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A Big Fat Fraud | The Nation

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Katrina vanden Heuvel

Katrina vanden Heuvel

Politics, current affairs and riffs and reflections on the news.

A Big Fat Fraud

Bush's 9/11 campaign commercials are reckless and offensive. Depicting firefighters carrying bodies, draped in American flags, out of the World Trade Center rubble, they trivialize the rescue workers' sacrifice, exploit the victims' families and mock the enormity of the national tragedy.

The commercials' tag line, "steady leadership in times of change," recalls just how erratic Bush's leadership has, in fact, been. (A more accurate slogan would be "arrogant leadership in times of recession.") Instead of steady leadership, the "war president" fled on 9/11, retreating into a bunker somewhere in Nebraska.

Initially, the president attacked airline security legislation that ultimately put federal law enforcement officers in every airport. Bush also flip-flopped on homeland security, opposing it at first, supporting it later, and eventually demanding that worker rights in the new agency be shredded.

The reality is that Bush has transformed 9/11 into an all-purpose excuse to enact his radical rightwing agenda. The White House cited 9/11 as a reason to pass a so-called stimulus bill that included $254 million in retroactive tax rebates for Enron, just before the company collapsed. Bush scorned shared sacrifice as he championed tax cuts for the wealthiest. The erosion of civil liberties through the Patriot Act and the increasing criminalizing of dissent--two longterm rightwing goals--have also been justified in the name of 9/11. And the invasion of Iraq itself, another longtime neo-con obsession, was justified, in part with cherry-picked intelligence allegedly linking Saddam to Al-Qaeda

Moreover, by disdaining the international community, Bush's arrogant leadership virtually guaranteed that US taxpayers would foot the bill for reconstructing Iraq while US troops, for the most part, have been forced to go it alone.

Currently, Bush is stonewalling the federal commission responsible not only for investigating the 9/11 attacks but also for recommending steps to prevent future attacks. The President has had time to attend NASCAR races and a rodeo show, but he says he has only one hour to meet with two of the Commission's members. Furthermore, while Bush is spending 10.5 million dollars to air his 9/11 commercials, he is refusing to release records requested by the bipartisan 9/11 Commission's members. (Like President, like Vice President.)

So it's no surprise when one 9/11 widow calls Bush's commercials "a slap in the face of the murders of 3,000 people." Or when Harold Schaitberger, the President of the Firefighters Union, calls the ads "hypocrisy at its worst." Or when New York firefighters by the dozens denounce the president's use of their images in his ads.

One woman recently captured the outrage people feel when she wrote the ,Washington Post: "In the next round of ads, to show concern for Americans in the wake of that tragedy, why not throw in a few images of [Bush] cooperating with the 9/11 commission?"

And why not? Bush's 9/11 commercials, it turns out, feature paid actors as well as stock footage of volunteer firefighters. In other words, the commercials, like their tag line, are, in fact, a big fat fraud.

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