“In their disdain for pluralism, in their disregard for human life, in their determination to defile national symbols, they are children of the same foul spirit.” That was former president George W. Bush near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, on September 11, 2021. The equation of terrorist mass murderers with the January 6, 2021 protesters proved startling, even on the right.
“Can there be a more perfect synthesis of the last 20 years of disappointing American politics than this man?” wondered Lane Scott in “The Foul Stench of George W. Bush and America’s Ruling Class.” Youngstown State professor Adam Fuller responded with “In Defense of George W. Bush,” contending that Bush was “a basically decent man who rose to the difficult task of making America and the free world safer from terrorism after 9/11.” That claim invites a look back to September 11, 2001.
“Freedom itself was attacked this morning by a faceless coward,” Bush said that day, “and freedom will be defended.” Note the passive voice construction and the evasion. The United States of America had been attacked, not “freedom” in the abstract. As the most powerful person in the world, with access to the best information, Bush would know of al Qaeda’s involvement, so the attackers weren’t exactly “faceless.”
“The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam,” Bush said. “That’s not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace. These terrorists don’t represent peace. They represent evil and war. When we think of Islam we think of a faith that brings comfort to a billion people around the world. Billions of people find comfort and solace and peace. And that’s made brothers and sisters out of every race.”
After the worst attack on America since Pearl Harbor, with nearly 3,000 dead, the president emerged as an apologist for Islam and a kind of diversity instructor. As Robert Spencer notes, on September 17, 2001, Bush appeared at the Islamic Center in Washington, in the company of CAIR. As the president proclaimed, “moms who wear cover must be not intimidated in America” and those who believe they can intimidate Muslims, “represent the worst of humankind.”
That marks a stark contrast to the “faceless coward” of 9/11 who attacked only “freedom,” not the United States of America. On that fateful day, Bush didn’t call them “the worst of humankind.” Bush did say “freedom” would be defended, so with the enemy misidentified, his efforts were bound to be fruitless.
If President Bush sacked any bosses in the CIA, FBI, NSC or INS it’s hard to know who they might be. As the 9/11 Commission Report noted, no agency of the U.S. government did anything to halt the terror plot. Bureaucracy failed, so President Bush created another bureaucracy, the Department of Homeland Security.
The vaunted DHS failed to prevent Islamic terrorist attacks at Fort Hood in 2009, San Bernardino in 2015, and Orlando in 2016. If Bush had second thoughts about the agency, he kept them to himself. By all indications, the rise of the murderous Islamic State failed to make made Bush wonder if Islam meant “submission” instead of “peace.” On the other hand, Bush has no problem stating that the “same foul spirit” motivated al Qaeda and the January 6 protesters.
Bush’s Shanksville speech, twenty years after 9/11, runs 1,100 words but includes no precise identification of the terrorist attackers, no direct condemnation of the terrorists, and no explanation of what motivated the attack. The former president failed to mention a single name of the 33 passengers and seven crew members killed on United Flight 93.
“Bush was indeed greatly misguided in using that moment of the 20th anniversary of 9/11 to compare the January 6 protesters to 9/11 terrorists,” Adam Fuller explains. On the other hand, “Bush was once a leader who fought hard for many conservative principles.” He did this “better than Trump” and “Bush saw freedom as a distinctly human value, not a distinctly American one.” If readers wondered what, exactly, Fuller was talking about it would be hard to blame them.
Bush was candid that he had “no solutions and no explanations,” and for all but the willfully blind that was also the case on September 11, 2001. President Bush then exploited the 9/11 crisis to expand government on a vast scale. That is standard practice for Democrats, and Bush bears similarities in other significant ways.
Like Democrat Jerry Brown son of a previous California governor, Bush rode the coattails of his father, a previous president. Americans can be forgiven for believing that, aside from that connection, George W. Bush would have gone nowhere. As Edward Gibbon noted, hereditary rule is the most risible arrangement, but this is no joke.
Twenty years after 9/11, Bush has no explanations and no solutions, only rhetoric. There might be a more perfect synthesis of everything that is wrong with the ruling class, but there’s no denying that foul stench.
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