Kevin absolutely nailed it yesterday:
My biggest disappointment of the past five years — the biggest by a very long way — has been the way that George Bush transformed 9/11 from an opportunity to bring the country together into a cynical and partisan cudgel useful primarily for winning a few more votes in national elections.
Compare and contrast: FDR was surely one of the most partisan presidents of the 20th century, but after Pearl Harbor he announced that “Dr. New Deal has been replaced by Dr. Win the War.” And he made good on that. World War II was largely a bipartisan war and FDR largely governed as a bipartisan commander-in-chief.
And Bush? Within a few months of 9/11 Karl Rove was telling party members what a great issue terrorism would be for Republicans. Andy Card was busily working on the marketing campaign for Iraq, timed for maximum impact on the midterm elections in 2002. Joe Lieberman’s DHS bill was hijacked and deliberately loaded with anti-union features in order to draw Democratic complaints and hand Bush a campaign issue. The UN resolution on WMD inspections in Iraq was kept on fire until literally the day after the midterms, at which point the version acceptable to the rest of the world was suddenly agreeable to Bush as well. Democrats who supported Bush on the war were treated to the same scorched-earth campaigning as everyone else. Bipartisanship bought them nothing.
What else? Bush never engaged with Democrats in any way. Bill Clinton and Al Gore were both hawkish Dems who could have been co-opted early if Bush had had any intention of treating the war seriously. He didn’t even try. He continued pushing divisive domestic issues like tax cuts and culture war amendments. (“Dr. Tax Cuts has been replaced by Dr. Win the War” would have been more appropriate.) He showed little interest in funding anti-proliferation efforts or working with serious Democratic proposals to improve domestic security at ports and chemical plants. The national security rhetoric from Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the rest of the administration was relentlessly inflammatory and divisive.
I think this is a complaint that most conservatives don’t accept — even conservatives who have soured on Bush over the past couple of years. But believe me: on the Democratic side of the aisle, Bush’s intensely and gratuitously partisan approach to 9/11 and the war on terror is keenly felt. Sunday’s Republican Party photo-op at Ground Zero was just more of the same.
President Bush called once again for a unified nation during his address last night:
On this solemn anniversary, we rededicate ourselves to this cause. Our nation has endured trials, and we face a difficult road ahead. Winning this war will require the determined efforts of a unified country, and we must put aside our differences and work together to meet the test that history has given us. We will defeat our enemies. We will protect our people. And we will lead the 21st century into a shining age of human liberty.
As Kevin stated above, this administration has worked 24/7 for the last four-and-a-half years to politicize terrorism, and not fight it. They’ve done everything possible to discourage bipartisanship and attack Democrats. Five years ago, he called on this nation to come together, and then pursued an agenda designed to seperate Americans into “us” and “them.”
Five years ago, Bush called on Americans to be unified in our fight against al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. Now, he wants us to be unified in support of a war not related to the events of 9/11, while Afghanistan is falling apart, Osama bin Laden is still free, and al Qaeda has basically taken over the western half of Iraq.
After five years of broken promises and divisive rhetoric, I’m all unified out.