The fact is, Peaceful Tomorrows is as political as Bush is. Its members bash Bush for using force to fight al Qaeda. They hit him for sending troops to topple Saddam Hussein. Now, in protesting the ads, they even criticize him for using history to make his political point.
Why not? It works. The Bushies don't dare protest. And after the activists have drawn blood, Sen. John Kerry can woefully intone that the Bush ads were "inappropriate." (Like there are appropriate campaign ads.)
What about the ads in which the Kerry camp boasted that the senator "sounded the alarm on terrorism before Sept. 11"? Those ads are different because Kerry didn't show (Kerry aides repeat the word frequently used by Peaceful Tomorrows members) "images." There's always some niggling distinction that makes the Democrats righteous and the Republicans craven. This time, it's "images."
The Peaceful Tomorrows families are claiming the "images" as their own. By holding the first press conference -- thanks to the partisan Moveon.org -- they seek to relegate the large number of voters and victims' families who support Bush in his war on terrorism as afterthoughts.
But as another victim's family member, Debra Burlingame, wrote in The Wall Street Journal Monday, the press conference was "an attempt to stifle debate over the future direction of our country by declaring that the images of Sept. 11 should be off-limits in the presidential race, and do so under the rubric of 'The families of Sept. 11.'" The rubric is false, Burlingame has pointed out, as many of the Peaceful Tomorrows families have no problem with or even support the Bush/Cheney spots.
Sept. 11 belongs neither to one political group nor to Bush, but to America. It was a nation-shaping moment and thus belongs to even American politics, all of American politics.