Political ads or exploitation?

By Geraldine Sealey
Published March 3, 2004 9:31PM (EST)

Is the Bush administration exploiting the 9/11 attacks for political gain? The Bush-Cheney '04 cable TV ads will feature firefighters and footage from 9/11 -- part of a general election strategy that will showcase the attacks and Bush's response. This tactic will be most obvious, perhaps, when the Republican convention converges on New York City in late summer. But will Bush's 9/11 strategy work, or backfire if it's interpreted as cynical and exploitative?

The Washington Post says "the use of Sept. 11 imagery may cause some controversy and provide ammunition for Democrats who have long accused the president of exploiting the tragedy for political purposes." Bush media adviser Mark McKinnon addressed a question at a press briefing today about the use of Sept. 11 images, saying "obviously 9/11 was the defining moment of these times," and that the president's response to attacks "are important parts of this administration's record."

But that's not the way one 9/11 victim's wife sees it. "It's a bad, bad move," Monica Gabrielle told Salon.

"It's unconscionable that any political candidate or person would use Ground Zero, the hallowed ground of 3,000 dead, including my husband. It's unspeakable and outrageous that President Bush would choose to use it in his re-election campaign," said Gabrielle, whose husband Richard, died in the World Trade Center. What's especially galling to Gabrielle -- and other 9/11 victims' families have levied similarly blunt criticisms against the president -- is that Bush "did nothing to prevent [9/11], as far as we know," and is now trying to avoid testifying before the 9/11 commission.

"The fact that he won't give a half hour to speak to the deaths of 3,000 people, let me take another Zoloft. You can just tell the outrage. If they have any sense of decency, they'll pull those ads, and if nothing else, it's also a very good indication of the fiber of these people," she said. (For the record, the White House wants to limit Bush's interview with the commission to one hour and only wants two people to question him. The commission has rejected the terms.)

Gabrielle isn't registered in any political party, although she used to get into political debates with Richard, who was a Democrat. "To annoy him, I would say I was a Republican," she said. But now, it's no joke -- 9/11 politicized her, she says. "Now its 'out the door in 2004.' It's just unconscionable what they're getting away with," she said of the Bush administration.

This is the opinion of one victim of 9/11. As others see how the 9/11 attacks are being used in the Bush-Cheney ad blitz, we'll likely hear more.

Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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