Post-9/11 “Partisan Mode”

Andrew Sullivan’s attempt to defend himself for his support of George Bush is infuriating. Like so much of what he writes, the lesson is that if Andy does something, it’s because he’s carefully considered both sides of an argument and made a reasonable, informed decision. When liberals come to the exact same conclusions, it’s because they’re petty, ignorant, hyper-partisan and motivated by nothing other than a blind hatred for all things Bush :

[Krugman] has one decent point: yes, I lionized George W. Bush for a while after 9/11, and, in retrospect, my attempt to place trust in him at a time of national peril was a misjudgment. But then, in times of peril, some of us feel that supporting the president, whoever he is, and hoping he gets things right, are not contemptible impulses. I should have been more skeptical. In less dire circumstances, I might have been. But some of us, in the days after 9/11, did not immediately go into partisan mode, put aside some of our other objections (like the fiscal mess and the anti-gay policies), and rallied behind a president at war.

Andy, do us all a favor and cut the bullshit about “some of us…did not immediately go into partisan mode”. I don’t know anyone who didn’t to give George W. Bush the benefit of the doubt after 9/11. Anyone. Even those I knew who hated Bush with a passion were willing to give the illiterate goob a second chance. Everyone I know was hit with the same soul-crushing despair on 9/11 and was desperate for a leader to unite behind.

But remember back to those confusing days after the attacks, you may recall that George W. Bush wasn’t anywhere to be found. So all the goodwill was going to the guy who stepped up and did his job for him, Rudy Giuliani. Hell, Bush wasn’t even the first President to step up to the plate :

Over now familiar refrains of “that’s unreal,” and “I can’t believe it,” and pregnant moans of “wow,” a spectacle of a different kind captured unblinking New Yorkers yesterday afternoon. Out of Manhattan’s Union Square came a welcome and commanding sight: former President Bill Clinton, surrounded by a growing mass of people.
. . .
“We need to just bolster people’s spirits right now, and support the president and the government,” he said between handshakes. “They’re going to need some time with this.”

Clinton, who was in Australia when New York and Washington, D.C., were attacked, said he had spent the previous 24 hours flying to New York on an Air Force plane. He was kept informed of developments by his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.).
. . .
Many said Clinton’s short appearance both magnified and made up for what they called President George W. Bush’s shortcomings during this crisis. The White House announced that the president would visit New York, for the first time, today.

“So far he has not been a comforting presence,” said Emily Vacchiano, 26, who lives in SoHo. “He has not conveyed compassion or strength. Just the sight of him [Clinton] cheered everyone up today.”

But even with this leadership void and the President leaving all the heavy lifting of comforting a shell-shocked nation to Rudy and Bill, all of the lefties I knew were willing to heed Clinton’s advice and give the Administration some time. Even with the President giving the best speech of his life a week later, actions speak louder than words.

And that’s where most of us got off the bus. Andy may be proud to pat himself on the back for putting aside his objections to “the fiscal mess and the anti-gay policies”, but where was the sense of bipartisanship and sacrifice in the President’s actions after 9/11? I’m all about compromise, but the President’s agenda didn’t change one iota after the attacks on New York and Washington D.C.

To use the examples cited, Bush was [s]elected ten months earlier against the backdrop of a booming economy with the promise to cut taxes and give Americans “their” money back. With the attacks sure to have a heavy economic toll, the centerpiece of Bush’s agenda suddenly became a one-size-fits-all solution that would reinvigorate the economy. Booming economy? Tax cuts. On the eve of a recession? Tax cuts. With a few million $300 checks in the mail, a lot of us were left asking “Are you sure you don’t need that money to, say, go after Osama bin Laden?”. Doesn’t wartime require a sacrifice of some sort?

The “anti-gay policies” was an even bigger indicator that 9/11 didn’t anything about the President’s plans for the country. In post-attack America, that was unified and bracing for war, the President could have easily issued an executive order overturning the absurd “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy with a statement like “anyone willing to die for his or her country has earned the right to defend the nation without being judged”. As a result of the result of the President being perpetually stuck in “partisan mode”, we’ve seen hundreds of people discharged since 9/11 (including at least 7 Arabic translators).

So spare me this crap about liberals being overly partisan following 9/11. The President got everything he wanted after the attacks (the PATRIOT Act being the best example), but once it was clear that the spirit of bipartisanship and compromise was only going to be one-sided, Americans of all stripes started to realize that the President couldn’t be taken at his word. With an event as jarring as what we experienced, a lot of us were hoping the catchphrase “9/11 changed everything” would be…well..true. But it wasn’t. The only thing 9/11 changed was the justifications for the actions the President already wanted to take.