Monday, September 11, 2006; 1:36 PM
The White House would like you to believe President Bush is putting politics aside as he leads the nation in remembrance of the September 11 terrorist attacks of five years ago.
But it's not true.
Yesterday was largely a day of images as the president and the first lady silently laid two wreaths at Ground Zero before attending a memorial service. But Bush couldn't resist making a few comments to reporters as he visited a lower Manhattan firehouse, quite possibly previewing his prime-time address tonight. Here's the transcript .
And while his comments were superficially apolitical and personal, his words were in fact carefully chosen to advance his agenda.
"I'm never going to forget the lessons of that day," Bush said.
He also called today's anniversary a "day of renewing resolve."
And calling attention to "the relatives of those who still grieve" he said: "I just wish there were some way we could make them whole."
Had Bush taken a less divisive course five years ago, those words could well have been embraced by all Americans.
But consider the context.
The president and his party are in grave political danger because most Americans believe he learned the wrong lessons from Sept. 11 -- certainly when it came to using the attacks as a rationale for embarking on war in Iraq.
Indeed, there's a compelling argument to be made that by learning the wrong lessons, Bush compounded the disaster of Sept. 11 -- creating more terrorists than he has killed, for instance, and endangering America's moral standing across the globe.
With a clear majority of Americans now advocating a withdrawal from Iraq, Bush's talk of "renewing resolve" was transparently self-serving. He doesn't have to say "Iraq" for everyone to know exactly what that means.