Anniversaries of Tragedy as Political Hay

NPR Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr says the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks will be observed as national days of remembrance — but they will also be used as opportunities for political gain.

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DANIEL SCHORR reporting:

August 29th, September 11th - anniversaries of two overwhelming disasters - one natural, one man-made.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Senior news analyst Daniel Schorr.

SCHORR: The media love big commemorations, a chance to reprocess some dramatic archive tape. Politicians love the chance to reprocess some shaky reputations. President Bush, remembered unfavorably for his inspection of flooded New Orleans from Air Force One, is spending two days on the Gulf Coast amid tolling bells. He's trying to refurbish a reputation blighted by the slowness of the federal government in delivering on promises of $110 billion for reconstruction.

The president's heck of a job appellation for then FEMA Director Michael Brown resounds still along the levees. So does the president's promise to deal with abject poverty in the inner city of New Orleans. Opinion polls indicate that Mr. Bush's standing, now at a low ebb, is not likely to rebound much in two days.

September 11th, five years later, is a different story. The president at first enjoyed almost universal support, close to reverence, as he rallied a nation stricken by the devastation caused by the hijacked planes. But then the administration turned 9/11 into a tool to justify the totally unconnected invasion of Iraq. Late, very late, the administration began to acknowledge that Saddam Hussein had no known link to the 9/11 attacks and that these attacks had no known connection with Iraq.

So August 29th and September 11th are observed as national days of remembrance, but they are also days of political opportunity. This is Daniel Schorr.

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