While former Presidential candidate Al Gore declared today that he was behind Bush’s “leadership”, not everyone agree. The NY Times raised questions about Bush hiding immediately after the terrorist attacks instead of publicly leading the country to recover from the tragedy. Other voices are heard comparing Bush feeble response to that of Abraham Lincoln - who during the Civil War refused to hide and went back to Washington to lead – and Roosevelt who refused, during the Second World War to abandon the White House or even camouflage it.
When White House spokesperson Ari Fleischer said today that “we have incredible information that Air Force One and the White House were targets” during a Press Conference, he was repeatedly challenged by Media representatives to elaborate as to how the government knew about this. Fleischer was obviously surprised by the reaction and mumbled that he would not “elaborate on the matter.” At least one reporter was overheard saying “this sounds as a justification for running away.”
CNN reported that several Republicans, particularly US Senators, urged Bush to return to Washington and the White House immediately after the attacks. Bush traveled, instead, from military base to military base returning to Washington only after many supporters urged him to do so to avoid embarrasament.
Bush visited today the Pentagon, where one of the hijacked airplanes landed killing an estimated 800 people. Several US Senators, including Hillary Clinton, urged him to visit New York as well to send a message to the family and friends of those killed in the World Trade Center. One of Clinton’s assistants told a journalist that the “White House answered the request by saying that visiting New York is premature.”
Head of the Justice Department, Ashcroft repeated during a briefing today that the “White House and Air Force One were targets” in what many considered one more attempt to justify Bush’s actions.
Meanwhile, back in Lower Manhattan, many relatives of the victims of the World Trade Center are raising questions about the delays and slow progress of the rescue operations of those believed to be alive under the rubble of the buildings destroyed by the terrorist attacks on September 11. Images broadcasted on television today show a limited number of rescue workers performing slow operations of removing debris from the streets. During a CNN report on the rescue operations, one analyst put forward the theory that “they are slow because they are careful in case there are survivors down there.”
But family and those familiar with rescue operations after disasters point to the number of bodies recovered today, about 80 and the number of survivors rescued alive, unofficially accounted as 7, as proof of the slow progress of the rescue operations. Some observers note than after earthquakes and other natural disasters thousands of volunteers can be seen working on rescue operations and the recovery of bodies and survivors going much faster. But, they point out, the priority here is “to preserve a crime scene for investigators, not the rescue operations.”
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