Leadership and 9/11


The outcry over the first series of political commercials for President George W. Bush was swift and heartfelt. Using images of victims of the 9/11 attacks and firefighters responding to the emergency at the World Trade Center, the ads trumpeted President Bush’s “steady” leadership. Families of the victims and representatives of the firefighters charged that the White House is using 9/11 to advance a political agenda. Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani tried to deflect this criticism by emphasizing that Bush’s leadership has been steady. But the commercials themselves beg the question: What did President Bush do on 9/11? Giuliani himself framed the Bush question this way: “His leadership on that day is central to his record.”

Over the weekend that followed initial broadcast of the Bush campaign commercials both sides took positions on the appropriateness of their content. Democrats protested the imagery. President Bush, who in January 2002, when seeking an extra budget appropriation for his war on terrorism, had told congressional leaders, “I have no ambition whatsoever to use this as a political issue,” backed away from that undertaking. From his Crawford, Texas, ranch on March 6 Bush declared, “I will continue to speak about the effects of 9/11 on our country and my presidency.” Echoing Rudy Giuliani, Bush added, “how this administration handled that day, as well as the war on terror, is worthy of discussion.”

A leader marches to the sound of the guns. George Washington, Robert E. Lee or Napoleon would have done that. Rudy Giuliani did do that. After the first plane struck the Twin Towers, he went immediately to the World Trade Center and helped supervise emergency efforts there. But what exactly did George W. Bush do?

The short answer is, “he stayed the hell away from New York and Washington.” My question is, was it because he was physically afraid, or was it because he couldn’t handle the sudden responsibility of dealing with something of that magnitude?

For another perspective on that day, check this out.



From US News:

There are no reporters on the tarmac at Dover Air Force Base. The public is not allowed to witness the military tradition of “receiving the remains.” Instead, there are soldiers, roused at dark hours to stand in the confines of what seems like a secret as the dead are brought home.

I am one of the soldiers. Nearly every day we learn of another death in Iraq. In our collective consciousness, we tally the statistics of dead and wounded. The number is over 500 now. But none of our conjurings are as real and tangible as the Stars and Stripes folded perfectly over a coffin cradling one of those statistics on his or her way home.

…and that’s why the Bush Administration doesn’t want you to see them.


A corollary

As Josh Marshall points out, apparently the new tactic from conservatives is to call anyone criticizing neoconservatives anti-Semitic.

We’ve now gone from arguments where anti-Semitism is perceived at the margins of critiques of neoconservative intellectuals to the current practice in which it is treated as a given that ‘neoconservative’ is simply a code word for Jew and criticisms of the same are one shade or another of anti-Semitism.

Let’s be clear on what’s going on here.

Pressure groups exist in politics. The loose association of people generally termed ‘neoconservative’ use the term to describe themselves. And while no group is monolithic in its thinking, they generally think of themselves as a group and act in that fashion. We can get into a discussion at some other point about the fine points of intellectual history and note that intellectual or ideological movements are as much social constructs tethered to specific institutions as they are coherent and consistent textbook philosophies which remain the same over time. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

The point is that this is an ideological group in American politics. The people who are a part of it see it as such, as do its critics and opponents. And yet many now want to use blanket criticisms of anti-Semitism to stigmatize and ward off any and all criticism.

You really have to go read the article(s) he’s talking about to get a sense of just how nasty some of this stuff being written is. Personally, I find the whole thing beyond baffling. Until I started seeing some of these charges, I had no idea what any of the neocon’s ethnic or religious backgrounds were. I just thought they were nuts.

Aside from shock and bafflement, however, my other reaction is that the neocons must have lost the argument. Call it a corollary to Godwin’s Law— as soon as someone resorts to charges that their opponent is racist (in whatever form that takes), they have lost the argument.


Stuck at 3.0

Just checked my ad again, and it seems stuck at 3.0, after rising from 2.7 in the first 24 hours or so. So unless some massive group of people gives it a phenomenal rating, that’s where I’m guessing it will stay. After seeing some of the other ads out there that are getting higher ratings I have to say I’m a little disappointed, but in a country that has produced such pop phenoms as Michael Bolton, “Home Alone,” and pet rocks I can’t say that I’m surprised.


What we have here is a failure to communicate (?)

NY Times article discussing some growing concerns at the White House:

At the same time, Bush advisers acknowledge a high level of anxiety among House Republicans over what they perceive as the White House’s inability to communicate its policies on Iraq effectively.

Is what’s going on over there really a communications issue? Well, if by “communicate” they mean “tell the truth” then maybe.

Ok, so I linked to myself. Big deal. I’m tired of linking to Al Franken. You get the idea.