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OUTED BRIEF = 9/11 GONE FROM BUSH CAMPAIGN

On Meet the Press this morning, Washington's cognoscenti declared that the release of the August 6, 2001 President's Daily Brief -- "Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US" -- won't hurt Bush politically.They're wrong. Here's why.It wasn't long ago that the President was ready to make 9/11 the centerpiece of his campaign. That's why this year's Republican National Convention was being held in New York, in September. That's why his first campaign ad used images from the tragedy. It cemented his position as a steely leader in times of crisis, the thinking went. And anyone who opposed Bush would implicitly be for the terrorists that brought down the Towers.But with the release of the brief, and other events of recent weeks, that strategy is gone. A pillar of the President's re-election strategy has been taken away. The Convention's timing and location are looking like liabilities, not assets. "Bush won't dare show more 9/11 images in his campaign ads," the Republican columnist Jim Pinkerton predicts.That means Bush has to now run on the economy and on the war. And judging by the last week in Iraq, that's an iffy proposition, at best.THERE'S MORE: The Democrats have tried for years now to portray Bush as weak on homeland defense. It didn't work. Sure, Bush skimped on equipping firefighters, gave New York City the finger instead of a helping hand, and resisted (at first) putting together a Department of Homeland Security. But none of that mattered, while Bush was seen as strong on 9/11. If that starts to change -- and it looks like it might -- then all these other attacks suddenly gain new potency, new power.AND MORE: "I think I have to disagree with you on whether Bush can still run on 9/11. I just don't see what evidence there is that the president is going to be held personally responsible for missing the attack; he definitely should have done more, but even if the attacks were technically 'preventable,' I think most of the public understands that it would have been very difficult to stop them," Defense Tech pal (and Salon writer) Farhad Manjoo says in an e-mail."I'm no Bush fan, but I buy this argument; I think he was wrong not to look for specifics, but I don't think any other president in his position would have done something differently."

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