By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Fortunately, Schwarzkopf’s wasn’t the only talking head on Tuesday. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Joe Biden (D-Delaware), fresh from a blistering attack on W.’s missile-defense lunacy on Monday, said that nothing would more clearly signal the defeat of the United States than “the suspension of our civil liberties.” And throughout the day and into the night, New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, aware that this might be his last moment on history’s stage (he’s termed out at year’s end), was, astonishingly, all you could hope a leader could be — not just reassuring and compassionate, but cautioning New Yorkers against lashing out at Muslims and Arabs, and on the importance of preserving our freedoms.
If Rudy put on a better face than New Yorkers had ever seen on Tuesday, W. looked sadly like W. no matter when or where he popped up during his daylong odyssey. No American president since FDR after Pearl Harbor had faced quite the kind of rhetorical challenge that W. confronted on Tuesday night; and if it seems a tad unfair to hold W. to the Roosevelt standard, well, nobody made this guy run for president, or forced him to steal the position when he couldn’t win it at the ballot box.
The axiom is that Americans rally behind their presidents during crises and wartime, and this is both. W. will surely get a bump for a bit, but his inability to inspire confidence may smooth out that bump before long. At least W. has been forthright in telling us how he’d pay for the government’s response. Just one week ago, Bush was saying that the Social Security lock box was sacrosanct, to be dipped into only during recession or war. On Friday, with the release of the new unemployment figures, we got the recession; on Tuesday, we got the war.
Whether the war gets W. his much-beloved missile-defense system is something we may know soon enough. The main criticism of this system, other than that it’s never worked in an unrigged test, is that it will spend untold billions to counter a threat that will likely never materialize (a missile from a “rogue state”) at the expense of other, more plausible military and civilian needs. Why Congress would want to fund so utterly irrelevant a system in the wake of Tuesday’s attack is not at all clear, unless it’s part of an administration proposal to throw money at every half-baked defense panacea that’s been gathering dust since Reagan.
Over the weekend, it became clear that the Democrats didn’t really have a program yet to deal with the recession; now, we’ll see if they’re any better when it comes to questions related to war. If Bush uses the attack to send Pentagon spending soaring, will the Dems have the gumption to say that even with Tuesday’s attack, our defense budget is still indefensibly high? If the administration sees the attack as a graceful way to back out of an open-border policy with Mexico, and the extension of rights and citizenship to millions of illegal immigrants, will the Dems persist in their pro-immigrant line? If John Ashcroft’s Justice Department sees this as the perfect pretext to squelch the anti–World Bank, anti–International Monetary Fund demonstration planned in Washington for month’s end, can some establishment liberals at least negotiate a space in this understandably jittery city where protesters can congregate?
The strange, new political landscape created by Tuesday’s attacks could prove a killing field for many new progressive prospects and many old-time civil liberties. It’s too early, as they keep saying on TV, to know the death count.