May 4 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama, whose approval ratings have surged since the killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, will travel to New York tomorrow to meet with families of Sept. 11 victims.
Former President George W. Bush, whose ratings soared to 90 percent in the weeks following the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, declined Obama’s invitation to be there.
“He appreciated the invite but has chosen in his post-presidency to remain largely out of the spotlight,” David Sherzer, a spokesman for the former president, said in an e-mailed statement. “He continues to celebrate with all Americans this important victory in the war on terror.”
Obama’s standing with Americans has risen since Navy SEALs raided a Pakistani compound on May 1 and killed the FBI’s most-wanted terrorist, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll. In questioning on May 2-3, 57 percent of respondents say they approve of the president’s overall job performance, up from 46 percent last month. The nationwide telephone poll of 532 U.S. adults has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
The president is traveling to New York tomorrow to visit Ground Zero, where the World Trade Center towers once stood, and meet with families of victims of al-Qaeda’s attacks.
The only thing the public will see during the president’s visit will be a wreath-laying ceremony at the 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero. Obama’s meetings with victim’s families and with first responders to the attack at the World Trade Center will be held in private, said White House press secretary Jay Carney today at a daily briefing with reporters.
When asked why the president decided not to make remarks tomorrow, Carney said there was no debate within the White House about whether Obama would speak. The president wants “to honor the spirit of unity in America that we all felt in the wake of that terrible attack” by laying a wreath to honor the victims, Carney said. “I think the power of that requires no words.”
The meetings with the president, which will undoubtedly mark a “bittersweet moment” for many of the family members, are most appropriately done in private, Carney said.
How long the president will benefit from the national jubilation over the killing of bin Laden remains to be seen. The jump from last month’s poll numbers is to be expected and probably won’t last, said Stuart Rothenberg, editor of the Washington-based Rothenberg Political Report.
“The poll is nothing more than a picture of how the public feels after hearing really good news,” Rothenberg said. “It’s a very abnormal situation. It’s not every day that Osama bin Laden is killed.”
According to a study by Public Opinion Strategies, a Republican polling firm, Bush had a 35 percent bump in his job approval ratings that lasted 105 weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks. According to the pollster, excluding Bush’s surge in approval ratings, the average presidential ratings increase after a crisis, such as the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, is 13 percentage points and lasts an average of 22 weeks.
A USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll released Sept. 23, 2001, showed that a record 90 percent of those polled approved of the way Bush was handling his job in the wake of the attacks. That was the highest approval rating of a U.S. president measured by the Gallup Poll, the paper said.
Handling the Economy
According to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll, good feelings about Obama didn’t extend to his handling of the economy, where his approval rating fell 4 percentage points from a poll conducted two weeks ago to the lowest level since he took office. Thirty-four percent of those polled said they approve of Obama’s handling the economy, a top issue for voters leading into the 2012 presidential campaign.
In making their case against Obama, Republicans who may seek the presidency have been spotlighting rising gasoline prices, the shaky U.S. economy and a national debt that’s approaching $14.3 trillion.
The poll numbers on the economy are a “much better indicator” of the president’s long-term success, Rothenberg said. The economy will be tops on voters’ minds “when we get back to a more normal environment in six months to a year from now, when people start refocusing on their daily lives, and issues like the rising price of gasoline will be their biggest concern,” he said.
Bin Laden, 54, was killed almost 10 years after orchestrating the 2001 attacks that took the lives of almost 3,000 people at the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon in suburban Washington and in a field in Pennsylvania, where hijacked United Airlines Flight 93 crashed.
Bush plans to mark the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attack at Ground Zero in September, Sherzer said.
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