Some pundits called it the 9/11 effect: people were so fearful about another terrorist attack after 9/11, the day that so changed our way of life, that they would accept all kinds of changes. Changes to the law, changes to security procedures in airports and public places. And, yes, changes to government bureaucracy.
For the last few years, when his poll numbers started to dip, it seemed like all President Bush had to do was go out in public, throw out a few "9/11"s, and back up they'd come.
The 9/11 effect surely accounts for much of Bush's increased margin of victory nationally in his 2004 win over that of 2000. Results in suburban areas of Los Angeles and New York City -- including towns in New Jersey and Connecticut -- showed a marked uptick in Bush support. Surely this wasn't because all those people suddenly turned against abortion, evolution, and the gays.
The 9/11 effect was a very real force, and it was key to Bush winning a second term. Now it's over, certainly as a political force for Bush, and very likely for the Republican Party.
What are the main initiatives of the response to 9/11? The war in Afghanistan, the war in Iraq, the Patriot Act, and the creation of the bloated monster known as the Department of Homeland Security. The war in Afghanistan had broad support, and it's the only one of these that can count as anything like a success -- and that's only if you overlook our failure, four years on, to be any closer to putting Osama bin Laden in the box where he belongs.
Homeland Security now looks like an unmitigated disaster. Brown is still officially in charge of FEMA, so if al Qaeda attacks today, they would have to actually fire him to keep him from being part of the response. Next I expect you'll see more focus on Secretary Michael Chertoff, who has also made some fishy statements in the past two weeks.
The Homeland Security fiasco is all the more ironic because Bush did not originally support the department as currently constituted. The proposal originated in Congress and he only backed it after public support did.
As for the Patriot Act -- its key selling point is that it encourages government agencies to share intelligence and work more closely together. Is this really happening? Four years later, it seems like we have a continued problem with intelligence at all levels of government.
As for Iraq -- I supported the war for reasons explained here
. There I also explain why -- since we sort-of knew they probably didn't have WMD and Iran was cookin' em up as fast as they could -- it might have been smarter to hold our military force in reserve to use as a more credible threat against the mullahs in Tehran.
Now we've shot our wad, and made it very clear that -- barring a massive mobilization that would require a draft -- we won't be invading anyone larger than Grenada anytime soon.
Keep in mind, this is all by the design of the Secretary of Defense. He believes we should have a smaller military. When the generals told him how many troops we'd need to invade and secure Iraq, he lowballed them time and again. Hundreds of our troops and thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians have died as a result. Heck, I should set up a Web site calling for his firing.
Except, of course, that that would require President Bush to take responsibility and hold someone accountable -- something he appears to remain constitutionally incapable of doing. Rumsfeld claims he offered to resign twice, and Bush turned him down. Why?