(I wrote the following unpublished article five days after what became our 21st Century Day of Infamy (Sept. 16, 2001). At that time, the only major statement made by President George W. Bush had been at Ground Zero in New York City amidst the police, firefighters and rescue workers. The press was clamoring for the president to speak to the nation. Historians invoked the names of FDR and Pearl Harbor to remind the public of how it was necessary for a president to speak to the nation quickly and assuredly. We were also reminded of how quickly and confidently Bill Clinton was before the nation in the aftermath of a terrorist attack.)
Does anyone believe that the remaining members of New York's Ladder Company #5 could take any comfort in Bill Clinton's speech after the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center? Would the families of the employees of Cantor-Fitzgerald feel comforted if George W. Bush gave Bill Clinton's hangar speech among the American body bags that arrived after the African embassy bombings; or Clinton's post USS Cole bombing speech?
Talk is cheap! Symbolism is often cheaper. President George W. Bush has a major job to do. Talking to us to make us feel better isn't one of them. And why host after host, pundit after pundit, and historian after historian thinks that making the right kind of speech on the evening of September 11th would be the event to define a presidency is an absurdity in and of itself. Such folly is the result of having chosen window dressing over leadership.
It is time for deeds, not words! It is not time for glorious speeches about the American resolve and the American spirit. It is time for deeds. It is not time for masking the illusion of leadership in feel good speeches. It is time for deeds. The trouble with having chosen window dressing over leadership is that the mannequins in our TV window were not real. They were an erroneous perception of reality designed to sell an image. Image isn't everything. At what point did we go from the decisiveness of Harry Truman's, "The buck stops here!" to needing flowery speeches about how our neighbors, loved ones, and defenders of our nation died a noble and honorable death at the hands of a maniacal perversion of Islam? At 8:45am Eastern Time on the morning of September 11, 2001, that perversion wrought 280 million casualties. The whole of the United States of America suffered a collective death in the family. And in our attempt to seek solace from our collective grief we fearfully keep coming to the same conclusion - it's not over yet! Not for them, not for us.
It is time for Americans to dispense with the notion that the flowery rhetoric of the past eight years, delivered by a charming rhetorician, is the necessary antidote to allay our pain and grief. It was window dressing. It was not leadership. It was not leadership when Bill Clinton governed the state of Arkansas to the near bottom of every major quality-of-life category in America. And we should have seen it then, not now. When an American GI, on a mission of mercy, was murdered and dragged through the streets of Somalia we should have seen it then - not now. When the bungling incompetence, and his subsequent disavowal, killed over seven dozen people in Waco, Texas we should have seen it then - not now. And when the evidence that the multitude of mounting American deaths during the Clinton/Albright foreign policy administration came at the hands of the same satanic mercenary, the coordinated effort to isolate and destroy that mission should have occurred then, not now!
And lest we forget the American ideal of representative government, in this infamy that will be carved upon the hearts and souls of generations of Americans not yet born, Senators Jesse Helms, Joe Biden, Strom Thurmond, Carl Levin, John Warner and Ted Kennedy do not come away with their hands clean. As the respective leaders of their Senate committees these Senators had a moral and occupational duty to prioritize the destruction of the head and arms of this fanatical, multi-tentacled monster. To combat this fanaticism demands a coherent and decisive plan of action with no room for failure. Such planning, such coherence and such decisiveness requires real leadership. Those we looked to for that leadership failed their families, failed their office and failed their country. We have paid a terrible price for confusing window dressing with leadership. Now that price must be even higher.
And for those who say that this is not the time to be laying blame, but to come together and support our President in the ensuing war against terrorism, I respectfully disagree. I am an American. I can do both!