AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka released a statement Friday commemorating the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11 -- and promptly turned it into a political opportunity to bash Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Karl Rove and other conservatives for opening "the door to hate" in the decade since the attacks:
Wealthy CEOs, anti-government extremist front groups and frothing talk show hosts—from the Rush Limbaughs and Glenn Becks to the Koch brothers, Karl Rove’s American Crossroads group, Americans for Prosperity, the Club for Growth, FreedomWorks and the American Legislative Exchange Council—also pushed open the door to hate.
Despite the unity Americans first felt in the wake of 9/11, that hate has led to "ill-thought wars," the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and attacks on immigrants and members of the LGBT community, Trumka said. It is also responsible for a racist conspiracy against President Barack Obama:
We saw it in the racism that has found overt and covert expression since Barack Obama began his run for office—from outright declarations of people who said out loud they would never vote for a black man to the ridiculously persistent obsession with our president’s birth certificate. Regardless of his policies or priorities, President Obama is shadowed by the drumbeat of suspicion based on his “other”-ness. And those suspicions are fed and watered constantly by forces that were threatened by his message of “hope and change.”
Trumka, who attended Thursday's speech as the president's guest, said workers have been "vilified" by the "extremist small government posse" that has turned them into "public enemy No. 1." In state after state this year, politicians have gone after the "paychecks, benefits and basic rights" of workers and sought to pit them against each other "in a rabid campaign to shift government support to tax breaks for the wealthy and already profitable corporations."
Recall that before the 2004 election, the AFL-CIO heavily criticized President George W. Bush for using images of firefighters from Sept. 11 in campaign ads, calling them "disgraceful" and saying they "smack of political opportunism."
"I'm disappointed but not surprised that the President would try to trade on the heroism of those fire fighters in the September 11 attacks. The use of 9/11 images are hypocrisy at its worst," Harold Schaitberger, president of the firefighters union, said in 2004.
But this time, it's Trumka outright using the firefighters' heroism, linking their bravery of running into the burning World Trade Center to standing with teachers in Wisconsin:
That’s what sent 347 firefighters to their death at the Twin Towers 10 years ago. It’s also what sent firefighters to stand with teachers in Wisconsin even though Gov. Scott Walker had exempted them from his attack on public employees. It’s what moves employed people now to demand good jobs for the 26 million Americans who are looking for work. It’s what gives us the courage to take on a crumbling economy and the politicians preaching austerity and ignoring our jobs crisis—to take them on and say, “We are America. We are better than this. And we are one.”
In his conclusion, Trumka calls for union activism to honor the anniversary:
Brothers and sisters, friends, I hope you will join me in marking this solemn anniversary by committing to redouble your activism on behalf of America’s everyday working heroes. We will rise or fall together.
Interesting to see how the times have changed.