Politics and ‘ground zero’

In a few months, the nation will observe the 10th anniversary of the attacks on 9/11 and a warm-up today provides proof that the event remains too raw.

President Obama visited “ground zero,” days after announcing that Osama bin Laden had been killed.

“This is a symbolic site of the extraordinary sacrifice that was made on that terrible day almost 10 years ago. Obviously, we can’t bring back your friends that were lost, and I know that each and every one of you not only grieve for them, but have also over the last 10 years dealt with their family, their children, trying to give them comfort, trying to give them support,” Obama said.

Critics have said the president’s visit constituted “a victory lap.”

Officials have warned Americans not to presume that Bin Laden’s death means the “war on terror” is over. Nonetheless, the president’s spokesman said on Air Force One that the trip was “an effort to perhaps help New Yorkers and Americans everywhere to achieve a sense of closure.”

“Closure,” as in an end to something.

The president invited former president George Bush to join him at the site of what is Bush’s most stirring speech as president…

Mr. Bush declined to join Mr. Obama at the site for reasons that haven’t been entirely explained. But former — and anonymous — Bush aides suggest there’s a rift over the credit the president hasn’t given to the former president in the hunt for Osama bin Laden.

David Gergen, the Republican analyst for CNN, had a different view. “He and his family … have an old-fashioned view, that we only have one president at a time. I think this is quite genuine on the part of President Bush,” he said.

The visit carried its own political risks for Mr. Obama. Even 10 years later, a 9/11 family saying bad things about you, doesn’t play well…

But the truth is that over 10 years, “ground zero” has been more than hallowed ground. It’s been a stage for politicians. In 2004, Republicans changed the traditional summer date of their national convention to September and selected New York City — not exactly friendly territory for Republicans — as the host city. It wasn’t a coincidence.

It’s also not a coincidence that when it comes to the issue of which party is better at keeping America safe, national polls have consistently and historically favored Republicans. Today’s imagery is very likely to reappear in some campaign ads in 2012.

  • Tyler

    Classier than a “Mission Accomplished” banner, anyhow.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Dear Bob – The only genuine “closure” is that of Bin Laden’s brain waves.

    The guy didn’t even plan the attack on 9/11. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed did, and he’s going on trial in gitmo soon. His demise will more closely approximate “closure”, if in fact it can be obtained through the death of a single individual.

    But there are now how many 10s of thousands, or hundreds of thousands, or millions of angry Muslim extremists who continue to see the West as the enemy and will support violent action, if not engage in it themselves. ( That number of course was multiplied by a factor of who knows how many, thanks to an invasion of Iraq, which had nothing to do with 9/11. Whoops.)

    So personally, I guess I wouldn’t use the term “closure” quite yet.

  • Jeremy

    Yep – the political theater and the tragedy it wreaks at home and abroad will continue, by both parties, because they do the same core things in politics and policies, just with enough perceived difference and drama to make it theater. The majority of politicians at the national level, across parties, are part of the Haves who have been increasingly enriched at the expense of the Have-Nots and what’s left of a middle class for decades.

    The same trends and tragedy human civilizations have ended up in for eons, and exactly what the USA as an idealistic legal framework for government was supposed to finally get past. But we’re sinking farther into the dark side, and as long as this two-party horse-race theater is allowed to continue, we’ll continue to do so.

    Bob, I have heard and loved your on-air work on News and The Current for years, and am just finally starting to read News Cut. Thanks for pointing out the theater in this. Maybe you’re doing it already and I need to read more, but I want to urge you to use your platform to get people (the public and even the news directors at MPR) to realize that this political theater is a stranglehold on solving a huge number of problems for huge numbers of people at home and abroad, and that it needs to stop.