me back into the voting booth after all.

Update: That didn’t take long.

“(W)hat I was trying to say yesterday is that I empathize with them because I feel like I have that same risk. And the way I said it, I probably could have said it better, but what I was trying to say was I was there quite a bit, there are people that were there more than me, people that were [there] less than me. There were people there less than me, people on my staff, who already have had serious health consequences and they weren’t there as often as I was.”…

“We should give them everything,” he said. “I mean they are heroes in my estimation. And what I was trying to say was even those that were there less than me and the reality is that we’re all in this together and I’m there with them and I feel that I have the same concerns that they have.”