Washington President Bush marked the third anniversary of the 9-11 hijackings by plugging his Iraq policy in a live broadcast from the Oval Office, and Sen. John F. Kerry followed a tearful memorial service by criticizing the president for hiding a report on intelligence gathering.
In the latest expression of the presidential campaign's pace and tone, the candidates paused to solemnly mark the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 and transformed Bush's presidency, then quickly returned to differences over his worthiness to continue as commander in chief in the war on terror.
Bush typically tapes his radio address in advance but Saturday he read it live from his desk in the company of New York City firefighters and police officers; parents, children, grandchildren and spouses of pilots and passengers who were lost; and rescue workers who serve the Pentagon. He began by recalling the morning three years ago when "the struggle of good against evil was compressed into a single morning," and remembered "the images of fire, and the final calls of love, and the courage of rescuers who saw death and did not flee." Then he went on to say that he is "determined to stay on the offensive" in battling terrorists.
"Our present work in Iraq and Afghanistan is difficult," he said. "It is also historic and essential. By our commitment and sacrifice today, we will help transform the Middle East, and increase the safety of our children and grandchildren."
In Massachusetts about the same time, Kerry attended a flower-laying ceremony at the Boston Public Garden's Garden of Remembrance, a horseshoe-shaped memorial dedicated to 9-11 victims. A small plane flew overhead towing a huge American flag as Kerry read the engraved inscription of the names of Massachusetts victims of the attacks.
Both planes that hit the towers had taken off from Boston's Logan International Airport.
Kerry's campaign e-mailed at statement calling on Bush to declassify and release a report on the nation's intelligence services by a presidential advisory panel headed by retired Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft. "The White House has held this important report under wraps for nearly three years while resisting efforts to strengthen the intelligence services that are essential to preventing terrorist attacks and protecting our nation," Kerry said. "What is the White House hiding? "