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ISSUE 117 VOL 14 PUBLISHED 3/19/2004

Bush gains from pain

By Peter Gloviczki
Staff Writer

Friday, March 19, 2004

Two television commercials released by the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign have ignited controversy. The 30-second ads, which make reference to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, are being met with outraged responses from the family members of some victims, who claim that Bush is exploiting the tragedy for political gain. The advertisements, entitled Tested and Stronger and Safer, reference the attacks directly. In Tested, we see the charred remains of one of the towers for one second during the 30-second piece, as an announcer tells us that during the last four years, some challenges were like no others. The second advertisement, Stronger and Safer, features a longer clip of the World Trade Center, followed by the image of a flag-draped coffin at Ground Zero. In an interview on CBSs The Early Show, Bush campaign adviser Karen Hughes defended the advertisements with the following statement: "Sept. 11 was not just a distant tragedy. It's a defining event for the future of our country.... Obviously, all of us mourn and grieve for the victims of that terrible day, but Sept. 11 fundamentally changed our public policy in many important ways, and I think it's vital that the next president recognize that." Hughes is absolutely correct. Since Sept. 11, American foreign policy has seen many changes, and the next president, whether Bush or a challenger, must be mindful of the war against terrorism which began on that day two-and-a-half years ago.

Furthermore, President Bush has every right to refer to the attacks in his campaign advertisements. But he should do so in words alone. The use of these images, which many Americans have come to associate with the darkest day of our era, is little more than a brazen attempt to appeal to the emotions of voters. Hughes further dismissed critics during The Early Show with the claim, Some Democrats might not want the American people to remember the great leadership and strength the president and first lady Laura Bush brought to our country in the aftermath of that."

After Sept. 11, Bush was faced with a most difficult task. He was forced to lead a nation in mourning, a nation that had just seen one of the worst tragedies ever to occur on her soil. He has been a strong leader during trying times, and I understand that Hughes wants all Americans to know that. It seems quite fitting, in fact, that the campaign slogan is: President Bush: Steady Leadership in Times of Change, because Bush has done well to lead our country through the past three years. But we do not need to see the charred remains of the World Trade Center or a flag-draped coffin at Ground Zero to be reminded of Bushs leadership qualities. Instead, the campaign advertisements might want to focus on the many speeches that Bush delivered in the wake of Sept. 11, or present images of President Bush visiting troops in Iraq. These are both effective and respectful ways to represent Bush as a strong leader. Hughes may be worried that campaign advertisements which do not mention the terrorist attacks may cause viewers to forget the events of Sept. 11. But we do not need such advertisements to provide a reminder: the events of that day will remain etched in our minds for years to come. In fact, in a world where al-Qaeda has just claimed responsibility for the terror attacks on the Madrid subway, and America continues its war against terrorism both at home and abroad, I can assure Hughes that few people have forgotten about Sept. 11. These advertisements, however, are not entirely without value. They teach us an important lesson, one which extends to candidates on both sides of the aisle. No candidate should have the right to manipulate acts of terrorism in order to generate political support. Instead of focusing on this tragedy, I challenge all political candidates to focus on the pressing issues which are facing this country. From homeland security to our foreign policy and the economy, the next president can help define how our country continues into the twenty-first century, and I urge Republicans and Democrats alike to use their advertisements to address these concerns.

Staff Writer Peter Gloviczki is a sophomore from Rochester, Minn. He majors in political science.

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