Karl Rove has come under justified fire for once again trying to exploit 9/11 politically. At a speech on Wednesday night, Rove–who is now the White House deputy chief of staff (rather than a mere evil-genius political strategist)–claimed that after the horrific attacks of September 11 conservatives were revved up to defend the United States and strike back while wimpy liberals wanted to “offer therapy and understanding for our attackers.” Those are not the words one might expect from a fellow who serves a president who vowed to be a uniter-not-a-divider. Yet the Bush White House accepted–and applauded–this divisive rhetoric. Asked about Rove’s comments, chief of staff Andrew Card said, “All America came together to recognize how horrible that attack was on this country and that the war on terror is real….I don’t think there’s any doubt that Americans are united in making sure that what happened on September 11th doesn’t happen again.” Hold on there, chief. Black isn’t white. Rove was saying that after 9/11 America was divided and that liberals were not committed to defending the nation against the terrorists. Card then remarked, “Karl Rove’s speech was a speech that I think reflected some of the rhetoric that a lot of people feel.” In other words, Attaboy! Dan Bartlett, White House communications director, called Rove’s rhetoric “very accurate.” (Fast, Dan, cite one “offer” of therapy.)
Exploiting 9/11–as the poll numbers for the war in Iraq, George W. Bush, and the congressional Republicans sink–seems to be the GOP play of the week. After all, Rove is not the only Republican to resort to such ugliness. During the House debate this week over a constitutional amendment to ban the desecration of the American flag, Representative Randy “Duke” Cunningham, a California Republican and the lead sponsor of this measure, repeatedly referred to 9/11. He declared that permitting flag burning “is an insult to all those who perished in the attacks of September 11, 2001.” He also said. “Ask the men and women who stood on top of the [World] Trade Center. Ask them and they will tell you: Pass this amendment.”
Don’t forget about DAVID CORN’s BLOG at www.davidcorn.com. Read recent postings on Karl Rove’s hypocrisy, Dick Durbin’s unnecessary apology, and Corn’s battle with The Washington Post over Deep Throat stories.
We, of course, cannot ask those men and women what they think of Cunningham’s constitutional amendment. But we can ask others who were profoundly affected by that day. I called Kristen Breitweiser, whose husband, Ron, was killed in the World Trade Center on 9/11, and asked what she thought of Cunningham’s argument. Breitweiser, one of the leading advocates of the 9/11 families, was busy responding to media queries about Rove’s remarks. (See her posting on Rove at www.HuffingtonPost.com.) But she took a few moments away from that endeavor to consider Cunningham’s comments. Then she said,