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“Most Republicans Still Haven’t Learned Anything”: Jeb Bush And The Republican Party’s Bizarre 9/11 Blind Spot

Donald Trump is more of a reality show contestant engaged in the simulacrum of a presidential candidacy than an actual candidate for president. But this comes with an advantage: He can tell the truths that are inconvenient to Republican dogma.

This was evident many times during the Republican debate earlier this week. Showing both a talent for getting under the skin of Jeb Bush and a firmer grasp of the fundamentals crucial to winning elections, Trump observed in an exchange with Bush that his brother’s presidency had been such a “disaster” that Abraham Lincoln couldn’t have won on the Republican ticket in 2008. Bush rose to his brother’s defense in a highly revealing way. “You know what? As it relates to my brother there’s one thing I know for sure,” Bush asserted. “He kept us safe. You remember the — the rubble? You remember the fire fighter with his arms around him? He sent a clear signal that the United States would be strong and fight Islamic terrorism, and he did keep us safe.”

Bush’s defense of his brother is so obviously self-refuting it would be funny if the subject wasn’t so serious. Bush’s invocation of the ruins of the World Trade Center while claiming that his brother “kept us safe” is reminiscent of Alan Greenspan’s legendary argument that “with notably rare exceptions (2008, for example), the global ‘invisible hand’ has created relatively stable exchange rates, interest rates, prices, and wage rates.” With the notably rare exception of the worst terrorist attack ever on American soil, George W. Bush kept us safe!

In the GOP’s warped view of its national security record, you would think that the Supreme Court had allowed a fair recount to proceed in Florida, Al Gore had assumed the White House, then was replaced by the manly action hero George W. Bush after the 9/11 attacks. It’s not even true that there were no further terrorist attacks after 9/11 — in fact, there were anthrax attacks after 9/11 that helped contribute to a climate of fear in which too many civil liberties were dissolved.

Nor is it true that the 9/11 attacks were a simple matter of force majeure, beyond the responsibility of the White House. When Bush assumed office, he and his foreign policy team were convinced that the Clinton administration placed too much emphasis on al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. Most of Bush’s foreign policy team believed that rogue states, not stateless terrorists, were the biggest threat to American security. Presented with a memo titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” during a month-long vacation a little more than a month before 9/11, Bush dismissively responded, “All right. You’ve covered your ass, now.”

To be clear, I’m not arguing that Bush could easily have prevented the 9/11 attacks by taking Islamic terrorism more seriously. The attacks may well have happened with Al Gore in the White House. But he wasn’t merely a helpless bystander. His choices made stopping the 9/11 attacks less likely — and they happened. He cannot escape some measure of responsibility for them.

Worse, the Bush administration’s fallacy that states, not stateless terrorists, were the fundamental threat to global security persisted after 9/11, leading to the disastrous decision to invade Iraq. Some of the Republican candidates — not only Trump but Rand Paul, Ben Carson, and John Kasich — have argued that the decision to invade Iraq, so immensely costly in human lives and resources, was a horrible mistake.

However, none of these critics of the war are going to be the Republican nominee. And most Republicans, as we could see at the debates, still haven’t learned anything. “We lost friends [on 9/11.] We went to the funerals,” blustered Christ Christie. “And I will tell you that what those people wanted and what they deserved was for America to answer back against what had been done to them.” The answer, apparently, was to attack a random country that had nothing whatsoever to do with the attacks, because this would accomplish…well, it never made any sense.

The invasion of Iraq, as Paul attempted to explain, was counterproductive, creating anarchic contexts in which brutal terrorists have flourished. The defenders of Bush’s foreign policy — particularly Marco Rubio — attempted to blame this on that meddling Barack Obama for pulling troops out of Iraq. War cannot fail for mainstream Republicans — it can only be failed by not becoming perpetual. This isn’t so much a policy doctrine as a mediocre 80s action movie. And Republicans will go to any length to defend it, even if it means wiping 9/11 from Bush’s record.

Did Bush “keep us safe?” Absolutely not. Indeed, one would have to go back to James Buchanan, if not James Madison, to find a president with a worse record for protecting American civilians. What’s scary is that the most plausible candidates to head the Republican ticket in 2016 think that Bush’s security policies were a smashing success.


By: Scott Lemieux, The Week, September 18, 2015

September 19, 2015 Posted by | 911, Jeb Bush, Republicans | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Government Has Not Failed The People As It Did In 1860

For all its current shortcomings, the United States government remains intact, and the issues it faces are not as resistant to compromise as slavery, which means that 2011 was not as bad as 1860, a year that nearly ended the existence of the United States.

In 1860, “the government” failed on four distinct levels: a major political party, the legislative branch, the executive branch, and the electorate. At the Democratic National Convention in April, delegates from 10 states walked out in response to the nomination of a presidential candidate and the adoption of a platform of which they disapproved, and formed a breakaway party. That break severed one of few remaining national institutions, and opened the way for the victory of Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln. Before Lincoln took office, seven states left the Union.

Neither the legislative nor the executive branches responded well. An incendiary public letter decrying compromise issued by southern congressmen on Dece. 13, 1860, made it obvious that congressional attempts at compromise were exercises in futility. President James Buchanan simply counted days until he could get out of Washington, while members of his Cabinet, most egregiously Secretary of War John Floyd, actively aided secessionists.

Then as now, elected officials in Washington do not have a corner on blame, for if “We the people” in our Constitution’s preamble means anything, then government is not a faraway them; it is us. The electorate shares responsibility. Self-government works if and only if all parties abide by election results whether or not they like them. If a dissatisfied part of the electorate decides it need not be bound by election results, then self-government loses all legitimacy, and the American experiment in self-government fails, which was what Lincoln meant when he explained that secession in response to election results presented “to the whole family of man, the question, whether a constitutional republic, or a democracy–a government of the people, by the same people” could survive.

We may shake our heads in frustration, but we do not face issues as essentially impervious to compromise as slavery, nor do we seriously question the government’s survival, which reminds us that things could be worse. But 1860 should also remind us that if we are to look for the sources of our government’s problems, then “We the People” cannot exempt ourselves from some of the scrutiny.


By: Chandra Manning, U. S. News and World Report, December 30, 2011

December 30, 2011 Posted by | Constitution, Democracy, Government | , , , , , | Leave a comment


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