Tuesday, September 12, 2006

A Coward Turns Away, but a Brave Man's Choice is Danger

I had not planned to write about September 11. As a historian, however, I am inclined to want as many people to write about their experiences as possible. One can only presume that future historians will have access to blog content. The more voices and perspectives they have, the better their work will turn out. Trust me – as I search out ever scrap of paper that I can find from the Taos Rebellion of 1847, particularly from Mexicans’ perspectives, I want life to be easier for other history folk.

Still, I an not inclined at this moment to write about my own day for whatever reasons. As a result, I planned to let the day go by with a quiet respect for those who suffered.

I just can’t stomach, however, Georgie Bush trying to use September 11 for his own political gain yet again. For twenty-two minutes last night, Bushie dishonored the nation with his thinly veiled effort to build consensus behind his administration’s disastrous foreign policy. Sometimes I feel like I am the only one who thinks that George Bush is the last person to be able to claim a moral authority or sense of leadership from September 11. Then I find that Keith Olbermann’s scrotum apparently contains balls of granite. More than any of our pitiful elected officials, Olbermann talks about the anger that many Americans feel.

Nobody ever wants to point out Bush’s failures on that day. Given how much Bush likes to sell himself as the center of 9/11, why doesn’t anybody ever remember his actual actions on that day? Democrats long ago proved themselves uwilling or unable to criticize the President. Thus, they are constantly surprised when an angry public rejects them (I am looking at you, Mr. Liberman).

Unlike the everyday people in New York, Washington D.C., or on board the hijacked planes, who showed personal heroism, Bush revealed his true inner character as a pitiful coward. Bush was not a leader – Indeed, I think that Bush is responsible for making September 11 even worse by disappearing for almost the entire day. Rumors abound that even George Bush, Sr. expressed disappointment at his son’s dishonorable behavior on September 11.

Bush’s slow response at Booker Elementary School took a prominent place in Michael Moore’s film about the event. Famously, Bush sat dumbfounded and quite obviously out of his league.

Yet, even Moore shied away from pointing out the President’s even more reprehensible actions for the rest of the day. Like everybody, I sat glued to the television. I remember clearly watching Air Force One leave Florida. I always despised Bush. Nothing would change that. As I saw the 747 leave the airfield, though, I admit that I felt some relief.

See – There is a certain script to national crises. It doesn’t really matter who holds the office, but Presidents are just supposed to perform certain actions. As a show of leadership and national strength, the President must return to Washington, D.C., the center of government, during an event of that magnitude. “Even if he is a horrible President,” I thought, “at least he is doing that.”

It turns out, though, I was way off by a long, long mile. Bushie did not return to Washington, D.C. He simply disappeared for hours and hours. Unknown to the public, Bush ordered Air Force One to circle Sarasota Florida so that he could decide whether or not it was safe for him to go back to the Capitol. From 9:57 am to 10:32 am, Air Force One simply went in circles.

Secret Service always assumes the worst case scenario. Their goal is to keep the President and other key leaders safe. As a result, they will give the most conservative advice possible. That’s their job. We should not be surprised, therefore, that they suggested that Bush stay clear of Washington, D.C.

Indeed, Secret Service often gives this advice to presidents during moments of turmoil. John Kennedy heard that he should leave the Capitol during the Cuban Missel Crisis. The Secret Service feared for Franklin Roosevelt’s safety in the White House during World War II.

It’s the job of a leader, however, to set aside his own personal safety in favor of the greater good. He or she has to understand that upon taking that type of job, you no longer can think of your own individual safety. As President, you are a key symbol and must show the strength and determination of the public. As Commander-in-Chief, you need to be willing to lose your life if you are to ask any soldier to lose theirs. JFK did not leave even as the threat of nuclear attack seemed imminent. Roosevelt added some black drapes to the White House so it would not be as visible at night, but buckled down for the long haul. Abraham Lincoln refused to depart when the White House stood literally miles from the battle front. Puerto Rican nationalists attempted to assassinate Harry Truman, but he stayed put. That’s just what presidents do.

Bush, however, was never presidential material. His entire life history showed that he only thought of himself and rarely did anything that required actual courage. Yet, I am still amazed that at 10:32 am on September 11, George Bush, Jr. decided to run away from the horrific events of that day and protect himself. The blue jet veered away from Florida and set a course the opposite direction of the White House.

At 11:45 am, Air Force One landed at Barksdale Airforce Base near Shreveport, Louisiana. At 12:30 pm, Bush taped a short speech. He looked dreadful and close to tears. They were not, though, tears of mourning. Rather, he looked to me like he was crying for himself and his own fear. Not surprisingly, I could not find a video clip of this moment. It really doesn't fit with the adminstration's revised version of that day.

This time around, Bush apparently decided there were too many witnesses to his personal failures. After stocking-up on the Depends, he ordered almost all of the press off of the presidential jet, leaving them stranded in Louisiana. At 1:30pm, he departed and eventually flew to Nebraska. I began to wonder, is Bush trying to make a run for Canada? Is he on the verge of simply abdicating and we will never hear from him again?

He landed at Offutt, Nebrasaka at 3:00pm and immediately went deep into a bunker designed to withstand a nuclear blast. Sitting 1,392 miles from the Capitol, Bush hid in his underground cubby hole for hours. People expected him to give another speech or statement to reassure a grief-stricken nation. He did not.

Eventually, public outcry reached the White House. Karen Hughes and Karl Rove concocted elaborate stories about Air Force One having had terrorist threats. By September 27, 2001, The Washington Post proved that the White House fabricated these stories in order to explain Bush’s cowardice.

Some people like to say, "Give him a break. He is only human. What would you have done?" See, the problem with that being that I am not the President of the United States. I am just a guy with a blog. Still, I am tired of a man who wants unquestioned devotion when he has shown no signs of real leadership. We are supposed to expect more of our president than ourselves.

Bush did not actually return to the White House until ten hours after the first attack. During that time, panic throughout the nation increased. Though Bush loves to talk about standing on rubble with a bullhorn, he did not get to New York City until three days after the attack. In contrast, former President Clinton and Al Gore (the man who actually won the popular vote in 2000) both made immediate arrangements to reach New York City.

Maybe we can set aside that Bush simply didn’t care about the nation, but he didn’t even seem to care about the people that he allegedly loved. During his zig-zagging across the U.S., Bush seemed indifferent to his wife’s location. She, unlike him, was at the White House throughout the day. The White House being the place Bush desperately avoided going. Nor did he care about his daughters. Did he ever ask about their safety as he went into his bomb proof bunker? All he thought about was saving his own pitiful ass.

However we judge John F. Kennedy today, he, unlike Bush, understood the role of the Presidency as more than an individual. He ultimately traded his life for the job. “A man does what he must,” Kennedy wrote, “in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures – and that is the basis of all human morality.” Based on this criteria, we can see Bush’s reaction to September 11 as not only cowardly, but immoral.

Bush wants us to judge his administration using September 11. Okay, say I, let us judge him from the moment it occurred. For me, his decision to run away and hide in the midst of catastrophe will always be the defining moment of his life.


Hilaire said...

Well said, GayProf.

I (a Canadian) watched his address last night with my mouth agape. It may be that I don't get the persistence of *some* people's loyalty to him - given that I live in a country whose media is generally suspicious of Mr. Bush - but I was simply shocked to hear him even try to put a good face on anything that's happened in the wake of 9/11. Hello? Doesn't *everyone* realize the lies and deceit that have been circulating since then? I. just. don't. get. it. It seemed to me that, if anything, that speech should have been a time to finally own up to failure and error...wouldn't that be the only respectful way to make such an intervention? Hearing him whitewash the war(s), essentially ignore the non-existence of WMDs, and wrap it all up in the fascistic "clash of civilizations" thesis...even if *he's* an idiot, how can his advisors advise him that the public will buy this stuff? Good lord. What am I not getting?

Dorian said...

To this day I'm baffled as to how Bush and his administration managed to turn their biggest failure into a point of pride.

MEK the Bear said...

Thank you! From the wonderful clip by Olbermann (whose children I would gladly bear!!) to your very informative and thought provoking essay. I was unaware of the president's cowardice in regards to 9/11 (in regards to other things sure, but I hadn't heard this before). And as unsurprised as I should have been, I felt shock and outrage all over again. Impeachable offenses indeed!

Nate The Great said...

VERY, well said.

brian said...

Gravitas noted.Well said GayProf.
Sometimes I feel as though my preceptions are occurring in some parallel dimension.
Spin,spin and spin.Until recently these were terms I associated with knitting.
9/11,Iraq,Katrina,Gitmo,secret foreign prisons,torture but we must"STAY THE COURSE".
I feel like Alice in Through the Looking Glass.

Kalvin said...

OMG, that olberman thing is so good. I haven't wanted to write anything about it, and maybe I won't because I feel like Oldberman was so good that I don't have anything else to add. The day only becomes more infamous to me as time goes on.

Gay Erasmus said...

9/11 was also the most widely, internationally televised American national crisis of all time. For hours everybody had regular updates about your president's disappearance. It just added to the tumult of global confusion on the day.

Adam said...

Maybe he hid because he was running away from the crime scene that his friends created. Just a thought.


Bewareoftheblog said...

nicely put.

Roger Owen Green said...

The thing about that speech yesterday is that it's largely the same stump speech he's been making for the past two weeks. Nothing new. It was BS then, it's BS now.

I was watching Charlie Gibson's interview with W. Most of it aired last week. But Gibson kept back a piece for yesterday. Bush talked about how not only the Secret Service, but also Cheney and unnamed others "suggested" he not go back to DC, showing that, at least at that point, he was pretty much the Veep's puppet.

Truth is, though, I don't so much care about the (in)action of that day, because his subsequent behavior, starting a war in Afghanistan and not finishing it, invading Iraq for no good reason, stealing the government through his "signning statements", and much more, all in the name of 9/11, are just so much more reprehensible.

I know it's been said before, but, on 9/12/2001, most of the world loved America. How did W blow it so badly?

Doug said...

Excellent commentary, GayProf. Thank you.

It all stems from the assumption that Bush or his administration has ever cared about anything other than themselves and their own personal gain.

Wealth. Power. Control. Fear.

Michael said...

Hilaire said... even if *he's* an idiot, how can his advisors advise him that the public will buy this stuff? Good lord. What am I not getting? "

What you are not getting, my Candadian friend is that, sadly, many many Americans do buy it. Yes, the presidential's approval rating is in the dumps almost never seen before, but if people by and large did not buy it, there would be (and would have been much earlier) a cry for impeachment.

It's MORE than clear this president and many others have consistently lied, covered up, and have done their best to turn America into a police state while pissing off the rest of the world. Yet, he stays in office. How? Why?

With few exceptions (and God bless Olberman for that well-done piece, although I don't get the Disney reference), the news media has treated Bush exceptionally softly. Outside of comedians (Daily Show, Letterman, etc.), I don't see anybody seriously questioning the president or holding him accountable. The Democrats and moderate Republicans have abdicated their responsibility to hold this administration responsible for ANYTHING.

A culture of fear has been successfully created by the Republicans and others (religious right groups for one) that we have bought into. We are being ruled by our own fear. Where is FDR when you need him?

jeremy said...

Olberman has been on W's case for a while and thank Nascar-driving-shotgun-toting-Jesus that he is. Journalists are supposed to be watchdogs not lapdogs, right?
Did Matt Lauer just bust the prez?
What pisses me off the most, though, is poor voter turnout.
We'll be lucky if we break 38% of registered voters for midterms. And that's only registered voters--which is about 70% of the eligible population. How are we supposed to engage the rest of the population?

tornwordo said...

Well, you know how I feel. It just doesn't seem possible that he still occupies the office.

Laura Elizabeth said...

Thank you for reminding us of Bush's cowardly actions that day. Everyone was asking where the f*ck he was that day, yet no one talks about it.

"I began to wonder, is Bush trying to make a run for Canada? Is he on the verge of simply abdicating and we will never hear from him again?"

Dear gods, if only he had.

Of course that would have left us with President Cheney - which might have been worse than just Vice President Cheney.

"Sometimes I feel like I am the only one who thinks that George Bush is the last person to be able to claim a moral authority or sense of leadership from September 11."

You are not GayProf. There is a serious need for all of us who feel the same way you do to become active in the political process - even if it's just voting. Change cannot come if all any of us do is complain about it. Impeachment will not come unless we all work for it.

MEK the Bear said...

Michael, Olbermann's Disney reference was a slam at the company I, sadly, work for because they stupidly decided to create a 'factors leading up to 9/11' film written by a known conservative who spun the whole thing to make it look like the democrats were responsible and that the republicans were left to clean up the mess. It was a ridiculous and insane rewriting of history. The credits even stated that the film was written by information taken from the 9/11 commission report, interviews and other sources as if it was a documentary, then went on to state that some scenes were inserted for dramatic purposes and have been fictionalized. That would have been the entire film except for the attack on WTC which was the ONLY thing accurately taken from the 9/11 commission report. At the last minute they severely edited the programming so it ‘wasn’t such an attack on democrats’, unfortunately the decision should have been to pull the programming, but we had spent way too much money on it to do that. Pathetic, can you tell I’m little over working at Mousehwitz?

Stash said...

If W is Darth Vader and Cheney is The Emperor, then who is Luke Skywalker?

WayOut said...

Olbermann deserves an award and our thanks. What a ray of hope and reason in an otherwise dismal landscape the unquestioning American news media have become.

However, most unsettling to me is how we, the American public, claim to be the innocent victims of terrorism. As horrific as the events of 9-11 were, our government has orchestrated, allowed or inflicted a hundred times worse on others in our name. Who, us? What'd we do? Plenty. What goes around, comes around. It did. Children are innocent victims, but are the voters of a democracy that elects a government that exploits for our economic convenience innocent as well? While the Bush regime is arguably the most evil, our disastrous foreign policy in the Mideast goes back decades. But we, the public, didn't know! Or didn’t bother to know? Ignorance is an excuse of laziness. I am not innocent.

I don't condone terrorism because it always fails its goal, but most incidents are desperate reactions to actions. Islamic terrorists certainly do not hate us because we are free, despite the president’s claims to the contrary, repeatedly spoon-fed to the shockingly gullible. If we as a nation make no effort to understand terrorists’ anger, we are only treating a symptom and not the cause. If terrorism intends to awaken us from complacency, or even to retaliate where we live, the message is lost. We are terrified, both by terrorist acts and by a president that maintains power by fanning a frenzy of fear. Then we willingly support bombing the hell out of somewhere, spawning a new generation of terrorists.

You wanted perspectives. This is mine. If you don't hear from me again, I've finally been hauled off to Guantanamo.


Oso Raro said...

Dear Sister Sunshine,

Since all the serious things have already been said, and the very thought of our current criminal administration makes me sick to my stomach (talk about traitorous: they have the market cornered), all I can say is love you, girl. Let's escape to Canada and eat poutine all day.

Sister Boom Boom

Rebekah said...


I'm late to the party, but wow.

I didn't watch any of the programming that night; I would have probably thrown things at my television.

Olbermann and Stephen Colbert are my dream men at this point.

Thanks for posting that.