Obama Visits Ground Zero After Bin Laden Death
By Julianna Goldman – May 4, 2011 11:01 PM CT
Business ExchangeBuzz up!DiggPrint Email . A makeshift memorial is seen at the World Trade Center site after the death of accused 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden, in New York. Photographer: Mario Tama/Getty Images
President Barack Obama will visit New York’s “Ground Zero” today, seeking to provide some closure to the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil now that the world’s most hunted terrorist, al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, won’t be “walking on this earth again.”
Visiting the former World Trade Center site for the first time as president, Obama will lay a wreath at the Sept. 11 memorial. He is not scheduled to deliver public remarks and will meet privately with family members and emergency workers.
The trip comes four days after Obama announced to the world that bin Laden had been killed by U.S. commandos at the Pakistan compound where he was hiding. Ending a debate within his administration, Obama said yesterday that he won’t release any images of bin Laden’s body or his burial service at sea.
“We don’t think that a photograph in and of itself is going to make any difference,” Obama said in an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes.” “There are going be some folks who deny it. The fact of the matter is, you will not see bin Laden walking on this earth again.”
Obama’s approval ratings have risen in several polls since the announcement that bin Laden was killed, almost 10 years after orchestrating the 2001 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people at the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon in suburban Washington and in a field in Pennsylvania. Even with the 2012 election on the horizon, Obama’s aides said the president wants to keep the appearance of politics out of the ceremony in New York and the meeting with Sept. 11 families.
“He wants to meet with them and share with them this important and significant moment — a bittersweet moment, I think, for many families of the victims,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said yesterday. “He thinks it’s appropriate to do that in private.”
Obama invited former President George W. Bush, a Republican who was in office when the attacks occurred, to join him in New York. Bush declined the offer.
“He appreciated the invite but has chosen in his post- presidency to remain largely out of the spotlight,” David Sherzer, a spokesman for the former president, said in an e- mailed statement. “He continues to celebrate with all Americans this important victory in the war on terror.”
Bush plans to mark the 10-year anniversary of the attack at World Trade Center site in September, Sherzer said.
Like Bush’s in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, Obama’s standing with the public got a boost following bin Laden’s death, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll conducted May 2 and 3. Fifty-seven percent of respondents said they approved of the president’s overall job performance, up from 46 percent last month.
Still, the tragedy of Sept. 11 is still acute, and infusing today’s events with politics is a potential liability for the president. Bush was criticized in 2004 when he released campaign ads using images of emergency workers in the rubble of the World Trade Center towers.
“The line between honor and exploitation is a fine one, but I think it is entirely appropriate that President Obama visit Ground Zero,” said Mark McKinnon, vice chairman of Public Strategies Inc., a political consulting firm, and a former media adviser to Bush. “As long as there is no dancing in the end zone, the families of the 9/11 victims deserve the closure.”
The state of the economy will be the primary driver for voters in the next election, not bin Laden, according to Paul Begala, a Democratic strategist and onetime political aide to former president Bill Clinton who now is advising an independent campaign group that will raise money for the 2012 contest.
The president’s higher overall ratings in the New York Times/CBS News poll didn’t extend to voters’ view of his handling of the economy, where his approval rating fell to the lowest level since he took office. Thirty-four percent of those polled said they approve of Obama’s handling of the economy, down 4 percentage points from a poll conducted two weeks ago.
The nationwide telephone survey of 532 U.S. adults has a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points.
A Labor Department report tomorrow may show that the jobless rate held at 8.8 percent in April, according to the median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News.
While the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index has risen 7.13 percent this year, it dropped yesterday for the third day, losing 0.7 percent to 1,347.32 at 4 p.m. in New York. Ten-year Treasury yields decreased three basis points to 3.22 percent, the lowest since March.
Lines of Attack
Still, Begala said Republicans will have a harder time criticizing Obama’s leadership or his ability as commander-in- chief because of the successful operation against bin Laden.
“They’ve lost at least one of the two lines of attack that they need to dislodge an incumbent president,” Begala said.
A ceremony also will be held today at the Pentagon, where 184 people died when one of the four commercial airliners hijacked by al-Qaeda terrorists slammed into the building. Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to lay a wreath at the memorial there and meet with family members of those killed, along with first responders.
Obama also plans to attend a rally with soldiers tomorrow at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. The base is home to several units that recently returned from Afghanistan, which the U.S. invaded in October 2001 because the Taliban government was harboring al- Qaeda.