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Prepare to be horrified...
Monday, August 30, 2004
Sept. 11 Is Coming Early This Year
The big Republican Convention starts tonight and it's time for a special Dark Window preview. We start with a New York Times report entitled The G.O.P. Arrives, Putting Sept. 11 Into August.
Republican leaders said yesterday that they would repeatedly remind the nation of the Sept. 11 attacks as their convention opens in New York City today, beginning a week in which the party seeks to pivot to the center and seize on street demonstrations to portray Democrats as extremist.
Party aides said the convention would begin with an elaborate tribute to Sept. 11 victims, with speeches by Senator John McCain and former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, reminding voters of Mr. Bush's role in leading the nation after the attacks, which took place a couple of miles from Madison Square Garden, home of the convention.
The festivities will include John McCain reading some favorite passages from My Pet Goat and Rudy Giuliani hopping from one part of the stage to another to demonstrate how Mr. Bush so skillfully evaded the terrorists that day.
There's even talk that Zell Miller will hide behind the podium during his keynote address to remind voters of Dick Cheney's role after the attacks. It is election time, though, and our foul-mouthed Vice President has apparently left his bunker:
Indeed, the Sept. 11 invocations began even before the convention opened, leaving little doubt of the prominent role the attack on New York will play at the first Republican convention ever held in this city. At a rally yesterday afternoon on Ellis Island, Vice President Dick Cheney recalled the president's visit to ground zero three days after the attack.
"They saw a man calm in crisis, comfortable with responsibility and determined to do everything to protect our people," he said.
Well, I should certainly hope that he was calm and comfortable. After all, he'd just returned from this well-deserved vacation:
Six months after taking office, President Bush will begin a month-long vacation Saturday that is significantly longer than the average American's annual getaway. If Bush returns as scheduled on Labor Day, he'll tie the modern record for presidential absence from the White House, held by Richard Nixon at 30 days. Ronald Reagan took trips as long as 28 days.
Not to imply that he wasn't doing his job, of course.
In an otherwise dry day of hearings before the 9/11 commission, one brief bit of dialogue set off a sudden flash of clarity on the basic question of how our government let disaster happen.
The revelation came this morning, when CIA Director George Tenet was on the stand. Timothy Roemer, a former Democratic congressman, asked him when he first found out about the report from the FBI's Minnesota field office that Zacarias Moussaoui, an Islamic jihadist, had been taking lessons on how to fly a 747. Tenet replied that he was briefed about the case on Aug. 23 or 24, 2001.
Roemer then asked Tenet if he mentioned Moussaoui to President Bush at one of their frequent morning briefings. Tenet replied, "I was not in briefings at this time." Bush, he noted, "was on vacation." He added that he didn't see the president at all in August 2001. During the entire month, Bush was at his ranch in Texas. "You never talked with him?" Roemer asked. "No," Tenet replied. By the way, for much of August, Tenet too was, as he put it, "on leave."
But back to our story.
At the same time, responding to the sight of New York streets packed with protesters yesterday, Republican officials sought to connect the demonstrations to Democrats as part of a broader effort to paint Senator John Kerry as out of the mainstream. The Republican Party chairman, Ed Gillespie, noted to reporters that the legion of protesters included Peggy Kerry, Mr. Kerry's sister, who lives in New York and attended an abortion rights rally.
And Mr. Bush's campaign communications director, Nicolle Devenish, said in an interview: "Those who support the president are inside the Garden. Those who are opposed to the president's policies are protesting outside the Garden."
That brilliant analysis calls to mind a quote from our beloved President himself during the last election:
"If you don't stand for anything, you don't stand for anything!"
Of course he was smart enough to realize that his statement wasn't as profound as he'd intended it to be and immediately offered this clarification:
"If you don't stand for something, you don't stand for anything!"
Anyway, Bush must be happy that he found a communications director who can so faithfully articulate his own ideas.
The developments came on the eve of what party officials saw as a potentially tumultuous and politically complicated week. Mr. Bush seeks to accomplish a critical political goal - broadening his appeal to the center - against the backdrop of the biggest demonstrations in New York in 22 years and charges by some Democrats that he is trying to turn the tragedy of Sept. 11 to his political advantage.
Who? This guy?
Next, we head over to the Washington Post.
The GOP convention begins just 64 days before the election, and presents Bush with his best chance to dispel doubts about the war in Iraq and slow job growth at home, which have combined to put the president in unexpected difficulty. He acknowledged his electoral focus in an interview with Time published Sunday. Asked whether the war on terrorism would be decades-long, Bush quipped, "I'm a two-month man right now."
A lot of us have our fingers crossed about that one, Mr. President.
Bush also acknowledged in the interview that the administration did not anticipate the nature of the resistance in Iraq, and he said that was his greatest mistake in office. "Had we had to do it over again," he said, "we would look at the consequences of catastrophic success, being so successful so fast that an enemy that should have surrendered or been done in escaped and lived to fight another day."
Boy, talk about a flip-flop:
"But I hope the ambitious realize that they are more likely to succeed with success as opposed to failure."
- President Bush, Interview with the Associated Press, Jan. 18, 2001
So get ready for fun times over the next few days, dear readers, because just like Christmas in July, September 11th is coming early this year!