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Tuesday, July 08, 2003
Have They No Shame?

It looks like the on-again, off-again story about plans to have President Bush present at a ceremony to lay the cornerstone for the WTC replacement buildings is still alive.

But it sure has changed our politics. Remember, shortly after the tragedy, and then again during the New York gubernatorial election last year, how the refrain went that the events of September 11 must not be politicized? I agreed. Who didn’t? But it seems to be turning out that when Republicans said September 11 should not be politicized, what they really meant was that Democrats should not politicize it.
After George W. Bush himself, probably no currently sitting elected official benefited more from September 11 than George Pataki .... The September 10 Pataki was semi-vulnerable heading toward the 2002 campaign, but after the attacks, Pataki enjoyed the same kind of immunity that was awarded the president. A cross word was verboten, as Andrew Cuomo learned when he imploded himself in April 2002 by remarking bluntly that Pataki had “held the leader’s coat” after 9/11, referring to Rudy Giuliani ....
At any rate, the real import of the Cuomo fracas was that it gave the vague and flabby phrase “don’t politicize 9/11” a very specific meaning: Don’t criticize the pols who were on duty when it happened. And once that was understood to be the precise meaning of the phrase, its obverse was rendered true as well: That those same pols have every right to use it to whatever end they wish.
On May 2, the Daily News’s excellent ground-zero reporters, Greg Gittrich and Maggie Haberman, broke the story that Pataki was “apparently” getting set to lay the cornerstone at ground zero in a ceremony to be held during the Republican National Convention here in the city next year—a ceremony, they noted, that Bush would be certain to attend. They had to throw in that “apparently” because they got the scoop in a slightly backhanded way: Ground-zero leaseholder Larry Silverstein was speaking to reporters and editors of the News, and it was he who released the cat from its bag, as it were. Their story noted that a gubernatorial spokeswoman declined to comment, and PR pasha Howard Rubenstein called the paper to “clarify” Silverstein’s comments and assert that maybe the developer misunderstood something Pataki had told him.

The rest of the story is worth a read, with the choice observation that “You might think that someone would step in and say, just for the record, what an unimaginably offensive idea this is.”

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