When Comic Books Fail as a Model
I am faster than most people, actually a lot faster. Due to genetics, some experiences, and a strong situational awareness, I react a long time before most people. Quick trigger adrenaline, coordination, awareness, and a decisive mindset is a combination that allows me to often solve problems before some people know they exist. This also means that malicious little twerps who know me can send me off on wild goose chases quite easily, and throughout my life they have. If there is a real situation, not one invented to satisfy the vacuous needs of the sick and shallow, I am a great person to have around, though.
Richard Clarke's recent media splash returned attention to the events of 9/11. At one of the sites I am discussing events, the first ten minutes after President Bush was notified
was brought up as an example of why he should not be the leader of the free world. A few minutes after the second tower got hit, Chief of Staff Andy Card walks discreetly over to Bush as he is listening to children read stories, and whispers in his ear the news that the nation is under attack. An expression passes Bush's face then he returns his attention to the children for the next ten minutes. There is great dissatisfaction on the part of some for the President's lack of immediate, decisive, and worthwhile action.
As I explained earlier, I am decisive action guy, but I have no clear recollection about the first ten minutes after I heard about 9/11. Later that morning I made it to the Red Cross to donate blood, and after that I got in to work. I think I even got a shower that day. I know I called my parents after seriously considering the impact this would have on my father's weak heart. I remember that I found out about it while listening to the radio, and then I turned on the TV. I remember holding on to my wife, Abigail. Those first ten minutes were a blur, though. There was no decisive action I could take.
Some argue that the President of the United States should have been acting decisively from the moment he got the news. As the veteran of a thousand prank emergencies, I disagree. As the executive in control of hundreds of thousands of national security professionals, the correct thing to do was to let them do their jobs. Ten minutes after the event, ten hours after the event, and two and a half years after the event, the details were still being filled in. If there had been an imminent threat to the President's life or the school he was in, the Secret Service would have unceremoniously bundled him out of the room and whisked him away to Air Force One. There was not an imminent threat to the President. There was not an imminent threat that anybody within four links on the Chain of Command to the Commander in Chief was in any position to deal with. The duty officer at NORAD, CONARC, and possibly SACLANT NATO should have been up and hopping and I have no doubt they were. There is nothing any President could have done or told them to improve their performance of their duties during the actual crisis hours.
For a lot of people, though, that is entirely beside the point. What many people needed and still need is for the President to have stood up, have a plan of action spring from his brow fully formed, and then teleport the remaining terrorists to The Hague for crimes against humanity after catching them in the act with X-ray vision. What a lot of people will not forgive George W. Bush for is the crime of being merely human when the situation clearly called for a comic book hero.
The only model many people have for dealing with situations as catastrophic as the reality of 9/11 is comic books. Rather than deal with the real capabilities of our national security system, and the limitations of information management and classified document control, many people succumb to the temptation of a fantasy world. What a lot of people needed for President Bush to do is to make the problem and the fear go away, and they won't forgive him for not doing so. The reality does not matter to them; he didn't fulfill their need on that day.
Since 9/11, the Bush administration has done more for the world than any superhero. Two of the worst dictatorships in the world have been overthrown and their territory denied as a safe haven for terrorists. Terrorists are still attacking US personnel, but they are now doing so on ground of our choosing against armed opponents. (The recent shift of targets from US troops to civilian targets in Iraq is largely due to the terrorist's quest for helpless targets.) This was done at a cost in lives and treasure substantially less than any war in our nation's history.
The problem remains that on 9/11, George W. Bush was helpless, just like the rest of us. The people who hate him, for the sick and shallow joy of hate, love to point out the moment of helpless humanity that George W. Bush experienced that day. It must make them feel superior to see that look of incomprehension on his face, repeated endlessly on video capture. It must help them ignore the tremendous developments that followed, as long as they can see Bush at the most vulnerable moment of his life. That is why they keep pointing to that moment and keep telling us to use the superhero model for comparison, long after that model has paled in comparison to real events. This year we need to put away the comic books and choose a leader. I am going to use a real template and ignore the fake alarms.