Wednesday, September 15, 2021


It seemed odd that President Biden chose not to speak at any of the Sept. 11 commemorations last weekend. But given his current capabilities and what former President George W. Bush said in his speech in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, perhaps Mr. Biden’s silence was the better choice.

In case you missed it, Mr. Bush re-entered American politics by equating Trump voters with the 19 murderers who hijacked the four planes and used them to kill 3,000 Americans.

He said, in part: “And we have seen growing evidence that the dangers to our country can come not only across borders, but from violence that gathers within. There is little cultural overlap between violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home. But in their disdain for pluralism, in their disregard for human life, in their determination to defile national symbols, they are children of the same foul spirit. And it is our continuing duty to confront them.”

Did you get all that? There is little cultural overlap, except all the overlap I’m about to mention. Essentially, Trump voters and Mohammed Atta are pretty much the same.

Like others in the ruling class, Mr. Bush made it clear that he considers support of Mr. Trump and Trumpism as a social disqualifier, a red scarlet T emblazoned across one’s shirt.

At the same time, Mr. Bush showed no awareness of his own incompetence in executing the wars he started. If we failed in Afghanistan, we failed because the foundation poured by Mr. Bush was faulty. Not sure about torture? Ask Mr. Bush. Still looking for those weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? Perhaps Colin Powell has a few ideas about where they might be.

Let’s think about the Bush administration outside the realm of war.

There were more than 400,000 foreclosures in 2007 (double the number in 2006) and 860,000 in 2008, but Mr. Bush couldn’t be bothered to care until some of his friends on Wall Street started to have trouble. Suddenly, Hank Paulson and Neel Kashkari had $700 billion of taxpayer-funded walking-around money to pass out to their Ivy League friends.

Let’s think about immigration. As unlikely as it sounds, at least four of the hijackers – including the leader of the hijacking of Flight 93 — got their fake identification from a Salvadorean national in the United States illegally. The immigration system was so broken that two of the hijackers (Mohammed Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi) had their student visas mailed to their flight school six months after they died on Sept. 11.

If you want to understand the costs of illegal immigration, think about the 40 dead Americans on Flight 93.

But unipartisan guys such as Mr. Bush don’t care about the economy or illegal immigration or whether the wars they start go sideways.

There’s no risk that Andover and Yale will need to reroute scarce resources towards “English as a second language” courses, nor is it likely that crime driven by illegal immigrants will suddenly spike in River Oaks, Texas, or Greenwich, Connecticut, or McLean, Virginia. The hard truth about the economy is that skilled financial warriors – the kind who run investment portfolios for folks like the Bush family — make money from the churn and the uncertainty, not necessarily prosperity.

Concerning the more lethal mistakes, let’s be charitable and point out that, for the most part, the sons of the rich and the powerful usually manage to miss out on actual combat.

Mr. Bush is so intellectually desiccated that he remains blissfully unaware that it is was his incompetence and indifference that radicalized an entire generation of Republicans and led directly to Mr. Trump and his partisans.

In his seminal speech in 1964 (a Time for Choosing), Ronald Reagan argued that the nation had arrived at a moment that required it to decide whether it still wanted to be a constitutional Republic driven by freedom and risk or whether it would rather devolve into an ersatz monarchy characterized by statism and sclerosis.

We are now at a similar moment. Mr. Bush has made it clear which answer he prefers. The citizens need to be clear about which they prefer.

If it helps any, in Shanksville last week, Mr. Bush got through the entire address without mentioning the heroes of Flight 93 by name; it seemed like too much trouble to remember them. But he did seem pleasantly surprised to note that Americans managed to restrain what he clearly thinks is their latent racism and religious bigotry in the aftermath of the attacks.

It’s time to move on from the ruling class.

• Michael McKenna, a columnist for The Washington Times, is the president of MWR Strategies. He was most recently a deputy assistant to President Trump and deputy director of the Office of Legislative Affairs at the White House.

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