WASHINGTON — In contrast to a year ago, President Bush plans to stay close to the White House on the Sept. 11 anniversary next week and attend only a few low-key commemorations of the terrorist attacks.
Bush will start the day by attending a memorial service at St. John's Episcopal Church near the White House, aides said Thursday.
He will then observe a moment of silence on the White House's South Lawn at 8:46 a.m. -- the time the first jetliner struck the World Trade Center in New York two years ago. His only other public event that day will be a stop at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., to visit troops recovering from wounds suffered in the war in Iraq.
The schedule is a sharp contrast to last Sept. 11. Bush also started that day with a church service and a moment of silence but then traveled with First Lady Laura Bush to each of the three crash locations -- the Pentagon, the World Trade Center site and Shanksville, Pa., where a hijacked plane crashed into a field. In the evening, Bush delivered an address to the nation with the Statue of Liberty as a backdrop.
This year's subdued commemorations might come as a surprise to some for a president whose term has been defined by his response to the attacks. But Stephen Hess, a presidential scholar at the nonpartisan Brookings Institution think tank in Washington, said he considers Bush's low-key approach to the anniversary "brilliant."
"If he did otherwise, it would be seen as politicizing the event," Hess said. "What he's announcing sounds just about right."
Karlyn Bowman of the conservative American Enterprise Institute think tank agreed that the more reserved approach to the second anniversary was appropriate.
Although Bush will stay close to the White House, he will be represented at commemorations at each of the attack sites.
In New York, Vice President Dick Cheney will attend ceremonies at the former trade center site, the White House said. Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld will lay a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, near Washington, and help dedicate a stained-glass window at the Pentagon Chapel. Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton will participate in observances at Shanksville.
The night before the second anniversary, Bush will hold a private dinner and screening of the Academy Award-winning documentary "Twin Towers" at the White House, aides said.