It’s sometimes said (by me, anyway) that you never know how you’ll react to a crisis until you’re in one.
We’re past the initial shock now, and perhaps it’s time to assess how our leaders have performed so far. Who has risen to the occasion and who has not? Who has shown empathy for the victims, compassion and solidarity for the rest of the people, and been a uniting force? Who has laid out a vision of what needs to be done next, and gotten us to agree? Who among our political leaders has failed?
Here’s one man’s preliminary list. Anyone I haven’t mentioned is due to lack of information on my part. Feel free.
Rudolph Giuliani: A+. The mayor of NYC for a few more months, he was going to be remembered for an administration of police thuggery (the Louima and Diallo cases most notoriously), moral priggishness in public and hypocrisy in private (moving his mistress into the official mansion before his divorce came through), and Disneyizing Times Square. But instead, he’ll be remembered for being there in the middle of it, ash in his hair, saying the right things and taking the right steps, showing his command of all the details of the city’s administration. I never found anything to like about him before, but it’s all forgiven and forgotten now. Rudy, you rawk.
Bill Clinton: A-. See the thread about him, with the admiring comments from people accustomed to hating him. He has been doing what he always has, with an uncommon touch for empathizing with people of all walks of life. I’m marking him down slightly for not having pursued bin Laden more forcefully during his administration - the cruise missiles were a good idea, but he may have been too sensitive to the “wagging the dog” accusations from people fascinated by blowjobs to have done more.
Tony Blair and Queen Elizabeth: A+. From a nation with too much knowledge of terrorism at home, all the right things were said and done. Apparently the Coldstream Guards playing of the Star Spangled Banner was the Queen’s idea - the TV coverage did me in. Never again let the British tabloid press say “Show Us You Care”, the way they did after Diana’s death.
Jane Swift: B+. The acting Governor of Massachusetts, dismissed as ineffectual and arrogant through last week (though her baby twins are cute), was on top of the situation last week, and said and did all the right things regarding security at Logan Airport. In a state whose politics are defined by endless power struggles to the detriment of its people, she may have simply used Massport’s shot credibility as an opening to put one over on a nearly-autonomous agency she’s had quarrels with, but the results count. Jane, you’ve surprised me. Well done.
Jean Chretien: D. All we’ve heard from the Canadian government, beyond pro forma sympathy statements, is quotes from lower officials about how there’s “no proof” the hijackers entered from Canada. See the other Canada thread for background info. This is not an F only because there may be things going on we don’t know about, but there has been no sign down here that Chretien even recognizes a problem. Canadian perspectives may be different. (And I used to like the guy).
George W. Bush: Incomplete. This is charitable, and given only because appropriate retaliation has not yet happened. The trend is toward an F. The few things he’s said have been either scripted or banal and awkward, with that goddamned smirk still showing up on occasion (see that prayer service?). His handlers have kept him from having even 1 prime-time news conference in his administration, when his predecessors used to do it about monthly. All you need to know is that the people we’re looking toward to take the necessary action are Powell and Cheney and Rumsfeld, advised by Bush Sr.
Anyone else care to add to the list, or rebut these grades?