Unconscionable. Politicizing. A slap in the face. Those were the kinds of phrases the left deployed against President George W. Bush to suggest he was exploiting the memory of the terrorist attacks of 9/11. These same voices are now giddy with delight at the prospect of President Obama’s “mission accomplished” visit to Ground Zero on Thursday. Such hypocrisy is par for the course.
Under other circumstances the planned wreath-laying would invite less controversy. Honoring those who fell on 9/11 days after Osama bin Laden’s demise is fitting. Given the care Mr. Obama ordered be given bin Laden’s remains, it would be unseemly if the killer received more respect than his victims. Yet liberal Democrats have poisoned the well over the past decade, lending Mr. Obama’s actions the appearance of opportunistic political theater - particularly given the approach of the 2012 campaign season.
In the spring of 2004, Democrats and liberals were outraged at images of 9/11 responders that appeared in a Bush campaign ad. “It’s a slap in the face of the murders of 3,000 people,” said Monica Gabrielle, whose husband Richard died in the attacks. “It is unconscionable.” Mrs. Gabrielle helped run a group called September 11th Advocates and was then-Senator Hillary Clinton’s guest at the State of the Union address in 2006. No politics involved in any of that apparently. When John Kerry ran an ad later in 2004 featuring widows of men killed in the attack the left was fine with it. “There’s a big difference,” the Kerry campaign blustered, “between using footage of ground zero, which is hallowed ground - and politicizing it - and someone coming to us wanting to pursue intelligence reform and advance our country’s security.” Sure there is, tell us another one.
During the 2004 Republic National Convention in New York City, President Bush was careful not to visit the Ground Zero site lest he fuel the charges that he was taking political advantage. That did not stop leftist demonstrators from appearing there on a daily basis, often – and without apparent irony – decrying those who allegedly were exploiting 9/11 to further their political agendas.
The double standard extends beyond the Ground Zero site itself. In 2006 House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, said that “the damage that [Osama bin Laden] has done is done. And even to capture him now I don’t think makes us any safer.” Now she proclaims that “the death of Osama bin Laden is historic” and “marks the most significant development in our fight against al-Qaida.” No politics there, clearly.
Back in March 2009 leftist gadfly Keith Olbermann denounced Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) as the “executive assassination wing” of the Bush Administration. Now he can’t heap enough praise on the special operations team operating under JSOC command that took out bin Laden. Had this taken place in 2008 he would have called it a war crime, but under Mr. Obama it is an example of brilliant leadership.
Mr. Bush was correct in not legitimizing this political theater with his presence, particularly after all the unfounded, misplaced criticism he faced during his presidency. He can be secure in the knowledge that all the tools that were used in the operation to take out bin Laden, as well as a fair degree of the intelligence, were the product of his administration’s efforts. The president who stood on the smoking ruins of the Twin Towers pledging American resolve in the war on terrorism does not have to return there to participate in the first photo op of Mr. Obama’s reelection campaign.