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Thursday; September 11, 2008 - 5A
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The Pentagon Sept. 11, 2001 memorial, seen here at night, officially opens today. Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain plan
to make a joint appearance at Ground Zero today to commemorate the seventh anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
*Terrorism fades as
campaign trail issue
Both presidential candidates
will make appearances at
Sept. 11, 2001 memorials
By MICHAEL ABRAMOWITZ
The Washington Post
WASHINGTON - The joint appearance at Ground
Zero today by Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama
will not only commemorate the seventh anniversary of
the Sept. 11 attacks but also will mark a rare moment in
the campaign when both candidates focus on terror-
ism, an issue that has lost salience for American voters
as the deadly attacks recede in the public memory.
Once the key concern that propelled Republicans
to big electoral victories in 2002 and 2004, terrorism
has often seemed the forgotten issue of 2008. Both
candidates touched on the subject only briefly in their
convention speeches and are instead emphasizing the
economy, change for Washington and other issues on
The shift reflects a nod to the changing attention of
the electorate. At this time in 2002 and 2004, about a
quarter of all Americans polled by Gallup called ter-
rorism or national security the country's top problem.
That dropped to 16 percent in 2006, and now 4 percent
of those polled deem those issues the most important
challenge facing the Unitred States.
"The whole issue has not gotten anywhere near the
attention most people would have predicted four years
ago," said Paul Pillar, a leading authority on terrorism
and a retired CIA analyst. "It is kind of striking that
this set of issues that became such a huge national pre-
occupation in the years after 9/1 has faded so much."
Pillar and other experts sayconcern over terrorism
has traditionally waxed following dramatic incidents
such as the Sept. 11 attacks or the wave of attacks by
Hezbollah in the 1980s, only to wane as public atten-
tion drifts. In the current political climate, analysts
said, the absence of a subsequent al-Qaida attack on
U.S soil has left the electorate with a mistaken view
that the terrorist threat has diminished.
'flip-flop' on [
LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The
head- of the United Auto Workers
union said Wednesday that Repub-
lican presidential nominee John
McCain lost credibility by first say-
ing he bought his daughter a Toyota
Prius, then saying sie purchased it.
Ron Gettelfinger told reporters
in a conference call that motorists
have a right to choose any car they
"But we think that a person who
has declared himself ... the nomi-
nee of the Republican Party should
be straight with the American peo-
ple," he said. "It's very insulting to
Still, both Obama and McCain have tried to use
the terrorism issue to emphasize larger themes about
their candidacies and to question the judgment of
their adversary. The McCain camp has suggested
that Obama would adopt a law enforcement model it
says was favored by the Clinton administration in the
1990s; Obama's advisers say McCain is too fixated on
the use of military power.
The war in Iraq remains a touchstone: McCain
regards the conflict as central to a-war with Islamic
terrorists, whereas Obama has described Iraq as a dis-
traction from what should have been the main focus
"Obama persists in the fiction that Iraq was never a
central front in the war on terror," said Randy Scheun-
emann, McCain's top foreign policy adviser. "Had we
left Iraq in the time and manner Senator Obama advo-
cated, al-Qaida would have achieved a victory that
dwarfed what they believe they achieved in Somalia
- it would have been devastating for our interests."
Scheunemann was referring to the withdrawal of U.S.
forces from Somalia during the Clinton administra-
tion, a move that al-Qaida has used for propaganda.
Obama advisers emphasize his call in the summer
of 2007 for more troops and resources in Afghanistan,
wherethe U.S.and its allieshave beenbattlingaresurgent
Taliban militia in recent months. "He called for sending
two brigades of U.S. forces to Afghanistan 13 months
before the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said the
same thing," said Richard Clarke, the onetime Bush and
Clinton adviser who has been chairing an advisory panel
on counterterrorism for the Obama campaign.
Despite the rhetorical differences, the candidates
shared important similarities.Both McCain and Obama
have called for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay,
Cuba, detention facility for suspected terrorists and
more humane interrogation procedures for suspects.
They both voted in the Senate for the wireless surveil-
lance program promotedby the Bush administration.
In their speeches on the subject, both candidates
have emphasized the need to use all instruments of
national power - intelligence, diplomacy, economic
assistance - and not just military power in defeating
Wtry to skirt somethng as simple as
whether or not you bought a par-
Added Jim Graham, president
of UAW Local 1112 in Youngstown,
Ohio: "If he is going to lie about an
issue as small as a Prius, what's he
going to do on the big issues?"
The UAW has endorsed Demo-
cratic candidate Barack Obama.
In response, the McCain cam-
paign said McCain wants America
to "take the lead in the way we
power transportation," saving U.S.
"He is trying to promote change
and to do this by pushing American
companies to develop an affordable
battery operated car," she said.
Lenti didn't say whether McCain
or his daughter had purchased the
Prius, but noted: "The UAW should
lay off Meghan McCain."
According to an October 2007
New York Times article, McCain
told a student last fall in South
Carolina who asked what the can-
didate was doing personally to
reduce greenhouse gases that he
had bought the hybrid Prius for his
But when questioned Sunday by
a reporter at TV station WXYZ in
Southfield, Mich., McCain said,
"She bought it, I believe, herself."
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