Tag Archives: 9/11

I Don’t Want to Share a Beer with my Commander-in-Chief

There has been a good deal written about the desire of many voters for “fresh faces,” outsiders with no prior experience with government. This has led to patient efforts to explain to those voters why giving someone access to the nuclear codes who doesn’t understand what they are or how government works might not be the best idea.

We Americans tend to confuse celebrity with competence, likability with ability to do the job. You would think we’d learn…

Case in point: Most commentators attributed the original victory of George W. Bush over Al Gore to the former’s “likability.” Bush seemed like the sort of person you’d like to have a beer with, the pundits explained, while Gore was stiff and “professorial.”

The rest, as they say, is history. And much of that history is still being uncovered…

Chris Whipple has written a story at Politico offering a long teaser of the upcoming Showtime documentary The Spymasters. He and two colleagues spent more than a hundred hours interviewing the 12 living CIA directors, with considerable focus on the 9/11 attacks. Although the overall picture of failure by the administration to prevent the attacks has long been known, the story and documentary provide some added details. The key detail is that the warnings the Bush White House received from the CIA in the summer of 2001 were a lot more chilling than the infamous August 6 presidential daily brief. Writes Whipple:

[George] Tenet vividly recalls the [July 10] White House meeting with Rice and her team. (George W. Bush was on a trip to Boston.) “Rich [Blee] started by saying, ‘There will be significant terrorist attacks against the United States in the coming weeks or months. The attacks will be spectacular. They may be multiple. Al Qaeda’s intention is the destruction of the United States.’” [Condi said:] ‘What do you think we need to do?’ Black responded by slamming his fist on the table, and saying, ‘We need to go on a wartime footing now!’”

As we now know, the administration not only didn’t go on “wartime footing” (which may or may not have been a good idea in any event), but according to Congressional investigations and subsequent revelations, basically shrugged its collective shoulders and waited to see what would happen.

Much of the incompetence that characterized so much of W’s first term–not to mention his reliance on the counsel of Darth Cheney–can be attributed to his very thin public resume. Even though his father was President, he’d been involved in politics, not governance, and the Texas Governor’s office is notoriously weak.

He did, however, have a resume, which is more than Trump, Carson and Fiorina.

Like it or not, we need a President who actually understands how government works–not a President who shares our resentments or our religious fantasies, nor one who tells us what we want to hear, no matter how far removed from actual fact.

We shouldn’t be choosing someone to run the country because s/he is someone with whom we’d like to have a beer.

Back Home Again in Indiana…

As we walked into the passenger lounge in Chicago’s Union Station on our way home, the TVs were all on “breaking news”–the Supreme Court had upheld the Affordable Care Act, aka “Obamacare” by a 5-4 vote.

There’s much that could be said about the Court’s decision–and virtually all of it has now been said. Initially, most legal scholars had predicted this result, which was dictated by relevant precedent; however, recently, Scalia had gone out of his way to reject those precedents, including his own prior rulings, stirring speculation that the Court might overturn the Act. (Scalia’s behavior, in several recent cases, has been so bizarre as to generate a cottage industry in armchair psychology…with one notable Court observer suggesting that he has “jumped the shark.”)

Lawyers and legal scholars will be in hog heaven dissecting the decision, the dissent, and what many attribute to Chief Justice Roberts’ concern that a contrary ruling would further damage the legitimacy of a politicized Court. I’ll leave those arcane arguments to them. What I have found utterly amazing–and ludicrous–is the public reaction from the right.

It is perfectly acceptable to disagree with the Supreme Court. I do it all the time myself. It is perfectly acceptable to dispute the wisdom of the ACA as policy. I’d have preferred a “Medicare for All” approach myself (although I recognize the political constraints that made such a solution to our health care crisis impossible). But the hysteria that greeted the Court’s ruling is quite simply astonishing. People are threatening to move to Canada (which has truly socialized medicine), comparing Obama’s effort to extend access to health care to Hitler’s Germany…this is the stuff of mass psychosis.

And then there is Mike Pence.

The man who has been blanketing our airwaves with soft-focus, “just a Hoosier like you” thirty-second ads, the man who is skillfully rewriting his own history to obscure his radical persona, just couldn’t stay in (his newly assumed) character. Pence compared the Supreme Court’s ruling to 9/11.

Think about that for a moment. A President and a majority of the legislature recognized that America had a healthcare crisis. Fifty million people could not afford health insurance, while spiraling costs posed a huge threat to the economy. Half of all personal bankruptcies were due to medical emergencies…I could go on, but you know the drill. The President and Congress addressed the problem with a complex piece of legislation.

And this–in Mike Pence’s strange reality–was equivalent to a terrorist attack. Trying to provide universal access to medical care is just like killing 3000 innocent people.

Pence immediately tried to walk this obscene reaction back, by calling it a “thoughtless” remark. As a friend of mine observed, thoughtless is when you forget your anniversary.

In what reality is an effort to fix a national problem, an effort to provide health care to children with pre-existing conditions, an effort to reign in abuses by insurance companies, a national calamity? What accounts for such a bizarre and disproportionate response to a measure that was first proposed by Republicans like Bob Dole, and first instituted at the state level by none other than Mitt Romney?

Someone recently said that if Obama endorsed oxygen, Republicans would suffocate themselves. This irrational response to a piece of well-intentioned legislation would seem to prove the point.


Comedy, Tragedy and 9/11

This morning’s comics were virtually all devoted to the subject of 9/11. One of my favorite strips is Crankshaft (my husband and I tend to relate to old and cranky); this morning’s had Crankshaft sitting in front of his television, listening to a blond announcer give a really lovely tribute that ended with the following sentiment:

“Our nation will survive and grow, secure in knowing that knowledge always overcomes ignorance, and an open, inquisitive mind always overcomes fear.”

I am sad today, not only for the people who died in the towers that day, not only for the brave firefighters and police officers who died or became terribly ill trying to save them, but for the death of my faith in that very belief.

In the wake of the attacks, there was an outpouring of human kindness, a recognition that however different we might be otherwise, we were all Americans. In the wake of a tragedy,we had a rare, precious window of opportunity to rise to the challenge and be a better, kinder nation. Instead, we were told to go shopping, and we did. We embraced a more pernicious invasion–an attack by our own government on our civil liberties. We took out our new fears on our Muslim neighbors (and our neighbors who looked like they might be Muslim). We invaded a country that had no connection to the attack and put its costs on the national credit card so that our generation wouldn’t need to pay for it. We shut our eyes to torture and rendition. Rather than using the tragedy to contemplate how we might improve our communities, we closed our minds, turned on each other, and gave in to ignorance and fear.

The attack was a test and we failed it.