As we head into the 10th anniversary of the largest attack on America’s soul and soil, George W. Bush’s methods of dealing with terror fall under the microscope. It’s difficult to unilaterally criticize the Bush administration for their actions post 9/11, because we still don’t have all of the top secret information Bush saw in his Presidential Daily Briefings (PDBs). The New York Times was, presumably, not able to leak everything that Bush saw in his eight years in office. Having said that, most conservatives are still angry at the Bush administration for creating yet another bureaucracy to further increase the power of the federal government when they created the department of Homeland Security. Liberals are still mad at Bush for the manner in which he decided to thwart terrorism, for the wiretapping procedures, Gitmo, the pictures in Abu Ghraib, for the election Gore tried to steal, and for being George W. Bush. They didn’t care for him being George W. Bush.
Contrary to liberal projection, Bush welcomed criticism. He just didn’t openly refute it to our satisfaction. If he had, Bush could’ve said, ‘You weren’t faced with the idea that you had to protect 300 million plus people. We didn’t have the luxury of uniformed militants that had fronts and battle lines and…you know the rest.’ Bush could’ve said, ‘you didn’t see the PDBs I did, and you weren’t privy to the top secret information collected by the CIA, the FBI, and the military that I was. I had one of the most unprecedented incidents in American history happen on my watch, and I probably acted in an unprecedented manner to prevent it from happening again.’
Did Bush overdo it? Many of us think he did, but those of us who attempt to look at it objectively try to remember where we were at on 9/11 and 9/12 and in all the early days of the attack, before we moved on with our lives. We thought this was the new America. We thought we would become Israel with monthly, if not weekly, if not daily attacks on highly populated areas. People told me that they wouldn’t stay on the top floors of hotels in the aftermath, and that they were glad that they didn’t have a high rise job. As I said though, we eventually moved on. We had the luxury of laughing at the comedians who joked about the color warning systems, we scorned anyone and everyone who talked about terrorism too much because we didn’t believe they should use it as a political tactic, and we clocked in and clocked out of our jobs with the same smiles we had on 9/10. Bush, and his administration officials, were not afforded such luxuries. They had to deal with this on a daily basis, and they did, and they probably over reacted, but we haven’t had a substantial attack since 9/11, and we have those over reactions to thank for it.
As evidence of the effectiveness of the Bush administration’s policies on terrorism, we turn to one of its harshest critics: presidential candidate Barack Obama. Obama criticized the wiretapping policies, the policy to remain in Iraq, the use of Gitmo, the idea of trying terrorist enemies of the state in military tribunals, and on and on. Something happened on the way to the white house to candidate Barack Obama however. He saw the light. He saw the information collected in the PDBs from the CIA, the FBI, and the military, and he decided that Bush’s policies should remain intact. When he was on the sidelines, booing the Bush administration with all the skills he learned as a community organizer and agitator, Obama swore that he would put an end to all of these “un-American” and “un-Constitutional” policies, yet he has kept them all in place. It’s the difference between booing the team from the sidelines and being thrust into the role of quarterback. It changes your perspective on matters when it dawns on you that you are now in charge of protecting 300 million plus people on a land mass as large as ours with unprotected borders and a judicial system that challenges every aspect of your actions. Obama doesn’t have to do the latter, however, due to the fact that the Bush administration faced all the legal challenges and had all of the policies vetted and shaped them accordingly.
It should also be noted that the Bush administration was in place a mere eight months when the attack on 9/11/01 occurred. Some would also say it wasn’t a solid eight months due to the controversy that erupted after the 2000 presidential election. Some would say that as a result of that controversy, it was difficult to get all his people in place, and incorporated into his administration before that fateful day occurred. With a marred eight months to prepare for this, Bush could’ve blamed the previous administration that had eight years and numerous, numerous warnings prior to 9/11/01. American citizens may have thought less of him for doing so, but the Bush administration could’ve laid out a very persuasive argument with facts, figures and dates of previous attacks and the previous administration’s desire to treat captured terrorists as criminals and law breakers. To my knowledge, Bush never uttered a word in regard to the policies of the previous administration that led to the attacks on 9/11.
On the subject of leadership, former NFL Coach Don Shula once said: “The superior man blames himself. The inferior man blames others.”
When President Barack Obama assumed office, one of his first mandates was to blame everything regarding the nearly unprecedented economic disaster he inherited on his predecessor. Some have said that the disaster that befell Obama was the economic equivalent of 9/11. Still, if that’s the case, Bush didn’t blame Clinton for the real 9/11, so why would Obama supporters say that he should be able to blame Bush for the fallout “economic 9/11”, unless as Shula says Obama is an inferior man. It would be one thing if Obama were to merely blame Bush for the economic dilemma he was presented with and call it a day, but Obama has proceeded to blame natural disasters, The Tea Party, the Republican Congress, the Arab Spring, automation, oil speculators, and on and on for the economic malaise we are currently experiencing in his administration.
Some non-partisan types say that even if McCain won the 2008 election we would probably be in the same economic mess we’re in today. So, the partisan, Obama supporters say it’s reasonable to blame Bush based on that. Partisan types, such as me, question that, based on the fact that McCain ran on a platform that called for cutting spending. Well, so did Obama say Obama supporters. Fair enough, but McCain wouldn’t have allowed the 111th session of Congress to go so crazy with their spending. The fact that we would be in the clear with a President John McCain is debatable, but we would not be mired in the economic quagmire we’re in today with no hope or change in the foreseeable future. Plus, we can rest assure that McCain wouldn’t have blamed Bush for everything under the Sun. He would be moving us forward as opposed to regretfully shaking our heads about the past.
It’s not unprecedented that a president blames a previous administration for their current malaise. Clinton blamed H.W. Bush and Reagan, Reagan blamed Carter, and F.D.R. blamed Hoover, but the question is why does one president blame a previous administration so incessantly. If said president believed in his policies, and he saw bright light around the corner (as Obama has said regarding our impatience on his policies) why would he continue to focus our attention on the shadows of a previous administration. If he believed that his policies were going to help America he wouldn’t continue to say look at what the other guy did, he would say watch what I can do. Candidate Obama said watch what I can do to the hope and joy and crying and fainting of supporters. President Obama has said look at the other guy.
It’s hard to fathom, based on the character of the man, but if George W. Bush didn’t believe in himself or his 9/11 policies, it probably would’ve been a wiser tactic for him to blame the previous administration for everything that fell in his lap in his first year of office. As I said, he could’ve gotten away with it too. Eight months is not a sufficient amount of time to properly set a course of action that would’ve thwarted 9/11, if there is such a timeframe to prepare for such a horrific tragedy, but Bush didn’t blame anyone for the unprecedented attack. He moved forward with an agenda. He didn’t look back. He looked forward, and he showed what former NFL Coach Don Shula defined as superior leadership in the face of the greatest attack on our soil that our country has ever seen, and our country is a better place because of it.