Sunday, April 26, 2009

The "Bush Kept Us Safe" Myth
9/11 Doesn't Count

I was working on a post on this surreal nonsense by Noemie Emery (at the always-amusing Weakly Standard)...but one thing you learn quickly blogging these days...the pros almost always beat you to it. (They don't have to grade papers, for one thing...) (Incidentally, I first ran across this Emery nonsense a couple of days ago when I saw Instapundit link to it with his typical passive approval of almost everything GOPish.)

So here's my quick version:

Bush did not "keep us safe." 9/11 was--mostly--not his fault. But there's a world of difference between it was his fault and he kept us safe. Bush kept America safe only if Roosevelt kept Pearl Harbor safe. Just because something isn't your fault, that doesn't mean you get credit for it.

Do we get to say that Clinton was a chaste and loyal husband? After all, after that one thing he was. So by parity of reasoning...

Imagine that Gore had been president on 9/11. Imagine the response from the fever swamps if liberals said that he'd "kept us safe."

Bush gratuitously started the Iraq war, the consequences of which have been more devastating (even just considering the effects on America in blood and treasure) than any plausible terrorist attack could have been.

Even if we inexplicably give him a pass on 9/11, there's no solid evidence that his administration actually stopped any major terrorist attacks.

Even if it did, there's no evidence that he did anything extraordinary--anything any minimally competent president would have done. So, even if we remained safe, we have no evidence that this is attributable to Bush's actions--no evidence that he (pause) kept us safe.

Remember, not having enormous terrorist attacks on our soil is the norm. Having two such attacks in eight years is highly unlikely. The salient fact is that we had one, not that we didn't have two.

We should rate presidents in this regard, first, by the actual steps they take to combat terrorism. On this measure, Bush ranks very low. He didn't even have a meeting of principals on terrorism until he had been in office something like seven months. He made terrorism a low priority, ignored pleas from the Clinton administration to take it more seriously, and demoted Richard Clarke, a prominent voice in favor of strong action against al Qaeda.

The second way to measure presidential effectiveness here is by the rate and severity of terrorist attacks on their watch. Here Bush ranks lowest of all presidents.

It takes blinders the size of Rush Limbaugh's ass to think that there is even the slightest hint of plausibility to the claim that Bush kept us safe.


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