Bush to Visit Sept. 11 Memorial
By Mike Allen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 6, 2004; Page A07
CRAWFORD, Tex., March 5 -- President Bush, facing criticism for using stark
footage from the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade
Center in his campaign commercials, will visit a memorial to the victims next
week, the White House announced Friday.
Bush plans to travel Thursday to East Meadow, N.Y., for the groundbreaking
ceremony of the Nassau County 9/11 Memorial. Afterward he is to speak at a
campaign fundraiser in the same town.
Firefighters unions and some relatives of the attacks' victims have complained
at news conferences and in television interviews that they felt it was
exploitative for the Bush-Cheney campaign to air commercials that show fleeting
shots of a destroyed World Trade Center tower and firefighters carrying a
flag-draped coffin through the rubble.
White House press secretary Scott McClellan dismissed the possibility that the
visit would be seen as damage control. He said that Bush was appearing at the
invitation of the foundation that created the memorial, and that the offer was
accepted at least a week and a half ago.
"This is about the president of the United States paying tribute to those
who lost their lives on that tragic day," he said.
The reaction has been especially fierce in New York City, where the Republican
Party will hold his nominating convention this summer. The campaign has deployed
former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani to defend the propriety of the ads,
and he is to appear Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."
The ads, which began Thursday, will run for their scheduled life of about 10
days and the campaign has not increased or decreased their frequency, GOP
Bush's political advisers argue that the controversy will not hurt them in the
long run, and some even argued that it helped them. One Bush aide, who insisted
on anonymity before discussing strategy, said the controversy helped the
campaign frame the race around its preferred subject.
"We have started the campaign the way we wanted to and on the issues we
intended, and the conversation around the water cooler is about September 11th
again," the official said. "We fundamentally need people to remember
September 11th and everything it has caused in everyone's life."
Bush's aides say the subject is legitimate because Bush's handling of the
attacks gives voters a clear contrast with his presumptive opponent, Sen. John
F. Kerry (D-Mass.). McClellan said the ads reflect on "leadership and
decision-making when it comes to national security in a post-September 11th
Also on Friday, Bush welcomed Mexican President Vicente Fox to his ranch for a
two-day visit that had been long postponed as the once-warm relations between
the two chilled because of Fox's opposition to the U.S.-led attack on Iraq.
Their chief topic will be U.S. immigration policy.
Signaling a concession to Fox, McClellan said the White House is giving
"strong consideration" to exempting Mexicans on short-term visas from
an impending requirement that they be photographed and fingerprinted.
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