Former President George W. Bush has turned down President Barack Obama’s invitation to join him at ground zero on Thursday, citing his desire to avoid the media glare.
“President Bush appreciated the invite, but has chosen in his post-presidency to remain largely out of the spotlight,” Bush spokesman David Sherzer told POLITICO in an email Tuesday night. “He continues to celebrate with all Americans this important victory in the war on terror.”
Obama — who has sharply criticized Bush for neglecting the hunt for Osama bin Laden by invading Iraq — made the offer to Bush shortly after he decided on his New York trip, according to two people familiar with the situation.
The president will travel to the site of the World Trade Center to mark the killing of bin Laden, who was gunned down during a daring raid on his compound north of Islamabad on Sunday. Word of bin Laden’s death prompted hundreds of New Yorkers to gather in celebration at the scene of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pa.
Obama, who last visited the site as a presidential candidate in 2008, will meet with family members of some of the victims, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other local officials.
Bush, who grabbed a bullhorn and vowed to avenge the attacks during a visit to the trade center’s smoking ruins days after bin Laden’s terrorists struck, will attend the 10th anniversary commemoration of the nation’s worst terror attack on Sept. 11, 2011, Sherzer said.
Obama also extended an invitation to Rudy Giuliani to join him at ground zero, a source familiar with the event told POLITICO.
It’s unclear what Giuliani will do, but the former New York mayor — who vaulted to global fame after the 9/11 attacks — spent part of the day Monday in lower Manhattan near the 16-acre World Trade Center site, and has praised Obama for how he handled the military raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
Maggie Haberman contributed to this report.