Six years after the Sept. 11 terror attacks united Americans in common cause, the anniversary is itself now treated in many quarters as just another opportunity for political bloodletting.
This year, there’s already been a battle over the role that former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani should play in the commemoration at Ground Zero now that he’s a GOP presidential candidate.
In past years, he helped read the names of those who died in the Twin Towers’ collapse; this year he will only be permitted to read a section of unspecified text. And a series of videos blaming him for ignoring sick rescue workers and failing to prepare his city for such a disaster will be released.
In Washington on Tuesday, the Senate will have its turn to blast or embrace the progress report on the “surge” in Iraq, which President Bush says is a pivotal front in the post-9/11 war on terror and Democrats say was a disastrous mistake that only fueled the world’s hatred of us. And both sides on the war will turn up their rhetoric in advance of demonstrations slated for next Saturday (Sept. 15).
Lost in the babble is the effort to make Sept. 11 a day for public service, volunteerism and charitable acts. Check out www.mygooddeed.org, an organization that has received pledges for more than 50,000 good deeds to be done to pay tribute to the fallen of 9/11 and rekindle the sense of common purpose that drew us together.
The presidential candidates will soon have the opportunity to take bold stands on another big issue — obesity. The Obesity Society, a public-health advocacy group that wants us to get in shape, is hosting a Sept. 19 roundtable in Washington to hear what the White House wannabes, via their advisers, have to say about the battle against blubber.
One candidate who should get any fat-fighter’s endorsement is Mike Huckabee, a Republican who lost 110 pounds while Arkansas governor. Perhaps he will come up with a “No Behind Left” policy.
The Larry Craig scandal has joined some very odd bedfellows. Among those the GOP senator from Idaho signed up to help him battle charges he solicited an undercover cop for sex in a Minneapolis airport bathroom were:
— Judy Smith, a public-relations whiz who was Monica Lewinsky’s mouthpiece during the scandal over her affair with President Bill Clinton. (Craig, by the way, was one of the biggest Clinton bashers during that era.)
— Billy Martin, a big-dollar attorney who has had as clients Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, NBA player Alan Iverson and the family of murdered intern Chandra Levy.
— Stanley Brand, an ethics expert, Democratic ally and defense attorney who was hired by Clinton adviser George Stephanopoulos during the Whitewater controversy and three former Democratic congressmen who were indicted on corruption charges.
A Capitol Hill lawmaker has agreed to be a Deep Throat of sorts for the Center for Democracy and Technology, which has been fighting Congress for years for public access to reports by the Congressional Research Service, a taxpayer-funded think tank that refuses to make them available to anyone but House members and senators.
The CRS churns out analytical studies on virtually every subject Congress faces, though they’re usually background papers that examine all sides of an issue rather than advocating a particular policy. In August and September, for example, the outfit tackled food safety, seat belts on school buses, drug-resistant tuberculosis and tainted Chinese imports.
Congress has long deemed the reports closed to “non-congressionals,” even though they routinely find their way to the press and lobbyists. The democracy center says it has found a lawmaker who has agreed to anonymously slip the group a list of all CRS reports as they are issued so they can be hunted down by public-access advocates and posted on www.opencrs.com.
“We’re kicking ass.” — Bush, commenting Wednesday on the progress in the Iraq war to Australian Deputy Prime Minister Mark Vaile.
(E-mail Lisa Hoffman at hoffmanl(at)shns.com. SHNS correspondents Lee Bowman and Michael Collins contributed to this column.)