President Obama and Mitt Romney did manage to make some political points as they observed the anniversary of the attacks.
Updated: September 11, 2012 - 8:30 PM
WASHINGTON - President Obama and Mitt Romney declared a truce from partisan attacks Tuesday as the nation observed the Sept. 11 anniversary, but campaign politics crackled through anyway.
The campaigns pulled their negative ads and scheduled no rallies. But both candidates stayed in the public eye as the nation marked the 11th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.
Obama observed a moment of silence at the White House, attended a memorial service at the Pentagon, visited Arlington National Cemetery and then met privately with wounded soldiers and their families at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. But former President Bill Clinton carried on with a campaign stop for Obama in Miami, Fla., where he contrasted the president's vision for health care, education and lowering the debt with that of Republicans. Appeals to register to vote also were issued under First Lady Michelle Obama's name.
In an echo of his usual campaign speech, Obama noted that the war in Iraq is over and troops are on track to leave Afghanistan in 2014.
"Al-Qaida's leadership has been devastated, and Osama bin Laden will never threaten us again," Obama said at the Pentagon. "Our country is safer and our people are resilient."
'An American century'
Romney, in Reno, Nev., to address a meeting of the National Guard, indirectly but clearly drew distinctions with Obama by spelling out his own national security goals.
"I wish I could say the world is less dangerous now," he said.
After declaring that the day was not the proper moment to address differences with the president, Romney took issue with threatened cuts in defense and the handling of disability claims and called for more assertive international leadership.
"This century must be an American century," Romney said. "It is now our duty to steer it onto the path of freedom, peace and prosperity. America must lead the free world, and the free world must lead the entire world."
He alluded to his criticism of Obama over threatened cuts in military spending that would kick in if Congress and the president don't agree on major federal deficit reductions. While acknowledging that the Iraq war is over and the United States is on a path to exit Afghanistan, Romney warned: "The return of our troops cannot and must not be used as an excuse to hollow out our military through devastating defense budget cuts."
Obama has insisted on a deficit deal that includes both spending cuts and tax increases.
Ask military commanders
In addressing the National Guard, Romney said the U.S. goal in Afghanistan should be to transfer security to Afghan forces in 2014 -- the same timeline as Obama's. But he cautioned, "We should evaluate conditions on the ground and solicit the best advice of our military commanders."
Obama's public appearances were largely spent in quiet contemplation, first during a moment of silence on the South Lawn at the White House at precisely the time that American Airlines Flight 11 became the first hijacked plane to hit the World Trade Center 11 years ago.
Obama and his wife then placed a wreath at the Pentagon, where another plane hit on Sept. 11. Afterward, they traveled to nearby Arlington National Cemetery to walk among the white headstones in a section devoted to the remains of those killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"This anniversary allows us to renew our faith that even the darkest night gives way to a brighter dawn," Obama said.
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