Return of the 9/11 President

By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, February 12, 2008; 12:52 PM

President Bush continues to dispute all the predictions that his presidency will go down in history as a miserable failure.

Or, as he put it in an interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News over the weekend: "It's very hard to write the future history of America before the current history hasn't been fully written."

But with the economy tanking, the war in Iraq dragging on, our nation's moral standing in ashes and voters hungering for a new direction, how exactly does Bush intend to go out a winner?

One possible answer: Try to change the subject back to 9/11.

Steven Lee Myers writes in the New York Times that the administration's announcement yesterday of capital murder charges against half a dozen men allegedly linked to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks will bring the election-year focus back on Bush's favorite issues.

"The White House said on Monday that Mr. Bush had no role in the decision to file charges now against the six detainees, leaving the strategy for prosecuting them to the military," Myers writes.

"Still, the cases soon to be put before military tribunals -- including that against Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who has described himself as the mastermind of the attacks -- represent a major part of 'the unfinished business' that Mr. Bush and his aides talk about when they vow 'to sprint to the finish,' as one aide did again on Monday.

"Mr. Bush never sounds surer of himself than when the subject is Sept. 11, even when his critics argue that he has squandered the country's moral authority, violated American and international law, and led the United States into the foolhardy distraction of Iraq. . . .

"The 9/11 candidate, Rudolph W. Giuliani of New York, may have dropped his bid for the White House. But the 9/11 presidency is far from over."

Myers writes that on the question of military tribunals, warrantless wiretapping and the war in Iraq, "the White House seems eager to lock in as many of the president's policies as possible before he leaves office in 11 months. And as it looks ahead to the November elections, the White House seems to have concluded that each is politically sustainable and even favorable for a Republican candidate and Mr. Bush's own legacy."

Of course, this latest move could backfire.

Andrew O. Selsky writes for the Associated Press that "questions of due process could overshadow the [Guantanamo] proceedings, according to Jennifer Daskal, senior counterterrorism counsel for Human Rights Watch.


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