Dick Morris makes a rather startling argument in his Hill op-ed, “Sept. 11 will act like a third convention for Republicans.”
This year, the Democratic convention in early August and the GOP answer at the end of the month may cancel one another out or leave one party or the other holding a key edge going into the final two months of the race. But this year, the third anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks will likely act as if it were a third party convention, giving the Republican ticket an extra boost it would not normally receive.
In a mirror image of the Madrid bombings, the anniversary of Sept. 11 should give President Bush high marks as the nation contemplates, in gratitude, the absence of any terrorist attack during the preceding three years (knock on wood).
Even if there is another incident, the very focus on terrorism will stand Bush in good stead.
The experiences over the past two months have demonstrated the underlying truth of the observation that this is not an election between two parties, two men or even two ideologies. It is a contest between two issues. If the topic du jour is terrorism or Iraq or Afghanistan or any other variant of the threat from rogue nations or al Qaeda, then Bush benefits. *** On the other hand, if the focus is on any other issues Ã¢€” the economy, Social Security, Medicare, prescription drugs for the elderly, the cost of medicine or the environment Ã¢€” Kerry will benefit.
Morris is right that, absent some sea change in attitude, an election centered on national security redounds to Bush’s benefit. The juxtaposition of the silliness and celebratory nature of a convention and the somberness of a tragic anniversary is one that makes me uncomfortable, however.
In a practical sense, too, it’s unlikely that there will be all that much coverage of the 9/11 anniversary, anyway. The first one was an event. The second one, not so much. Once the immediacy of an event is over, commemorations fade. The 5th, 10th, 20th, and 25th anniversaries of major events get some nostalgic coverage. Three isn’t a particularly celebrated number. My guess is the attention will be focused on the Major League penant races and the start of football season, not 9/11.