Monday, May 09, 2011

A little historical perspective, please

A little historical perspective, please

One of the talking points that conservatives have been using in order to deny credit to Obama for killing bin Ladin is to say that some if not all of the credit belongs to Bush and, therefore, Obama is a jerk for not recognizing that fact. They give different reasons as to why Bush deserves the most credit. The Fox morning crew has been among the most energetic in pushing this interpretation but no one has push the envelope as far as Condoleezza Rice did on their show last week.
BRIAN KILMEADE: The president in his speech — did a great job on his speech Sunday night — talked about coming together like we did on 9/11, he wants to see it happen again. Do you think a nice gesture would be to invite President Bush out on Thursday when he comes down to Ground Zero to greet the families?*

RICE: Well, obviously, I'll leave that to the two of them and to the administration. But President Bush had at Ground Zero probably the most important moment maybe in American history. It was when this wounded nation watched their commander-in-chief** stand on that rubble and say that they will hear us, we are going to avenge this.

This woman has a PhD in history, although, in her defense, I should point out that it is not in American History. If she had studied American history, she might have been familiar with some other important moments, such as:
  • The British surrender at Yorktown
  • Pearl Harbor
  • The signing of the Declaration of Independence
  • FDR's "fear itself" speech
  • Palmer raids and the first Red Scare
  • The Confederates firing on Ft. Sumter
  • The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927
  • The Louisiana Purchase
  • The ratification of the Constitution
  • General Butler exposing the coup plot against FDR
  • VJ Day
  • The Haymarket massacre
  • Passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments
  • The stock market crash of 1929
  • The Cuban Missile Crisis
  • Texans winning their independence at the Battle of San Jacinto
  • The Big Blow Up of 1910
  • Women getting the vote
  • Marbury vs. Madison
  • HUAC hearings and the second Red Scare
  • Lee's surrender at Appomattox
  • Teddy Roosevelt accidentally becoming president
  • The Trail of Tears
  • Nineteen guys flying airplanes into buildings a few days before Bush's speech

Bush gave a nice speech at Ground Zero, but the speech itself was not some kind of world historical moment. I'm not going to spend any time beating up on Bush or hunting for reasons to hate the speech. Rice's crush on her former boss is well known--if a little off putting (I mean, eewww)--so her ridiculous hyperbole is not surprising. What I do find a little surprising is how many times I have heard variations of that idea from other people.

On the day 9/11, even before the second tower had fallen, one of my co-workers said "thank God Bush is president and not Gore." Because of the moment, I didn't what the hell she was talking about. Just last week in a Facebook thread of an old friend, someone commented, "Imagine if it would have been al gore (sic) dealing with 9/11. That would have been a real nightmare." What do these people think Al Gore would have done? Surrendered and turned the entire country over to bin Laden. They seem to believe that any Democrat would have said, "aww, he just needs a hug and we should give him a great big apology for making him feel bad."

That's complete and utter crap. Al Gore would have done exactly what Bush did. Or McCain would have done. Or Bradley. Or Hillary. Or you or I or any president in the history of the republic or anyone who isn't brain damaged. He would have gone on every news channel and made a speech saying the American people will rise above this, we will track the people responsible to the ends of the earth, heads would have rolled at the CIA, and we would have invaded Afghanistan to get at bin Laden and punish those who protected him.

Here are some things that might not have happened. Gore probably would not have sat frozen, reading "My Pet Goat" for eight minutes after hearing about the planes hitting the World Trade Center. He probably would have issued his first statement from Air Force One rather than leaving the American people without reassurance while he flew around for nine hours and spent another ninety minutes at the White House. He certainly would not have called off the search at Tora Bora. He would not have spent hundreds of billions of dollars and thousands of lives waging a war in a country that had nothing to do with 9/11.

He probably would not have tolerated wholesale violations of international and domestic laws such as creating a bogus category of "enemy combatants" to avoid the Geneva Conventions, using torture, or gutting habeus corpus. I know he wouldn't have completely respected all of our rights the way I would have liked. There still would have been a slide toward a surveillance state with wire tapping and eavesdropping. The same conservatives, who spent the Bush years justifying the erosion of rights would have cried "tyranny" and raised holy hell.

Actually, those last few points would have been moot, because I know for a fact that the Republicans would have tried to impeach Gore for allowing 9/11 to happen. There would have been none of the coming together in good faith that the Democrats offered throughout 2002. But this brings us to a final point, under Gore, there might not have been a 9/11 because he might have actually have read the August 8 security briefing. Remember, he was VP when Clinton tried to get bin Laden in 1998. Terrorism was a front-burner issue for him, whereas Bush only cared about tax cuts for the rich before 9/11.

Rice's comical overstatement is not limited to the "thank God it wasn't Gore crowd." As last week developed, the "Obama deserves little if any of the credit" message was taken up all across the spectrum of conservative politics.
  • Sarah Palin refused to even mention Obama's name several times when doling out credit: "We thank President Bush for having made the right calls to set up this victory."
  • Former Bush Chief of Staff Andy Card: "[Bush] made sure everything was in place so that President Obama could have an opportunity to get Osama bin Laden."
  • House Majority Whip Eric Cantor: "I commend President Obama who has followed the vigilance of President Bush in bringing Bin Laden to justice."
  • Washington Times editor Brett Decker: "Bin Laden's death is more Mr. Bush's victory than Mr. Obama's..."
    Fox News personality Sean Hannity: "There was no way this would have happened, but for the policies Of George W. Bush."
  • Fox Business host Eric Bolling on Twitter: "Andrea Mitchell just said 'this is a game changer for Barack Obama'..WHAT?? Thank GWB for this not BHO!"
  • Former Bush adviser Karl Rove: "I think the tools that President Bush put into place –- GITMO, rendition, enhanced interrogation, the vast effort to collect and collate this information — obviously served his successor quite well."
  • Torture guru John Yoo: "Without the tough decisions taken by President Bush and his national security team, the United States could not have found and killed bin Laden."
  • Media critic Brent Bozell" "It's because of those [torture] techniques that George Bush was crucified over that Osama bin Ladin is dead today. Hip, hip, hooray to George Bush. ... It's high time that [the mainstream media] started apologizing to him."
  • Former Senator and Republican Presidential candidate Rick Santorum: "9/11 families and everybody else in America should be furious at this president that he’s walking abound taking credit for, you know, getting Osama bin Laden. He didn’t get Osama bin Laden!"
  • National Review blogger Jim Geraghty (under a picture of GW Bush): "VINDICATION: When the loudest critic of your policies achieves his greatest success because of them."

Many of the "the real credit goes to Bush" crowd are making a self-serving effort to justify their own indefensible support of torture and all of them are engaged in a petty and partisan driven refusal to give Obama credit for anything. They rather pathetically grope for any excuse to find fault with any action Obama (and by extension any Democrat) takes. If Obama did it, there must be something wrong with it. All they ask is a little time to figure out what that fault is. Such pettiness has always existed in American politics, but, in recent years, pettiness has become almost an article of faith on the right.

* Just for the record, he did invite Bush and Bush declined. Not that that will stop conservatives from attacking Obama over the non-existent slight.

** I've said this before, and Rice should know this, the President is commander-in-chief of the military, not of the civilian population. The President is our employee, making us his commanders-in-chief. One of the founding principles of this country was civilian control of the military and we should all strongly resist any effort to militarize our society or to bring civilians under control of the military. Again, the President does not command us; we command him. If he leads us, it is because he has convinced us that he has earned that privilege. One good speech by Bush did not make us his subjects.

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