President Bush took American political discourse to a new low last week when his re-election campaign began airing television commercials that exploit the horror and misery of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
The president's willingness to pick at the still open wounds of that tragedy in a crass appeal for political support illustrates the desperation of the man and his political team to cling to power.
But this time Bush has gone too far.
Families and friends of the thousands of people who died as a result of those attacks are condemning the president's grotesque exploitation of their suffering. "After 3,000 people were murdered on his watch, it seems that that takes an awful lot of audacity," says Kristen Breitweiser, who lost her husband in the attacks. "Honestly, it's in poor taste."
"It's a slap in the face of the murders of 3,000 people. It's unconscionable," says Monica Gabrielle, who also lost her husband in the collapse of the twin towers. Gabrielle, like many of the families that are complaining, is angry with Bush for refusing to cooperate with the commission that is investigating the attacks. The president continues to reject requests that he testify in open session before the commission.
Tom Roger, whose daughter was a flight attendant on a hijacked American Airlines flight that day, explains, "I would be less offended if he showed a picture of himself in front of the Statue of Liberty. But to show the horror of 9/11 in the background, that's just some advertising agency's attempt to grab people by the throat."
The Bush ads feature images of remains being lifted from ground zero. "How heinous is that?" asks Mindy Kleinberg. "That's somebody's (loved one)."
The Bush camp has been rattled by the whole controversy.
Veteran Bush aide Karen Hughes started taking partisan jabs, declaring that "some Democrats might not want the American people to remember the great leadership and strength the president ... brought to our country in the aftermath of that." Hughes seems to think that anyone who criticizes the president, even someone who lost a family member in the collapse of the twin towers, is automatically a Democrat.
Hughes also seems to think that the commercials are "tasteful." But the taste that is being left in the mouths of those who continue to suffer the pain of their 9/11 losses is a bitter one.
"It's as sick as people who stole things out of the place," said New York City firefighter Tommy Fee. "The image of firefighters at ground zero should not be used for this stuff, for politics."
Tommy Fee is right. President Bush should order his campaign to take the offending advertisements off the air.
To allow these ads to continue being broadcast adds unnecessary, and unreasonable, insult to injury.
Copyright 2003 The Capital Times