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Bush Cites 9/11 On All Manner Of Questions

Reporter: Mr. President, what did you have for lunch?

GW Bush: Every time I bite into a succulent lamb sandwich, prepared by our hard-working White House cooks, I remember all the little furry animals, and the heroes and other folks, who died on 9-11.
Bush Cites 9/11 On All Manner Of Questions
References Could Backfire

By Mike Allen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 11, 2003; Page A12


President Bush paused in his Labor Day remarks about jobs and told his audience of union members, "I want you to think back to that fateful day, September the 11th, and what happened afterwards."

Usually his reminder is more subtle, but Bush is invoking the terrorist hijackings frequently as he ramps up his reelection campaign and tries to defuse the political risk posed by persistent joblessness, setbacks in Iraq and accusations that he exaggerated evidence on the road to war.

In the past six weeks, Bush has cited "9/11" or Sept. 11, 2001, in arguing for his energy policy and in response to questions about campaign fundraising, tax cuts, unemployment, the deficit, airport security, Afghanistan and the length, cost and death toll of the Iraq occupation.

Bush's aides said his persistent references to the attacks reflect his identification with them as a searing personal experience. Some analysts said he sometimes appears to depend on such references in times of trouble or uncertainty.

"Every day, I'm reminded about what 9/11 means to America," Bush said when asked in July about the $170 million budget for his primary campaign, where he has no opponent. "We're still threatened," he said, explaining that he wants to "continue doing my job, and my job will be to work to make America more secure."

Such references are not new for Bush. In April, when he was making the case for invading Iraq, he said he refused to leave the nation's enemies "free to plot another September the 11th."

The attacks sometimes even seem to overshadow the president's sense of previous history. "Prior to September the 11th, there was apparently no connection between a place like Iraq and terror," he said at a congressional retreat earlier this year. Iraq was first placed on the State Department's list of designated terrorist states in 1979 and has been there continuously since 1990.

Sept. 11, 2001, was the unquestioned turning point in Bush's presidency, silencing doubts about the disputed 2000 election, giving purpose and clarity to the administration at a time when its policies seemed muddled, and temporarily narrowing the divisions in a nation whose voters were split 50-50. More broadly, national security became the basis for Bush's soaring popularity, a cornerstone of his political strategy and a debating point for policies as far afield as farm subsidies.

Bush's poll numbers were lagging before the attack and astronomical afterward.

"It was the event that really made George W. Bush president, the wellspring of his legitimacy," said Christopher Arterton, dean of the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University. "He reaches back to that because it's the thing that unifies the country, and I think we're going to see more and more of it as we get closer to the political challenges that are looming from the Democratic candidates."

White House communications director Dan Bartlett said Bush "talks frequently about 9/11, but more importantly about our nation's response to 9/11, which required a significant policy change in order to prevent future 9/11's."

"It's something that will always be part of his public discourse," Bartlett said.

The White House and Bush's campaign conjure recollections of the attacks not just through his words, but also with imagery. Bush makes frequent appearances with soldiers and military hardware, and the workers he chose to visit on Labor Day were members of the union that cleared the rubble from the World Trade Center site on Manhattan.

Strategists in both parties agree that the memory of the attacks has served a powerful purpose for Bush, but the political landscape may be shifting. A spate of recent polls has shown voters becoming more concerned about the economy than about terrorism. Bush's earlier popularity for his handling of the attacks' aftermath never translated to approval for his domestic policies, and now his overall approval rating is receding.

White House officials say they are wary of appearing to use the attacks cynically. Bush plans a low-key commemoration of the second anniversary today, staying in Washington to attend a prayer service, observe a moment of silence and hold a private visit with wounded soldiers.

Democrats argue that Bush uses terrorism as a refuge when he is uncertain about an answer or in trouble on an issue. They say that in his speeches and exchanges with reporters, Bush relies on the attacks as justification for much of his foreign and domestic policy and -- perhaps most of all -- as a reason to reelect him.

Republicans chose to hold next year's national convention in Manhattan, and at an unusually late date, Aug. 30 to Sept. 2. The traditional post-convention bounce will take Bush right up to the third anniversary of the hijackings.

"A lot of Americans have been apprehensive, and through this constant talk, the Bush administration has been shameless in using 9/11 for partisan political gain," Democratic National Committee Chairman Terence R. McAuliffe said.

Sen. Jon S. Corzine (D-N.J.), chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said Bush faces a potential backlash from trying to use "something we agree on to divert people's attention from things we don't agree on."

Some Democrats assert that the potency of Sept. 11 as a political symbol is waning -- that by next year, it may no longer bring a lump to so many throats or provide as great an impetus to hoist the flag.

Even some Republicans say Bush will need a fresher message next year. A presidential adviser said one of the crucial trials for the White House's political arm will be to avoid exploiting memories of the attacks.

However, as recently as July 24, Bush called Sept. 11 "a date I will not forget so long as I'm on this Earth."



2003 The Washington Post Company

homepage: homepage: http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A57456-2003Sep10?language=printer

and WHY does the bush admin. keep citing 9 11...? 11.Sep.2003 12:26

this thing here

without 9 11 01, the bush administration would be nothing.

it stands on no legs except "war against terrorism", it has no argument except "it's because of terrorism", and no excuse except "this will solve terrorism". economy, civil rights, justice, immigration, taxes, deficits, government spending, foreign policy - all of these wobble on one leg: 9 11. it's the ultimate crutch, the ultimate excuse. this is par for the course for the bush admin. operational methodology. they opportunistically and blatantly use and abuse the name of ANY event or tragedy or problem to further their own ends. it is this which provides the motive for them to create the very problems for which they will offer the very solution from which they alone will gain.

keep an eye on the bush admin.'s new push for even more federal power with the horribly, disgracefully named patriot act II/victory act, with bush saying yesterday he wants more power and ashcroft saying one the most horrible things ever uttered in a long time by ANY government official, that "some americans have forgotten the way we felt" after september 11th, implying that if they did remember, they would blindly support further erosion of our rights before the court. FUCK YOU john ashcroft. FUCK YOU for daring to say that.

if any terrorist activity, any suspicious packages, any deaths of politicians occurs in the year ahead, SPECIFICALLY when these expanded powers and their respective bills are being debated by the congress, the pattern will be apparent. it has been used by business for generations: create the problem, sell the solution.