As with so many other aspects of our time, we seem destined to suffer the most trite and underwhelming imitations of things that once were great or at least impressive. Exhibit A would be the great war advocate, George W. Bush. Can there be a more perfect synthesis of the last 20 years of disappointing American politics than this man? He exemplifies everything—unaware, unashamed, unapologetic—that the ruling class and elite American oligarchy has become. NeverTrumpers and neocons yearn for a return to the days of measured, steady Bush leadership. We are told constantly now that he is kind, polite, well-bred: a politician from a more dignified tradition of public servants than those of late. But of course, in reality he is none of these things.
The everlasting incompetence and mesmerizing self-delusion on display at his recent 9/11 remarks makes that clear.
What kind of a person stands on the very spot where heroic, valiant Americans perished in a tragic last-ditch effort to save a symbol of their ruling class—either the Capitol or the White House, no one knows for certain—and dares to offer criticism of the American people? What kind of cretin could possibly stir himself to lecture the public while standing on the very spot where common, average, everyday people sacrificed themselves to save members of the elite?
Does any thinking person for a moment believe, were the shoe on the other foot, that a hijacked plane load of Bushes, Clintons, and Obamas heading straight for Dollywood with the intention of killing as many middle Americans as possible would rise up and sacrifice themselves to save us?
This historic blunder would be enough for an average underperforming president, but George W. Bush is no average underperformer. These words were delivered not only on the occasion of the common man’s selfless sacrifice par excellence, but also hot on the heels of our ruling class’ greatest military blunder and most embarrassing episode in perhaps our entire national history. The idea that George W. Bush would have the audacity to do anything other than demur the opportunity to speak on 9/11, just weeks after the total failure of our entire engagement in the Middle East, is beyond astonishing. It is a bald-faced insult.
Instead of heaping praise on this small group of valiant Flight 93 Americans, and humbly asking their forgiveness for his errant and misguided attempts to avenge them, including the embarrassing foreign adventurism undertaken in their name, Bush instead searched the American landscape for a recent, festering wound at which he could pick, and then he broke it wide open. Why? Why did he feel the need to do this?
Alluding to the events on January 6, 2021, Bush lectured ordinary Americans—in many cases the same ordinary Americans who felt compelled to answer his call to defend America 20 years ago at Ground Zero—on what he considers to be their latent propensity to act like the terrorists he and his fellow elites, through their negligence, allowed to murder nearly 3,000 of us. One can believe that the misguided and foolish rioting of January 6 was profoundly wrong, and still feel in one’s bones how inappropriate and small Bush was to profane the remembrance of our heroes with his tedious little lecture.
That extra step to insult is truly breathtaking. This great failure of a wartime president alluded to the chaotic milling about and general parading through the Capitol by a bunch of nincompoops (who neither brought weapons nor used them) and compared it to the plotting of murderous Islamic zealots. He compared people who managed to slaughter as many innocent Americans as they could via hijacked commercial jets which they transformed by box cutters into great flying bombs of incinerating fuel, to people who essentially walked into the Capitol building and then back out again while harboring political sentiments the American elite finds distasteful. He compared people who pulverized airplanes full of ordinary Americans at terrific speed into some of our most iconic and important buildings, instantly killing themselves and everyone onboard in a final nihilistic act of rage and impotent fury, to people who have the audacity to believe that those places are every bit as much part of their birthright as they are of the grandees who inhabit them.
The sheer violence to common decency, statesmanship, and self-awareness that George W. Bush, a man I voted for twice, achieved with his 9/11 speech is, I confess, difficult to comprehend.
The most heartbreakingly beautiful thing about Flight 93 is that it stands as the sole American response and victory on that terrible day—when all of our ruling class failed miserably to defend us. It was the lone effort to intercept, much less anticipate, what was coming next. It was the one effective measure taken to protect us, despite the billions of dollars and countless man hours we, the American taxpayers, had generously provided to our military and intelligence community.
When each and every one of our elite institutions failed us that day, necessitating hundreds of good and valiant first responders to go to their deaths in the attempt to clean up this ruling class disaster, one plane load of 40 average Americans rose up and stopped the terrorists. One group of ordinary Americans, with no warning or special training, managed to hold the devil at bay. Once they found out where that plane was headed and what the terrorists had in mind, they were resolved to stop them. And they did. Their courageous stand allowed us some dignity and pride in ourselves amidst the crushing pain, shock, disbelief, and failure.
President Bush’s complete misunderstanding of that day, coupled with his apparent desire to rub our noses into his own and the failures of his class, blaming us for the difficult political situation in which we now find ourselves, is profoundly offensive.