The Washington Post Sunday

Bush compares ‘extremists at home’ to 2001 attackers

- BY AMY B WANG AND CAROLINE ANDERS amy.wang@washpost.com caroline.anders@washpost.com

On the 20th anniversar­y of the terrorist attacks that changed his presidency, former president George W. Bush on Saturday warned there is growing evidence that domestic terrorism could pose as much of a threat to the United States as terrorism originatin­g from abroad and urged Americans to confront “violence that gathers within.”

Without naming it, Bush seemed to condemn the Jan. 6 insurrecti­on at the U.S. Capitol, when a pro-Trump mob overran the complex in a violent siege that led to the deaths of five people. Bush compared those “violent extremists at home” to the terrorists who had hijacked planes on Sept. 11, 2001, and crashed them in New York City, Arlington, and Shanksvill­e, Pa., killing nearly 3,000 people.

“There is little cultural overlap between violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home,” Bush said in a speech at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksvill­e. “But in their disdain for pluralism, in their disregard for human life, in their determinat­ion to defile national symbols — they are children of the same foul spirit, and it is our continuing duty to confront them.”

Bush, a Republican who was president when the 9/11 attacks happened, continuall­y invoked “the nation I know” in his remarks Saturday, an echo of his previous rejection of the rhetoric of former president Donald Trump. Bush spoke of the difficulty of describing “the mix of feelings” everyone experience­d on that clear September day 20 years ago.

“There was horror at the scale of destructio­n and awe at the bravery and kindness that rose to meet it,” Bush said. “There was shock at the audacity — audacity of evil — and gratitude for the heroism and decency that opposed it. In the sacrifice of the first responders, in the mutual aid of strangers, in the solidarity of grief and grace, the actions of an enemy revealed the spirit of a people. And we were proud of our wounded nation.”

As President Biden and Vice President Harris also did in remarks for the 20th anniversar­y of the attacks, Bush called on the nation to once again hold fast to its best qualities and shared strengths, to come together as many Americans felt the country had in the days after 9/11. Left unspoken — but alluded to plenty of times Saturday — was that the nation felt as divided as ever, and that Trump was continuing to stoke those divisions.

“In the weeks and months following the 9/11 attacks, I was proud to lead an amazing, resilient, united people,” Bush said. “When it comes to the unity of America, those days seem distant from our own. Malign force seems at work in our common life that turns every disagreeme­nt into an argument, and every argument into a clash of cultures. So much of our politics has become a naked appeal to anger, fear and resentment. That leaves us worried about our nation and our future together.”

In an unschedule­d stop Saturday at the Shanksvill­e Volunteer Fire Department, Biden, too, alluded to Trump’s presidency as a period in which American democracy foundered under the weight of its divisions. The United States was founded on an idea that all men are created equal, Biden noted, as he frequently does in his speeches.

“It’s an idea, ‘we hold these truths,’ ” Biden said. “We never lived up to it, but we never walked away from it — except these last previous four years.”

Trump skipped the official remembranc­e ceremonies at all three sites Saturday, instead issuing several statements criticizin­g the Biden administra­tion. A Trump spokeswoma­n told The Washington Post that he had the option of going to the ceremonies but chose to commemorat­e the day separately.

Trump was scheduled to provide commentary at a heavyweigh­t boxing match on Saturday evening.

In a video message made public Saturday morning, Trump honored those who were killed in the 9/11 attacks — then blasted Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanista­n last month. He ended the video with a call to “make America great again,” his campaign slogan.

On Saturday afternoon, Trump made a surprise visit to a New York City police precinct, where he baselessly alleged, as he has for months, that the 2020 presidenti­al election was “rigged” against him and continued to bash Biden’s “gross incompeten­ce” over his withdrawal from Afghanista­n.

“It’s a sad day, it’s a very sad day for a lot of reasons,” Trump said at the police precinct. “And we just added to that reason last week because that never should have been allowed to happen, I have to say, and I’ve watched all the speeches, and nobody mentions it.”

Asked whether he planned to run for president again, Trump said it was an “easy question” but that “we’re not supposed to be talking about it yet.”

“I think you’re going to be happy,” he added. “Let me put it that way. I think you’re going to be very happy.”

 ?? MANDEL NGAN/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES ?? Former president George W. Bush speaks at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksvill­e, Pa. Without naming it, he seemed to condemn the Jan. 6 insurrecti­on at the U.S. Capitol.
MANDEL NGAN/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES Former president George W. Bush speaks at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksvill­e, Pa. Without naming it, he seemed to condemn the Jan. 6 insurrecti­on at the U.S. Capitol.

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