“We will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail,” president George W. Bush told an American television audience on September 21, 2001 ten days after the 9/11 attacks. Perhaps the most eloquent utterance of his presidency, Bush at that moment was suddenly popular, and America was admitting to itself that it was fortunate that Al Gore had not been elected 10 months before.
Later in the speech, Bush laid the groundwork for keeping America safe with another of the statements that would shape his presidency: “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists,” he said. “From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.”
This black-and-white approach was diametrically opposed to that of the moral equivalents in the Democrat party who frequently wondered “why terrorist hate us”. Or who said, as did Democrat US senator Patty Murray of Washington state, that terrorist Osama bin Laden was a good neighbor to the Moslem world who built roads, day-care facilities and orphanages while “we (the United States) haven’t done that”, establishing a propaganda campaign within the United States against our own president.
Bush’s unambiguous stance contributed to the building of the wall that would separate him from the Democrats and their media cronies for the rest of his tenure at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
After a swift victory over al Qaeda in Afghanistan in November 2001, Bush’s popularity soared, reminiscent of the high marks of his father after the March 1991 victory in the Desert Storm campaign to push Iraq out of Kuwait. In 1992, however, Papa Bush was defeated at the polls by Bill Clinton as, among other things, his Kuwait victory was marginalized by the left because he “should have gone to Baghdad”, they said, setting a template for his son a decade later. And soon after Afghanistan, the media began sniping at Bush 43 for the only reason they could come up with – the failure to capture bin Laden.
George W. Bush less eloquently said on July 2, 2003: “There are some that feel like if they attack us that we may decide to leave prematurely. They don’t understand what they are talking about if that is the case. Let me finish. There are some who feel like the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is, bring ’em on”…
That final “bring ‘en on” taunt was rightfully seen as inappropriate and inciteful, and it was a window on the president’s controversial swagger. And the decline of George W. Bush in the public mind probably began that day.
While the Kennedys are said to be American royalty, the Bushes are our aristocracy. In contrast to the chaotic and sometimes profane world of the Kennedys, the Bush nobility is erudite, restrained and mannered. This characteristic was on display throughout both Bush presidencies, with decorum and propriety always at the fore even under withering media assault.
When Bush met with three former presidents (Clinton, Carter and Papa Bush) at the White House on January 7, 2009 along with the future president Barack Obama, it was a classic Bush show – generous and warm, without a trace of bitterness, in contrast to the transition from Clinton to Bush in 2001 when Clinton staffers angrily trashed some White House rooms and pulled off the ‘W’ keys from many computers. Bill and Hillary even are said to have made off with some White House valuables.
Yet Bush stood smiling even though both Clinton and Carter had gratuitously slandered him on many occasions, even when overseas, in direct violation of the unwritten protocol that presidents do not comment (negatively) on their successors. Clinton and Carter, being Democrats, both ignored the rule.
When Bush first welcomed Obama into the White House for a tour just six days after the election, even the Bush-hating media admitted over and over that Bush had been “gracious”. The transition from Bush to Obama has been called the smoothest ever in history. And finally some in the media were momentarily admitting what many Americans knew all along – that despite disagreements over his policies, that Bush is a decent man. And that is one of the most overlooked stories of his presidency.
The Bush 43 era started with the resolution of the Florida election in December 2000, when the Supreme Court stopped the recounting and giving Bush the Florida victory and the general election with 271 electoral votes to Al Gore’s 266, although Gore won the popular vote by 544,000.
Already in the gunsights of the media simply for having an ‘R’ after his name, the 50-year hatred of conservatives that broke into a full-blown tantrum that December still is alive and well in 2009. Even when Bush still was governor of Texas, a book was published alleging that he had abused cocaine. Then five days before the 2000 election, a Democrat operative in Maine revealed a harmless 1976 DUI arrest that almost derailed Bush. And thus the years of lies, distortions and scorched-earth attacks were underway.
For instance, the media called reduced tax rates on all Americans “Bush tax cuts for the rich”. His strategy to defeat terrorists at home using the Patriot Act was repeatedly called unconstitutional and illegal. Yet even when he took a turn to the left, signing into law the biggest entitlement increase in 40 years in the Medicare prescription drug program, liberals gave him virtually no credit, while he lost standing among conservatives, leading to his eventual fall in the polls. Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment – “Thou shalt not criticize a fellow Republican” – was history.
What the record shows is that throughout his tenure Bush, like all Republicans, not only received insistently negative press, but never was given the benefit of the doubt. And that is difference between Democrats and Republicans. From time to time, Democrats may too get bad press, but they always get the benefit of the doubt, while Republicans never do which leads to the day-to-day nagging that the press laid on Bush.
But the real story of the Bush presidency began on 9/11, with the media template set that day. On 9/11, the big stories of summer 2001 – crowded airports and congressman Gary Condit’s affair with the disappeared Chandra Levy – quickly evaporated. Who could forget Bush’s alarmed eyes as he was interrupted from reading The Pet Goat to schoolchildren in Sarasota, Florida and heard the news that a plane had hit the World Trade Center in New York?
Obviously Bush knew that his presidency never would be the same. Indisposed to return immediately to Washington in those uncertain hours and staying aloft on Air Force One during that day, the media, even in a time of crisis, ramped up their attacks against “coward” Bush. The so-called national unity that the media insistently touted after 9/11 was nothing of the sort. The sniping at Bush started on his inauguration day, continued on 9/11 and then throughout the rest of his presidency.
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