I grew up in New Jersey, moving from Newark, to South Orange, to Springfield. I’m a Devils fan, I love diner food and I drive like a real aggressive jerk. I’ve been going to New York for over a decade, I’ve lived there at times, and I have a lot of good memories. On 9/11, a lot of those memories were never to be relived again. Some of the people who made those memories possible were never to be seen again. Why? Because somewhere along the line, someone screwed up and a whole lot of people died as a result. According to the Associated Press, nearly 700 New Jersey residents died when the towers came down. So it shouldn’t be a shock to see President George W. Bush, a self-proclaimed builder of a “Safer America,” is visiting one of the states hardest hit by 9/11. But it is.
Only now that Jersey is suddenly considered a swing state is Bush running there to get face time. Despite being so strong an advocate for Homeland Security, Bush hadn’t touched the Garden State until this Monday. To cover up the real reasons for his sudden decision to visit, he cites his strengths in homeland security and how they relate to the interests of Jersey residents who will never forget what it’s like to be attacked.
Notably, Bush didn’t bother with northern New Jersey, from where you could once see the World Trade Center. Where, as was stated Monday by New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg in response to Bush’s speech, the FBI believes the two most at-risk miles in the whole country lay. No, he stayed in South Jersey, where the Philadelphia media could cover him and give him more coverage in two swing states at once. Later in the day, he flew into Florida for his 31st visit this campaign. This was his first visit to New Jersey.
President Bush came into Jersey riding high after signing a bill that dumped $33 billion into national security and specifically the Department of Homeland Security.
For the record, a third of port security money went to either Texas or Florida with only 3 percent going to New Jersey. For the record, Bush originally opposed the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. For the record, former New Jersey Governor Tom Kean headed the 9/11 Commission, a body Bush opposed creating, that suggested the Bush administration left holes in our nation’s security and recommended changes needed to be made to protect our national security.
This week, Kean has been reduced to begging Bush to come to the rescue of legislation attempting to act on the commission’s report. This comes as no surprise considering Bush has opposed much of the 9/11 Commission’s suggestions on how to strengthen national security. Even when he has succumbed to pressure to follow the commission’s ideas, he has done so reluctantly.
It is outrageous that after not a single campaign stop in New Jersey, Bush believes he can waltz into Jersey and expect a neglected population to forget how his administration and in many instances he himself, have been fingered for having dropped the ball before 9/11 and for fighting against homeland security and intelligence reforms others advocate.
One of the most insulting parts of the president’s visit was when he acted as if he knew what it was like for New Jersey residents during 9/11. He stated how “you could look across the Hudson River and see the Twin Towers burning” and how “we will never forget that day.” New Jersey, New York, Virginia, and D.C. residents saw the smoke.
The only smoke Bush could have seen was from the wheels of Air Force One as it took off to escape potential danger. The only reason Bush will never forget that day is because it gave him a chance to be a wartime president with a blank check to do as he pleased overseas.
I may be a Republican, but I’m a Republican that remembers the faces of my friends’ dead mothers and fathers. I’m a Republican who refuses to vote for someone who forgot them and only invoked their names when it seemed as if he was gaining ground in their home state.
I’m a New Jersey resident who isn’t going to forget the dead and will vote against a man who forgot them once and only remembered them again when he could find a way to use their deaths to his advantage in the election. Sen. Lautenberg said it best: “He’s here because of November 2, not 9/11.”
-The writer, a sophomore majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet columnist.