Politics and 9/11--Six Years After
Like anyone else who writes for publication on- or off-line, I feel an obligation to say something about a subject--the sixth anniversary of 9/11--about which all the obvious points have already been made by people far more eloquent than me. I was also initially reluctant to write about politics on a 9/11 anniversary, but given the heavy politicization of that event during the past six years, that seems to be a bit cowardly. So while remembering and mourning the victims of 9/11, and also remembering the obligation to do everything possible to make sure it doesn't happen again, I'd like to mention the role of that event in what has been a decade of monumental public events in the United States.
Think about it. Since 1998, we've witnessed the first presidential impeachment since the 1860s, the first presidential election to go into "overtime" since the 1870s; the first attack on the continental United States since 1812; the first major preemptive "war of choice" in U.S. history; and the first televised destruction of an American city. I don't mean to equate any of these non-9/11 occurances with what we witnessed that day, but it has been an extraordinary span of time.
If you want to truly understand why Democrats (especially those whose entire formative political experience has been the last decade) are so often "angry," remember the behavior of the leadership of the Republican Party in all of the non-9/11 events I've mentioned. And then remember what the president and vice president have done to destroy the national unity and worldwide symphathy this country enjoyed just after 9/11, typically viewing domestic unity and global approval with ill-disguised contempt.
I'm not one of those who is interested in blaming George W. Bush or Dick Cheney for allowing 9/11 to occur. I will will never get confused into thinking that any American politician, even the worst, can be remotely compared in moral depravity or fanaticism with 9/11's perpetrators. And I don't want to blame all Republicans for their leadership's vices, any more than I would excuse any Democrats from the responsibility to demonstrate positive virtue.
But what motivates me to ask Republicans as well as everyone else to reflect on this subject is the simple fact that with the Tom DeLay class of congressional Republicans gone or in disgrace, and Bush and Cheney's departure from office growing nigh, we're now witnessing a presidential nominating contest in the GOP wherein most candidates are competing to show how avidly, even defiantly, they'd continue the current administration's worst habits and policies, including its politicization of terrorist threats and efforts to impugn the patriotism of critics.
I'd love to see the day when genuine "bipartisanship" is occasionally possible, within the context of a vibrant, principled party system. But that won't be happen so long as we accept, much less seek to emulate, national leaders capable of using the kind of bipartisanship we briefly saw six years ago as little more than a political capital fund in the pursuit of raw, partisan power.