First of all, I apologize for starting up a new thread on this topic, but the most recent ones have all been big trainwrecks, most have been other topics hijacked (in particular, Ariman Doors’s commendable review of F911), and I want to be able to clearly lay out my position without feeling like I have to respond to 12 different posts from different threads, and without worrying that other people won’t even bother reading it because it’s on page 7 of some hideously unreadable flamefest.
So, here are the points I’d like to make:
(1) It’s not really a big deal
I’m against Bush. I have plenty of reasons not to vote for him. This is not high on that list. It’s nowhere near Iraq, The Patriot Act, the environment, stem cell research, tax cuts for the rich, or Cheney/Ashcroft/etc.
Why, then, am I starting this thread? Well, basically because I like to argue, and because a lot of people have said a lot of extremely arguable things about this topic on this board, many of them extremely condescending and insulting towards people who hold opinions similar to my own. And I can’t stand to be condescended towards without responding. So don’t think that I go through my days thinking about nothing but My Pet Goat or that I’m going to vote based nothing on 7 minutes out of the past 3.5 years.
(2) All us liberals aren’t insane brainless anti-Bush nutbars
A repeated meme that has run through all of these discussions is something along the lines of “whatever he did, you Bush haters hate him so much that you’d just make fun of what he did. If he got up and left the room, you’d be like ‘why did he stand up? what if he got a head rush? how irresponsible’ (chortle chortle chortle).” (Liberal in particular is guilty of this, and then he refuses to directly respond when challenged, then when enough people get pissed off at him he claims that he’s being dogpiled on, and has a headache, and we’re all so MEAN to him.)
This is total bullshit. There are doubtless a small number of truly rabid Bush haters who will criticize and mock him no matter what. The vast majority of us are not that way, and a moment’s thought will demonstrate that this must be true, in that there are plenty of things that Bush has done which haven’t been ripped to shreds by Michael Moore and the Great Liberal Conspiracy of the SDMB. A good example being the decision to go to war in Afghanistan. If all liberals blindly hated Bush as much as some of you imply that we do, why aren’t we criticizing that more? Another example is his actions in the days and weeks following 9/11. As far as I know he didn’t do much that was objectionable (with the exception of focusing too much on Iraq), thus, I’m not just randomly bashing his actions.
It’s unbelievably insulting and condescending to respond to an attack on Bush’s actions in that classroom by saying “oh, you’re only saying that because you hate Bush”. Not only is it insulting and condescending, but it’s also wrong, and it’s also pointless. If everyone here is so blindly partisan that we can do nothing but go “quack quack quack bush bad bush bad” or “moo moo moo bush good” then why do we even both trying? Sure, it kind of seems that way sometimes, but, in all honesty, the situation isn’t that dire.
I hold the opinion about Bush’s actions during those 7 minutes due to my brain, my reasoning, and my thinking. Sure, I’m human, and I don’t like Bush, and that probably colors my conclusions somewhat. That’s going to be true for anyone, pro- or anti- Bush. But I’m not just a blindly partisan tool, and neither are the vast majority of posters here, on either side of either issue.
(Oh, and I’m SICK of holier-than-thou people who claim to be non-partisan and then bash everyone involved on both sides as if no one who’s not non-partisan could ever possibly be objective about anything. I’m a liberal democrat. That doesn’t mean that every position I hold about every issue is just a dogmatic parroting of what moveon.org tells me to think. Political independents don’t have a monopoly on free, creative and meaningful thought.)
(3) It doesn’t matter a whit whether Bush’s actions could have actually prevented further planes from crashing
Pervert in particular seems to be obsessed with the idea that as long as we can prove, in retrospect, that nothing Bush could have done during those 7 minutes could have stopped the primary events of 9/11, then it’s perfectly OK for him to have done nothing. This is blatantly ridiculous for at least two reasons:
(a) Even if this made any sense at all, it would only make sense if it is something that could have been determined from the information available at the time. That information, as we all agree, was extremely sketchy. So only if Bush had heard all the information that was available at that precise moment, quickly and efficiently analyzed every conceivable option available to him, and immediately realized that every single one of them was guaranteed to either not help the situation, or make the situation worse, would it even begin to be OK for him to just sit there like a tool
(b) Leaders can do useful things even when decisions can’t be made. If nothing else, they can prepare to start making decisions once decisions can be made. Suppose it was totally clear that there were no meaningful decisions that could be made for, say, the next 20 minutes. That’s no reason not to start discussing the situation, bouncing options off of people, listening to other people’s ideas, and so forth, so that 20 minutes down the line, when new information comes in, when actual meaningful decisions can be made, Bush could make better, faster, decisions than if he’d just sat around doing nothing.
(4) No one is saying that Bush should have panicked
This one has been pretty ripped to shreds by EVERYONE, but I’ll repeat it just one more time… I’m NOT saying that Bush should have sprinted out of the room, waved his hands around like a madman and started spitting out commands. There’s a middle ground between that and doing nothing. And while we’re on this topic, one of the most inane things that has come out of this entire conversation is the idea that if Bush had somewhat alarmed the poor kids in that classroom, that would have been a terrible national tragedy. There already WAS a terrible national tragedy. The kids were going to be a lot more than alarmed over the course of that day. Somehow the idea that his hanging around reading was “for the kids” and that if he’d left in a hurry, we liberals would be angry at him for “scaring the kids” has gotten mixed into this discussion, and it’s abso-fucking-lutely ridiculous.
** (5) Was Bush just in shock?**
A lot of people have mentioned that maybe Bush was just in shock at how horrifying the news was, as were many of us. Well, OK, fine. If so, then he’s just human. But (a) if that were the case, he could admit it, and (b) much of what really makes me so pissy about this whole issue is the conception that Bush is strong on terror. If Bush were being touted as a president who we should reelect because of, say, his fine singing voice, then I would get pissy about videotape that clearly shows him to be lip-syncing. Similarly, because he’s being sold to the American public as such a strong decisive leader, that makes it all the more frustrating when I see what I view as evidence that he’s not.
** (6) Should Bush have just left all the decisions to his underlings? **
Another favorite them of both Pervert and Liberal is that Bush actually acting (and by acting I don’t mean panicking, I mean asking questions, staying informed, offering suggestions, and making decisions when appropriate) would have caused more problems than it solved. And this is not something that can be prima facie dismissed. For instance, if there were already a department of homeland security on 9/11, and there was a director of that department who, the moment anything untoward happened, had swung into action, and was already taking control of the situation, processing many facts, and making crucial life-or-death split-second decisions, then having Bush start calling this fictitious individual up and demaning frequent updates would be bad.
However, that’s pretty far from the case. And if there was anyone like that, he sure as heck wasn’t in the hallway outside the classroom. And furthermore, this whole argument is awfully condemning of Bush however you look at it. How can he be a great leader if the best thing he can do at the moment of a crisis is do absolutely nothing until other people tell him what to do when it’s OK to do it? I suppose that it may actually be the case that the very best thing for the nation that Bush could possibly have done was nothing at all, and that this was clear ahead of time, so that he made the right choice. Well, if so, he’s a terrible president, if we’re better off not having him around at all.
The standard of excellence I want from my president is not “well, he’s worse than useless, but at least he knows he’s worse than useless, and he stayed out of the way”.
Another problem with this argument is that you can apply it recursively and you’ll immediately conclude that no one should ever make a decision, ever. So Bush shouldn’t have made any decisions, because that’s what the Secretary of Defense and heads of FAA and NORAD were for, eh? Well, the Secretary of Defense surely shouldn’t have made any decisions, because his subsecretaries had already been delegated to, and that’s what makes America great, this concept of delegation and trusting your underlings. And his subsecretaries shouldn’t have made any decisions, because… etc.
I have a feeling I’m missing some things I want to cover, but this post is long enough already, so I’ll stop for now.