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May 6, 2011

Thursday at Ground Zero: The Prideful Left Behind by the Modest

Photo: John Angelillo/Pool via Bloomberg via Getty Images.  caption: .Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York, left, follows U.S. President Barack Obama during a visit to firefighters at the headquarters of Engine Company 54, Ladder Company 4 and Battalion 9, in New York, U.S., on Thursday, May 5, 2011. The firehouse lost 15 members, the single largest loss of life of any firehouse among the 343 firefighters who died during the attack on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. Obama will go to 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.’

Looking at Obama’s visit to Ground Zero yesterday in recognition of the death of Osama bin Laden, certain critics have referred to it as a “victory lap (1, 2). In fact, Obama — mindful of a need to recognize the “first responders” and the victim’s families — genuinely disinterested and purposely saddened by all the subtleties of the 9/11 situation, has taken a very low key approach.  (Of course, you can page through this NYT slideshow and judge for yourself.)

photo: Timothy A Clary/Getty Images. caption: US President Barack Obama arrives with staff where he will lay a wreath at Ground Zero may 5, 2011 and meet families of the 9/11 victims, just days after ordering the operation which eliminated Al-Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden.)

Bush would have likely had a celebration with a vetted group of flag waving, face painted supporters–all staged for the next election, or else made a big point of understatement, as if turning down the crown three times out of “modesty”.  Obama’s engagement, primarily with the families, but also with the “first responders” from the local police and fire stations (as emphasized in the shiny White House photo below), was mostly intimate.

It may be just the personality difference and Obama may be generally mindful of  retaliation, but it’s going to be interesting to see how Obama’s “modesty/strength” (his personality, but also a strategy) plays out in the election. We’re still rather reptilian.  And Obama is very “Christian” about the whole thing (and I say that because of his ethic, not because I think he’s actually religious).

photo: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza. caption: President Barack Obama and firefighters toast during a lunch at Engine 54, Ladder 4, Battalion 9 Firehouse in New York, N.Y., May 5, 2011. The firehouse, known as the “Pride of Midtown,” lost 15 firefighters on 9/11 — an entire shift and more than any other New York Firehouse. The 15 men killed had 28 children between them. Firefighters from Engine 54 were the first to arrive on the scene for the attempted Times Square bombing last year.

Honestly, linking about the contrast in personalities in the first photo above, I’m not sure America will get it.

– Karen Hull

  • black dog barking

    In the photos BHO maintains a safe distance from former Mayor 9/11, he and his staff make their own way to the memorial site. But with the first responders in the bottom pic, he is close and intimately engaged. We’re seeing the changing of the guard.

  • Anonymous

    Osama wasn’t particularly slippery. Bush didn’t want him captured, and Obama wouldn’t have amped up the effort to find him if it weren’t for the 10th anniversary coming up. That would have put America in a bad light – it would have looked like we didn’t care if Osama got away with it.

    Sending out a hit squad to kill Osama was a rough substitute for not looking for him at all. Of course the visit to Ground Zero was a victory lap. The president spiked the ball without appearing to spike the ball – that didn’t happen until the Fort Campbell visit the next day.

    If the American government really wanted closure, they’d have taken bin Laden alive, put him on trial, and let Osama put on a meaningful defense. Suppose the case against him was not as clear as the newspapers have told us? We don’t have to consider that now. “Justice was served,” said Obama. Rudy Giuliani agreed. So did George Bush. And what a swell party at the fire house! Thank you, Mister President.

    • Susan Donovan

      I don’t know how you can say ”

      Bush didn’t want him captured” Bush had so much to gain from that, and really as much as I dislike Bush I don’t think he’s THAT bad.

    • Susan Donovan

      I don’t know how you can say ”

      Bush didn’t want him captured” Bush had so much to gain from that, and really as much as I dislike Bush I don’t think he’s THAT bad.

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