Readers debate whether the Bush campaign is stomping on sacred ground by using 9/11 imagery in its television ads.

By Salon Staff
Published March 9, 2004 8:23PM (EST)

[Read "Has Bush No Shame?" by Geraldine Sealey.]

I saw the World Trade Center on fire. I saw the horizon become nothing but smoke after the buildings fell. I watched the cleanup turn the site from a disaster into a scarred and empty place in the middle of what had been one of the busiest parts of Manhattan. The Bush ads exploiting the emotional power and iconic imagery of those burning buildings and the firemen carrying the flag-draped remains of one of their brothers, or an office worker, or an airplane passenger, or a retail clerk from one of the stores in the vanished shopping concourse where I used to eat lunch, makes me more angry than words can say.

I am assuming that the Bush camp knew the emotional power of those images, and knew the amount of anger they would unleash. I am guessing that the Bush strategists saw the anger focusing on the evildoers, and the emotion unleashed working in favor of their candidate. No way. My anger at seeing those images in those campaign ads is directed at one place: the White House. I hope the electorate sees the pure cynicism of this campaign, and that Bush pays a very heavy price for this cynical use of images of people whose loved ones and co-workers paid the ultimate price.

-- Laurie Kalmanson

The nature of the complaints about Bush's 9/11 political ads is, I think, revealing about the state of our political debate. The main complaint seems to be that the memory of 9/11 is "sacred" and shouldn't be exploited for "mere political gain." What leftists (who are certainly the people behind these complaints) fail to understand is that the leadership of this country itself is a sacred institution. Those who complain about exploiting for mere political gain reveal that they see the race for the presidency as a mere game with unimportant stakes. Fact is, 9/11 is by its very nature a political issue. It is a mess that a Democrat got us into, and that a Republican is working to get us out of.

-- Eric Johnson

As a Democrat, and worse than that, a Massachusetts Democrat, I once held strongly to the belief that folks in the "red states" must be poorly educated and easily led to vote so consistently Republican. But, I've since lived in Georgia and Virginia and Washington state and I've met Republicans, and I've met Christians, I've even met a few Christian Republicans who are well read and informed. To suggest that the people of Oklahoma -- Oklahoma! -- won't comprehend the tastelessness of using these tragic images in what amounts to a commercial -- a freakin' advertisement -- is an insult to all the trauma and bloodshed our Midwestern brethren had to endure at the hands of terrorists.

The Bush administration has been manipulative and pandering for four years, but the fog of the post-traumatic stress coma we've been in since 9/11 is beginning to lift and even Republicans are disgusted by the un-American activities of this administration. Let the Republicans throw their party on sacred ground by having their convention in NYC. They're simply braiding the proverbial rope from which Kerry and the Dems will hang 'em high.

-- Stacey George

I do not have a relative who died on 9/11, but I do have a brother who is unemployed, and every time I hear that insensitive John Kerry talking about joblessness in America I burst into tears. That bastard. How dare he exploit the problems of the unemployed for his political benefit? Has he no shame? Some of us who are related to unemployed people have contacted Katie Couric so we could go on "The Today Show" like those women who lost relatives on 9/11, but no one at NBC has gotten back to us yet. But considering how emotional Katie is about the Bush ads I'm sure you'll be seeing us on the show sometime next week. And if John Kerry dares to come anywhere near an unemployment office in the near future we will be there in force!

I'm kidding about my brother being unemployed. I don't even have a brother. I'm just one of those evil people who doesn't want anything like 9/11 to happen again.

-- John Saleeby

Who the f*** is Karen Hughes to tell the families of 9/11 victims what to think? That is hubris of the highest order, and if the Greek gods were still running things, Karen and the rest of the Busheviks would be on the receiving end of a few well-aimed lightning bolts.

On the other hand, it might be best to let them continue to arrogantly mouth off and keep the issue alive. If nothing else, it's certainly forced the story of how the administration has stonewalled the 9/11 Commission to the surface.

-- Isaac Segal

Here is the text of my letter to the White House:

Dear President Bush,

I am writing you as a supporter who is very concerned that the truly astonishing arrogance of Karen Hughes is going to damage your reelection campaign.

The families of the victims of 9/11 have a legitimate gripe. They lost their families, for heaven's sake! For Karen Hughes to say in an interview that their anger or revulsion is wrong is absolutely astonishing. Then, to call them partisan for criticizing the use of their families' remains in a political advertisement. Sir, that is just awful, and you need to either yank the ads or have Ms. Hughes apologize profusely.

You risk losing your core support when your representatives are publicly arrogant, insensitive and unrepentant. Your representatives are your public face, and right now you have egg on it.

Thank you for you consideration.

-- Robert Dickson

Is anyone actually surprised that the president and his advisors are now using the attacks on Sept. 11 for political gain? After the way this administration has manipulated and exploited the event to wage a war on enemies both abroad and at home, I think using the images to get people to vote for him is minor (disgusting, grotesque, amoral, but ultimately not as huge as what has already been done).

What makes me sad and worried is the possibility that enough Americans (the ones who didn't actually lose anyone they knew that day) will fall for it and we will have another four years of this.

-- Alison Aske

Salon Staff

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