Wasn’t he expected to speak when the event was first announced a few days ago? Why, I believe he was: “The president is scheduled to deliver a speech, tour the site and meet privately with family members, an administration official said.” He did speak briefly today after meeting with members of the FDNY — you’ll find video of that below — but that’s not what the White House had in mind initially, I think. The way Mark Knoller phrases it, it sounds like Obama did intend to give an address at Ground Zero and then changed his mind.
I wonder why. Could be that he simply decided that using GZ as the backdrop for a speech would be in poor taste no matter the occasion; in that case, David Plouffe and Axelrod must still be weeping from disappointment as I write this. Or it could be that he felt boxed in by his decision not to release the Bin Laden photos on grounds that “we don’t need to spike the football.” An “Osama’s dead” speech in the footprint of the Trade Center would have been the ultimate ball-spiking, however solemn his tone. He might as well have rolled out a poster-sized photo of the Bin Laden head shot and posed in front of it giving the thumbs up.
Here’s the wreath-laying and the firehouse meet-and-greet. The money line: “When we say we will never forget, we mean what we say.” As for why Bush chose to skip the event, the Daily News quotes on anonymous source as saying he’s annoyed that O won’t give more credit to the intelligence apparatus that he built. Laura Bush says that isn’t true, though. Dubya’s lying low to stay out of the public eye and to defer to Obama in official ceremonies like this. Understandable and creditable, but a joint wreath-laying would have been a memorable moment.