We heard it as an impromptu bit of indelicate phrasing:
He was President, The World Trade Center came down during his reign.
– Candidate Donald Trump, February 13, 2016
He was President, okay? Don’t blame him, or don’t blame him, but he was President.
Americans were taken aback at the brashness of the accusation, at the casual way it was tossed into the debate. President George W. Bush was responsible for the worst terrorist attack on American soil.
There was a factual basis for the accusation. It was not simply the most reported incident, the President’s Daily Briefing of August 6, 2001. A month before the 9/11 terrorist attacks, George W. Bush heard the summary which began this way:
Bin Laden Determined To Strike in US
It was not only his dismissive response:
All right. You’ve covered your ass, now.
The institutional temptation is understandable. A new administration assumes office promising a change in national direction. Warnings, even desperate warnings, from the outgoing administration are easy to brush aside. The pleas to deal with the threat of terrorism were dismissed with derisive laughter.
Bill Clinton and his National Security team had practically begged President Bush and his people to take international terrorism seriously. They were brushed off. Agents that had been focused on stopping attacks were reassigned. Budgets were reduced. Programs were discontinued.
Donald Trump had historical evidence on his side. The gasp at the attack on a fellow Republican, the last Republican President, went beyond his words.
Headlines were all variations of the same note:
Trump blames George W. Bush for 9/11
Even now the real significance is hidden in the shock of accusation. The candidate described the time the previous Republican President had spent in office this way:
Continue reading “The Absurd Collapse of the American Ideal”