Most political observers expected the Bush/Cheney re-election ads to begin by branding Bush as the 9/11 candidate. The only surprise, as John Nichols points out in his latest weblog posting, is that the Bush political team would, after more than two years of preparation, perform the task so gracelessly.

The gauzy, upbeat spots, which began airing last Thursday on national cable networks and in 17 states considered electoral battlegrounds, have immediately sparked outrage. While a few voices of support for the President have been noted, the story in recent days has been the mounting criticism the ad campaign has generated, especially in the fire fighting community and among victims of 9/11.

Here are a few of the many critical comments:

Harold Schaitberger,President, International Association of Fire Fighters

“The uses of 9/11 images are hypocrisy at its worst. Since the attacks, Bush has been using images of himself putting his arm around a retired FDNY fire fighter on the pile of rubble at Ground Zero. But for two and a half years he has basically shortchanged fire fighters and the safety of our homeland. The fact is, Bush’s actions have resulted in fire stations closing in communities around the country. Two-thirds of America’s fire departments remain under-staffed because Bush is failing to enforce a new law that was passed with bipartisan support…to put more fire fighters in our communities.”

Tommy Fee,New York City firefighter

“It’s as sick as people who stole things out of the place. The image of firefighters at Ground Zero should not be used for this stuff, for politics.”

Tom Ryan, New York City firefighter

“As a firefighter who spent months at Ground Zero, it’s deeply offensive to see the Bush campaign use these images to capitalize on the greatest American tragedy of our time.”

Monica Gabrielle, 9/11 Widow

“It’s a slap in the face of the murders of 3,000 people,” Gabrielle said of the use of images of the removal of the 9/11 dead for political purposes. “It’s unconscionable.”

Bob McIlvaine, 9/11 Parent

“My son was murdered on September 11th. To argue that using footage of the wreckage of the towers to further someone’s political career is ‘tasteful’ really needs to be rejected outright, and I condemn it.”

Tom Roger,9/11 Parent

“I would be less offended if he [Bush] showed a picture of himself in front of the Statue of Liberty. But to show the horror of 9/11 in the background, that’s just some advertising agency’s attempt to grab people by the throat.”

Abe Zelmanowitz,9/11 Family member

“It’s so hard for us to believe that it’s not obvious to everyone that ground zero shouldn’t be used as a backdrop for a political campaign. We are incensed and hurt by what he is doing.”

This can’t be good for Bush and to make the most of this tactical blunder,, an online community of progressive Democrats, has created a powerful poster, which lets the GOP know that exploiting 9/11 will only backfire. Click here to purchase one and here to sign a petition asking George Bush to turn all relevant material over to the 9/11 commission.