“Obama’s low-key appearance shows the era of politicizing Ground Zero is over”

Michael Tomasky:

Without saying a single word, but in the simple act of showing up (90 percent of life, as Woody Allen famously put it) and silently laying a wreath and respectfully speaking with dress-uniformed officers flanking him, Barack Obama managed to neutralize what has arguably been the most potent piece of Republican iconography of the last decade: its total political ownership of 9/11, and of ground zero itself.
From President Bush’s famous “megaphone moment” three days after the attacks until now, ground zero has belonged symbolically to the Republican Party.

…But if the circumstance was a mere fortuity, the way the GOP used ground zero to their benefit was very much a matter of design. I was covering New York politics at the time, and I remember clearly that a sort of rule emerged from the rubble that 9/11 “should not be politicized.” But it didn’t take long, as I wrote in New York magazine in 2003, for the real meaning of that phrase to emerge, which was that 9/11 should not be politicized…by Democrats.

For Republicans, though, the rules were different. The 2002 midterm elections, conducted even as Bush was resisting the creation of a commission to investigate the events that led to 9/11 (he relented shortly thereafter), turned to a great degree on whether Democrats possessed enough resolve to protect America. Two years later, when his own electoral number came up, Bush went straight for the jugular, releasing that March three different television ads that used ground-zero imagery—the towers’ wrecked carcasses, the firefighters combing the smoldering ruins. There was the selection of New York as the GOP’s 2004 convention site, the purpose of which was obvious. There were even ghastly plans afoot in Pataki-land for Bush to be able to lay the cornerstone of the new development at ground zero during the convention—that is to say, during the most overtly political event on the American calendar. Fortunately, saner heads prevailed, and the apathetic pace of Manhattan redevelopment would have prevented it in any case.

Starting today, they can’t use it anymore. How it must grate their cheese that it was Barack Obama—crypto-Kenyan, effete urbanite, paller-arounder-with-terrorists—who turned these tables! What’s been playing out in the four days since the killing of Osama bin Laden—the Republican insistence that Bush deserves credit too, the claim that torture must be given its due, and all the rest—is equivalent to, and about as charming as, a bully’s incredulity that a smaller but nimbler foe has bested him. The seminal event, of course, was bin Laden’s death. Today’s appearance by Obama simply provides the symbolic capstone. It’s no wonder that Bush snappishly sees today’s event, according to a New York Daily News story, as an Obama “victory lap.” Ground zero was his. Now it’s not. (Imagine the ceremonial orgiastics we’d probably be enduring right now if President Bush or John McCain had brought OBL to justice.)

// more


92 thoughts on ““Obama’s low-key appearance shows the era of politicizing Ground Zero is over”

  1. Couldnt ask for a better man to represent our country! Smart, elegant, & compassionate. So classy where he invited President Bush and President Clinton to mourn with him at Ground Zero. We love you President Obama, and we will Pray for you and the First Family.

  2. Thanks BWD. What an excellent summation of the political symbolism of what has transpired so far!

    Quietly and ever so gently, Obama has pulled the so-called national security carpet from under the gop feet. Now they must scamper to find a leg to stand on. There was a good article by Roger Simon on politico–tiotles: Does this make Obama invisible? It is a great read and basically acknowledges what a tough act the GOP must face in Obama.

    Thanks BWD.

  3. Where is the Tomasky original post? I don’t understand those “watch” sites you post – do no get anything when I click on them.

  4. Yes.We.Can. … DO.More.TOGETHER!

    As our dear President demonstrates by what he does, every moment of every day.

  5. A class act all the way. Handled with sensitivity and tact.

    Good story from CBS

    “Mr. Obama’s New York visit was intended to have a measured tone — not a bookend to President George W. Bush’s visit after the attacks when Bush took a bullhorn and called out his defiance to the terrorists. Mr. Obama spokesman Jay Carney told reporters traveling with the president on Air Force One that the trip was intended in part “to perhaps help New Yorkers and Americans everywhere to achieve a sense of closure with the death of Osama bin Laden.”

    The White House didn’t want him to appear as though he’s exploiting the situation, taking advantage of the families in any way or enjoying some kind of victory lap after bin Laden’s death, reports CBS News chief White House correspondent Chip Reid.



  7. I don’t think there can ever be closure. It’s not really the right word. But the way I feel it’s like sunset finally has occurred on Sept 11, 2001 – and we can go forward to a new day.

    without President Obama, this new day could never have occurred.

    Seeing these photos just make me cry. But for me, crying is a good thing. A release long overdue.

  8. “Imagine the ceremonial orgiastics we’d probably be enduring right now if President Bush or John McCain had brought OBL to justice.”

    Oh I certainly can.

    I watched the coverage today and as usual, President Obama was dignified, classy, compassionnate, authentic, you name it.

  9. From the comments in Tomasky’s article:

    “I dont think the President or his cabinet cared about Politics today, but all of the media did”.

  10. Thanks, BWD!

    That video is amazing!!!! I know the republicans are very sick today. Never in their wildest dreams could they have imagined that the man they’ve demonized so mercilessly over the last 2 + years would draw so much attention and have the national and international media showing huge crowds cheering him. (Paraphrasing, here) God is good, his mercy is everlasting, and his truth endureth to all generations.

  11. Ok, this is worth a good laugh

    GREELEY, Colo. – The Colorado construction worker who flew last year to Pakistan on a one-man mission to hunt down Osama bin Laden says he played a part in bin Laden’s death.

    Gary Faulkner said Wednesday he’d like one-quarter of the $25 million reward that was offered for hunting down bin Laden. He said he’d use it for his nonprofit foundation.

    Faulkner was found last year in the woods of northern Pakistan armed with a pistol, sword and night-vision goggles. The Greeley, Colo., man says he believes he had a hand in forcing bin Laden out of the mountains where he supposedly was hiding.

  12. “…its total political ownership of 9/11.”

    Except for the part about the attacks actually happening on their watch. That part of 9/11 was politically owned by Bill Clinton.


  13. Amen. If this had been Bush’s moment he’d be parading around with OBL’s head on a stick & Rush would be literally fellating him on the air.

  14. Thanks GN. Balloon Juice is also discussing gigi. Apparently his latest rag is that Obama may have acted illegally. Murderer. The man never quits. His hatred is too obvious.

    He has determined the ending before he begins. It is always about destroying the president.

  15. Sweet all that is holy…I need to disinfect my brain to clean that image. EWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW.

  16. Let’s Move’s “Move Your Body” continues to delight. First we had the First Lady doing the dougie, lol, now we have Beyonce surprising some kids who were doing her workout:

    That is so cute. FLOTUS + Beyonce are doing a really good job with this.

  17. Good. Let him continue to dig the hole. I find absolutely nothing, zip, zilch, nada principled about GG. His concern trolling bin Laden’s death is duly noted, and is consistent with what’s to be expected of him IMO. Let him and Rush stew in their bitterness, appealing only to the easily led like Cole. Sorry to everyone for bringing him here.

  18. SueDuvall you took the words right out of my mouth. Thank God for PBO and his class. This is definately NO victory lap. What a man of distinction and dignity. HALLELUJAH!! Obama/Biden 🙂 2012!!

  19. Has Cole gone over to the dark side again? I haven’t read his site in months, pretty much since I started coming here at the inception. He used to be rather level-headed.

  20. He, from time to time, will entertain frustrati arguments and entertained this one which posits that we’re being hypocritical by being okay with bin Laden’s death. I find that ridiculous. We’re human beings, not robots. I highly support prison reform and guess what, when Jeffrey Dahmer was killed in prison I didn’t shed a single tear, and prison reform advocates were wise enough to not make that serial killer and serial rapist the posterchild for reform. gg is trolling the WH as he’s been doing for years, nothing new. Cole would be wise to take these folks with a grain of salt rather than absorbing their character attacks and constant claims that they are the bearers of all that is right and true and the rest of us are just corrupted whatever. Sick of the bashing of that type.

    But don’t worry, Cole usually does maintain a level head to be fair to him. 🙂

  21. I can’t link this since you need a subscription, but this is a quote from an article from Newsday, about President Obama’s visit to the firehouse:

    “Firefighter Joe Ceravolo, who prepared the meal, said the president “loved the shrimp” and the eggplant Parmagiana. He said Obama “was a down-to-earth guy. It was like hanging out with the rest of the guys in the firehouse.”

    Our President sooooo connects with people!!

  22. Did you all see the latest spoof of the President’s Bin Laden speech? It’s awesome!

  23. That was great GN, thanks for sharing here. I’m going to show this to my Hubby he thinks Beyonce is “a really gorgeous woman.” That’s 74 year old male speak for “she’s really hot!” He will enjoy this.

    I love it that she is getting involved like this in Michelle’s “Let’s Move” campaign. It will get the Kiddos really motivated.

  24. Those kids are even copying her posture and everything, lol. Let’s Move’s “Move Your Body” is just such a sweet story all around. I love to see people doing kind things like this and am pretty impressed with Beyonce here. lol@your husband!

  25. Yes he does and that’s because he really is a person just like all of us.

    Thanks for sharing that quote. I bet that Firefighter was a nervous wreck about cooking for the Prez but I also can believe that PBO made him feel great about his cooking. No one at that firehouse will ever rag on Joe Ceravolo’s meals in the future because he can say:

    “I cooked for the President and he loved it!”

  26. Actions speak louder than words. That is why Barack Obama is the real deal. He not only speaks the truth he walks the walk.

  27. As always, our First Lady is first rate. And as an educator and mom of a teen, Beyonce has won another fan. What a great thing to do for kids.

  28. Isn’t it nice? I like her because my nonverbal autistic nephew reaaaaally likes her. Can’t say that I own any of her recent records and don’t follow a lot of what she does, but I’m a fan because of him. My nephew is an astoundingly terrific judge of character; nice to see his record unbroken.

  29. Love the pic at the end of this set of Rudy “Mayor 9/11” Guiliani looking sheepish!

  30. LL – I once thought I saw bin Laden walking down the street, but I was mistaken.* Does that entitle me to some of the reward?

    *Snark, just so you don’t think I’m as out of it as this guy! He needs help.

  31. Hey so does anyone know when the freak show republican primary debate is on ?

    Not that I’m gone to watch it but I’m sure the contenders will say some really crazy stuff and some old fashioned obama bashing.

  32. I totally forgot about that farce after I mentioned it earlier this week. Since, you know, PBO was being a REAL leader all day today. I think we’re in a really good place right now, as far as the election goes. We just have to keep our heads up and keep moving forward.

  33. Yeah me too. I remembered because some in the media mentioned and talked about how pathetic it was going to be.

    The fact that Tim Pawlenty is the only main contender showing up just shows how pathetic he is and the field of contenders.

  34. He also said, he didn’t care if he was a hypocrit at this time. It was actually a pretty good piece.

  35. I know she’s been away and busy catching up since, but if CanadaBarb4Obama is here tonight to read, I’d like to wish her a very happy birthday! She is, as we all know, a very important part of the O’family!

  36. I didn’t even spot Rudy at first … standing behind the police commissioner. If you look at some of the uniformed officers in the photo, they don’t look old enough to have been there nearly 10 years ago and probably don’t even know who he is. Funny how things just keep moving along … and getting better, I might add.

  37. Pawlenty needs to raise his name value and probably thinks given the remaining cast of characters there tonight he’ll easily look the sanest. However he’ll be targeted as the “frontrunner/establishment” of the debate and Cain, Paul and Johnson being Libertarians could trap him. Libertarians are tricky to debate because their policies sound good enough theoretically and in soundbyte form.

  38. You make a great point. And I was thinking the same thing. He is surrounded by libertarians and debating against them will be difficult. And like you said I could see them going after Pawlenty because he will appear as the front-runner.

  39. Bingo. The so called american fourth estate are really the fifth columnists.

    It was truly classic of PBO that he did not turn this into a bullhorn bullshit speechifying moment. His silence spoke million words as it were.

  40. I’ve been wondering what security precautions they have in place for his meals. I thought it used to be a big deal where someone had to supervise and taste all the food before the president ate or drank anything. Is that not the case anymore? He seems to just walk into some of these burger joints and order straight off the menu and no one seems to be closely supervising for the potential threat of something being added to the food. I just find it really curious. I guess it’s a good thing…?

  41. kishik. Barack is the truly the president from the ‘unwashed masses’. That’s what burns the dc pols and the beltway media.

    And the kid is hardly 50. 🙂

  42. LOL. Thanks princess. Loved that “Oh, that will be two terms please” “closure”.

  43. I’ve been watching the Republican so-called debate on FNC for five minutes.

    Tim Pawlenty – lookin’ good at that teleprompter, Tim. But we’re over here to the right.

    Rick Santorum – Same to you, fella.

    Next nameless, faceless guy – Maybe it’s not your fault. You seem to be looking at the moderator? Try getting in touch with (and looking into the eyes of) the American people.

    Moderator called that portion “the lightning round.” Is this Jeopardy? I think I nodded off there for a minute.

    Done with them.

  44. DrDaddy – Remember when candidate Biden said all Rudy ever said was “A noun, a verb, and 9/11”?

    Rudy isn’t talking much now, I’ve noticed.

  45. GG is really…man I can’t stand GG. He dresses up his disdain for POTUS in “principle” and sanctimony, but I personally see right through it, there is something very dirty in the water when it comes to him.

    I would have the utmost respect for someone who said, “POTUS, you can’t just feed the US’ enemies to the fishes like that, lmao” but the negative, hate-filled space where GG is coming from is totally different.

    Just saying, Cole needs to turn off that particular spigot. Nothing good comes from taking the GG crew seriously.

  46. How can you have a teleprompter at a debate? I guess they got the questions before hand or something. Figures…

    Pawlenty having to keep apologizing for his pro cap and trade stance is going to leave a mark. Luckily for him, he’s going to win Iowa and probably S.Carolina unless Huckabee runs.

  47. Where he lucks out is that the debate is moderated by Fox, and they HATE Ron Paul and Libertarians running for office in general.

  48. You think Pawlenty will win Iowa? I think Daniels is going to join the party late and compete with Romney.

    I think the GOP machine will eventually destroy Romney because there is no way the souther conservs vote for him and Daniel will be the nominee.

  49. “Tragedy is a tool for the living to gain wisdom, not a guide by which to live.”
    —Robert F. Kennedy

  50. you know Michale Moore is just like Sarah Palin annoying as hell.

  51. That sounds like something they did for medieval kings (or maybe Saddam Hussein)! I don’t think in a democracy somebody tastes the food for others. Heck, I’m not sure, but I’m guessing the Secret Service goes in early and if they feel comfortable, the President sits down!

  52. Daniels – The guy who took the surplus and turned it into a huge deficit? I heard he wants us to ignore that period and only judge him on his record. I guess he doesn’t realize that as President, he’ll have to work with others (i.e. Congress, Governors, Mayors, lobbyists, etc.) and won’t have a dictatorship type government… As for his record, isn’t he trying to end collective bargaining and eliminate important social programs? Great record.

  53. Loved the videos of President Obama coming in to NYC and all the crowds cheering; even covered this on my local news today and that’s saying something.

  54. Obama is redefining what effective American national security should look like. He is taking a page out of Teddy Roosevelt’s book: “Speak Softly, and Carry a Big Stick”. The GOP’s approach was “Screech like a crazy person, and act like an unbalanced neanderthal.”

    Obama is projecting real power. Power that is so effective, so ahead of the curve that we have nothing to prove with words. He is saying to America and the world: “We don’t need to talk and pound our chest, because our actions say what needs to be said.”

    Perfect example: John McCain said he would “follow Bin Laden to the gates of hell”, but apparently not to the gates of his Pakistani compound. Nuff said.

  55. Yes I know the baggage he comes with, but he’s less crazy than the rest. Did you see the highlights from the S.C. debate?

    I would bet most repub strategist realize the crazy talk works in a primary, but it won’t go far in a general election. Especially against the very well liked President Obama. Huck is probably not going to run and so yes I’m betting it will be Daniels.

  56. In the same sense that most victims of crime feel that they are unable to move on until the person who hurt them is behind bars. The extreme emotional reaction this past week reminded us all just how much we desired justice. 10 years caused us to suppress the feeling for justice, but the emotional release demonstrates it never went away.

    Here’s hoping we can move on. The WWII generation never forgot Pearl Harbor, but once the war ended they didn’t let it define their lives.

  57. Rick Santorum will be there too. Not too sure of much about him except I think he’s the one that started one of the great myths was it about HCR or something else?

  58. To be brutally frank, lod blew it. It was a shoutfest with rice her getting away with her talking points. I think rm would have done it much better and much cooler way and would have nailed that liar.

    I remember from my college days in US ted koppel coolly slicing & dicing the guests in a precise manner. Now it’s all shoutfest from both sides.

  59. I think there’s some number of terrorist atrocities someone can commit – the number I’m thinking of is ONE – before it becomes morally okay to shoot them in the head whenever.

    Maybe that makes me a bad person. I don’t know.

  60. I think if the whole station house is eating some, Obama can have some too 🙂

  61. “I got 99 problems but Bin Laden ain’t one”

    Still giggling over that one.

  62. Read the following in one of the many beautiful accounts of the President’s visit to ground zero yesterday and I think it summed up what most of the victims families must have felt yesterday when their President came to honor the memory of their loved ones.

    Jim Riches, whose firefighter son was among the nearly 3,000 people killed at the World Trade Center, planned to meet with the president on Thursday.

    “I just want to thank him, hug him and thank him and shake his hand,” Riches said. “Father to father. Thank you for doing this for me.”

  63. SueDuvallSmith – I had intended to only post positive things today and not look back to the Bush years – however, your words “I was so embarrassed for this country when George Bush was President” reminded me of how I felt that way so often during those years. I remembered thinking that the Presidency is not a normal job – that we should not elect figure heads or just ordinary people who believe the same things that we do. The job is just so big!! It requires someone extraordinary – someone who has the right temperament in order to not over react or under react to daily events. It requires someone who is smarter than us!
    All I can say today (I confess I think it every day and voice it often!) is Thank God Obama is our President!! I sometimes think of some of the events and picture how they would have been handled if McCain had been elected and it makes me shudder!

  64. I remember reading about it being done when Clinton was in office. The point being, just like they arrested that biker with the Cubs cap yesterday at the Ground Zero event, who was thought to have a gun, someone can slip something into someone’s food or drink pretty easy if there are a lot of people in and out of a kitchen or serving.

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