On 9/11, candidates will show unity
WASHINGTON - Senators John McCain and Barack Obama said yesterday that they will put aside partisan politics for a joint appearance at ground zero to mark the seventh anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
The Democratic and Republican presidential nominees, in a statement, said they will appear together at the World Trade Center site on Thursday "to honor the memory of each and every American who died" in the 2001 attacks.
The campaigns already had agreed to suspend television advertising critical of each other on Sept. 11. The McCain campaign has said it will air no ads that day. Both campaigns have been running negative television ads and, at the just-concluded political conventions, pulled no punches in exploiting partisan differences.
Obama and McCain said Thursday will be different. "All of us came together on 9/11 - not as Democrats or Republicans - but as Americans," they said. "We were united as one American family. On Thursday, we will put aside politics and come together to renew that unity."
A midday rally yesterday at an airport hangar here seems to have pulled McCain's third straight showing of more than 10,000 attendees.
Until recently, it was remarkable for McCain to speak to one-tenth of that.
Although they long ago booked such large venues, McCain aides say they are surprised by the turnouts. Campaign staffers had projected only 1,000 to show up Friday for a morning rally in a Milwaukee suburb, while an estimated 12,000 ended up flooding Cedarburg's small-town streets.
But unlike Obama's campaign, McCain's doesn't know who any of them are.
From the outset of his candidacy, Obama has required attendees to preregister for tickets to his events, an innovation in data collection that has given the campaign reams of new information on potential supporters that can be used for later contact and persuasion.
McCain has no immediate plans to require the growing throngs at his events to register, according to adviser Charlie Black, who cited the demands such a program would place on campaign labor and technology.
Speaking to 800 people at the Wabash Valley Fairgrounds in Terre Haute, Ind., the Democratic presidential nominee ridiculed John McCain and his running mate, the Alaska governor, for describing themselves as agents of change at this week's GOP convention.
"Don't be fooled," Obama told the crowd surrounding him in a large barn. "John McCain's party, with the help of John McCain, has been in charge" for nearly eight years.
"I know the governor of Alaska has been saying she's change, and that's great," Obama said. "She's a skillful politician. But, you know, when you've been taking all these earmarks when it's convenient, and then suddenly you're the champion antiearmark person, that's not change. Come on! I mean, words mean something, you can't just make stuff up."
McCain has vowed to wipe out earmarks, which are targeted funding for specific projects that lawmakers put into spending bills.
As governor, Palin originally supported earmarks for a controversial Alaska project dubbed the "bridge to nowhere." But she dropped her support after the state's likely share of the cost rose. She kept $27 million to build the approach road to the bridge.
Obama delivered some of his most withering criticisms yet of McCain, although he did so with chuckles and an air of mock disbelief. McCain has acknowledged voting with President Bush 90 percent of the time in Congress, Obama said.
"And suddenly he's the change agent? Ha. He says, 'I'm going to tell those lobbyists that their days of running Washington are over.' Who is he going to tell? Is he going to tell his campaign chairman, who's one of the biggest corporate lobbyists in Washington? Is he going to tell his campaign manager, who was one of the biggest corporate lobbyists in Washington?"
The McCain campaign noted that Obama has steered numerous earmarks to his state of Illinois. Obama, however, has not been the critic of earmarks that McCain and, more recently Palin, have been.