September 14, 2004


Heroes and Villians

In honor of "Heroes and Villians", Brian Wilson's epic pop song featured on the September 28th release of
(37 years after it's scheduled release date), here's a link to a must-read Slate article on the heroism of George Walker Bush.


Two days ago at an Ellis Island rally, Dick Cheney described Bush's 9/11 leadership this way: "In the weeks following the terrorist attacks on America, people in every part of the country, regardless of party, took great comfort and pride in the conduct and the character of our president. They saw a man calm in a crisis, comfortable with responsibility, and determined to do everything necessary to protect our people."

Calm and comfortable. I appreciate that. This was a major selling point of Bush's 2000 campaign: He would allow us to "look at the White House with pride." But isn't a president supposed to, um, do things? Isn't it a bit strange to praise a man's leadership not for doing something, but for maintaining a certain appearance?

(3 Days after 9/11) did Bush put himself in any peril? He certainly did. As Giuliani explained to the convention audience:

When President Bush came here on September 14, 2001, the Secret Service was not really happy about his remaining in the area so long. With buildings still unstable, with fires raging below ground of 2,000 degrees or more, there was good reason for their concern. Well, the president remained there. And talked to everyone. ... [A construction worker] grabbed the president of the United States in this massive bear hug, and he started squeezing him. And the Secret Service agent standing next to me, who wasn't happy about any of this, instead of running over and getting the president out of this grip, puts his finger in my face and he says to me, "If this guy hurts the president, Giuliani, you're finished."

This is Bush's heroism? Showing up three days later, "remaining in the area," and enduring a hug?

Of course, he did not remain there long enough to get sick:

While there has been a growing consensus since the attack that thousands of people may have grown ill because of the toxic mix of dust, debris, smoke and chemicals that were released when the towers collapsed, there is still no definitive answer to what exactly was in the dust or to how many people suffered because of their exposure.

Dr. Levin and others worry that some health consequences, like cancer, may take years to develop.

Still, many of the effects were recognized immediately. Within 48 hours of the attack, the study says, the Fire Department found that about 90 percent of its 10,116 firefighters and other emergency workers reported an acute cough. "Almost all F.D.N.Y. firefighters, 9,914, who had responded to the attack developed respiratory effects, and hundreds, about 380, had to end their firefighting careers due to W.T.C.-related respiratory illness," the study reports.

Lovely. I'm so glad we were all told by the Bush administration that it was safe down there.

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