On September 11th, 2001, al-Qaeda launched the worst terrorist attack in the history of the United States, both in deaths and pure imagery. Perhaps that second point — the fact that it was covered on every single channel in real time, to the horror of everyone — is the reason why it’s stuck in the American psyche. But this isn’t about that.
September 11th happened. It happened on September 11th, 2001. And the president on September 11th, 2001 was George W. Bush.
I hate talking about those attacks. I hate people who talk about those attacks to pursue some further agenda. I hate Rudy Giuliani for using both those tactics as he ran for president. And so, I’m not going to talk about the attacks as they relate to President Bush (and I would kindly request that comments, if any, respect that). All I am going to say is that he was president.
This fact was brought into the news this week, when Fox Business host and Fox News contributor Eric Bolling, a former Wall Street trader (a down-on-the floor trader at one time), said that there was never a terrorist attack during the Bush presidency.
Now, for the reasons I listed a few paragraphs ago, saying that there was never a terrorist attack during the Bush presidency is completely and utterly wrong. When alerted to this mis-statement, Bolling
retracted and corrected his statement threw a hissy fit.
Bolling joins a rather remarkable conservative club: The 9/11 amnesiacs. The members include Rudy Giuliani and, Dana Perino, the former Bush Administration press secretary who is right there in that first clip, sitting right next to Bolling. She didn’t correct Bolling; no one did. What are the signs of amnesia? Here are a few:
The Bush presidency began on September 12, 2001. Ignore this. He was most certainly not president in August, when the entire counter-terrorism department of the U.S. government was running around with its “hair on fire.” He couldn’t have been. He was in Texas.
Terrorism is relative. A shoe bomber trying to blow up a plane during the Bush administration is much worse than an underwear bomber trying to blow up a plane during the Obama administration, despite the fact that both escaped airport security and were tackled by passengers in the same fashion.
How do you get 9/11 amnesia? Well, you conflate the positive and the normative, obviously. When you say that “Bush was president during 9/11” as a factual statement, the implication — especially when delivered from a partisan side — is that Bush is responsible for 9/11. For conservatives — hi, Rudy — Bill Clinton is the man responsible for the attacks, despite everything. But that’s not a debate I want to have today. It’s in the same vein that one can blame Barack Obama for the 2007-2008 economic downturn that led to today’s recession, simply because he is now the president. (Don’t get me wrong; conservatives have blamed Obama since his inauguration.)
All of this is why we suffer from 9/11 amnesia. And I’m afraid it will never end.