Were a situation similar to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 to occur again, would you trust Donald Trump?
Say what you will about George W. Bush, but his response to the 9/11 attacks wasn’t bad. Not bad at all on my report card.
He spoke of uniting the country, not dividing it. His earliest statements separated the Muslim faith from Islamic radical terrorism, a stance that was not popular in that moment and, in some quarters, still isn’t.
He made mistakes. He sent our forces to Iraq in search of weapons of mass destruction that weren’t there. For this, Bush has been chastised by the Monday morning quarterbacks of politics, many of which supported the invasion when there was no hindsight to use as a guide.
Iraq was a mistake if we judge it by its intent to corral destructive weapons, though it ended the terror reign of Saddam Hussein, which was not a mistake.
The president’s infamous 2003 “Top Gun” moment on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln declared a mission accomplished. To call that premature is a vast understatement, considering the mission of fighting terror groups continues in Afghanistan, 16 years later.
By and large, though, Bush deserves more credit than he gets. The world was united on our side. The British stood by us. Twitter did not emerge until 2006, so Bush didn’t have the opportunity to tweet his personal rants or angry grudges, but my guess is that Bush would have restrained himself, anyway.
What if it happened again? You say it can’t? Did we think on September 10, 2001 that it could happen once?
Would you trust Donald Trump to maintain his composure, consider carefully the information from his advisers, and use the prudent judgment necessary to tell a nation that even a terrible crisis can be managed? Would the 45th president let us know the only thing to fear is fear itself, or would he blame everybody but himself and make us all know it wasn’t his fault?
I know what I think. What do you think?
Trump talks tough, like all bullies do, except he’s not so tough against the real bullies. Vladimir Putin. Kim Jong Un. The Taliban. There’s a real Murderer’s Row for you, except it’s not the baseball nickname but the real thing.
It’s easy to talk tough to Denmark, Britain or even China. The Chinese aren’t going to attack us militarily. They’ll just counter-punch in cyberspace.
True leaders rise to the occasion. They do not lower themselves to the occasion. They do not exploit the occasion by, oh, redrawing a weather map to their liking.
Most of all, they realize a national crisis is about America and not all about them. Building a wall at the Mexican border is neither a national emergency nor a crisis, at least not for anyone whose memory goes back to 9/11, to November 22, 1963 or to December 7, 1941.
When it comes to Trump, these are the things I worry about. We should probably take the 25th Amendment and the Emoluments Clause off the books, because it’s obvious we will never have the political will to actually look into seriously using them.
The amendment describes presidential succession if a president is incapacitated. This can mean many things, ranging from a coma to Alzheimer’s to unconsciousness while under anesthesia. It’s been expanded in common debate to include a president who is “unfit” (more bluntly, the guy’s either dangerous or nuts), and though I’ve always been reluctant to think it applies to Trump, he continues to invent new situations that give people legitimate reason to think it does. And that’s on him.
The Constitution has actually held up pretty well, and I think it will, regardless of Trump’s enthusiasm for turning our system of government checks and balances, and separation of powers, into a succession of decisive 1-0 votes. But I worry the day may come when we need true bipartisan and patriotic leadership in the real sense, the type that discards bravado in favor of rationale, fairness and most of all, calm.
George W. Bush wasn’t a candidate for Mount Rushmore, and his mistakes are well documented. But given the frightened national mood after 9/11, I give him good points for showing the stability and balance a nation in crisis always needs. I’ve yet to see any reason to think we can hope for anything remotely close to that next time, if there is a next time.
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