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Bush Rejects Criticism of 9/11 Images in Campaign Ads - 2004-03-06

President Bush is dismissing criticism of his use of footage from the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks in campaign commercials. Some families of those killed in that violence say the president is politicizing their loss.

Two of the president's new campaign commercials include television footage of parts of the burned-out World Trade Center and firefighters at the scene. Mr. Bush, the announcer says, has shown steady leadership in times of change.

The use of the images has brought complaints from some families of those who died in the attacks. They say Mr. Bush is trying to use that violence for political gain as he seeks re-election, and they want the ads to stop.

Speaking to reporters on his Texas ranch following a meeting with Mexican President Vicente Fox, Mr. Bush said the September 11th attacks are a legitimate part of this year's campaign.

"I will continue to speak about the effects of 9/11 on our country and my presidency," he said. "I will continue to mourn the loss of life on that day, but I'll never forget the lessons. The terrorists declared war on us on that day, and I will continue to pursue this war. I have an obligation to those who died. I have an obligation to those who were heroic in their attempts to rescue, and I won't forget that obligation."

President Bush says how his administration handled that day is worthy of discussion. He says he looks forward to the debate about who is best to lead the country in the fight against terrorism.

Mindy Kleinberg lost her husband Allen in the September 11th attacks. Interviewed on NBC television Friday, she said she does not object to images of that violence being used in news stories or documentaries about the attacks. It is what she see as the political use of the event that she feels is inappropriate.

"There is a difference between using those images in an ad," she said. "I don't care if you're Republican or Democrat, or Independent. You are using images of death in an ad for political gain."

Patricia Reilly lost her sister in the attacks. During the same interview on NBC, she said she sees nothing wrong with the president using that footage in a campaign ad. "I feel the ad was tastefully done, and I do agree that these images belong to all of America, because this was an attack on America, and as long as they are done tastefully, I think we need to be reminded of the horror of that day, and of the devastation of that day, or we're destined to repeat it."

Fighting terrorism is one of the biggest issues in this year's presidential campaign - with the likely Democratic nominee, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, questioning the president's leadership. Mr. Bush says he has made the nation safer since the September 11th attacks, and will continue that work if re-elected.