The eyes of the world being thus on our Country, it is put the more on its good behavior, and under the greater obligation also, to do justice to the Tree of Liberty by an exhibition of the fine fruits we gather from it. —James Madison (1824)
By DOUGLAS ANDREWS September 13, 2021
When our 43rd president compared the January 6 rioters to the 9/11 terrorists, he disgraced himself, dishonored the dead, and divided the nation.
Any American who doubts just how awful Saturday’s 9/11 address by George W. Bush was need only consider the remarks of Joe Biden immediately afterward: “I thought that President Bush made a really good speech today,” said the Coward of Kabul. “Genuinely.”
Bush, there on the hallowed ground of Shanksville, Pennsylvania, to commemorate the first counterattack of the American people upon their murderous jihadist foes, did a deep disservice to the day when he compared the Islamist cutthroats of September 11, 2001, to the Trump-supporting Americans who stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6 of this year.
The perpetrators of the former event, who were bent on no less than bringing the American nation to its knees, murdered 2,977 people that day. The perpetrators of the latter event, who were bent on disrupting certification of a presidential election that they considered to be deeply flawed and improperly adjudicated, murdered 0 people. But, yeah, according to Bush, the two are “children of the same foul spirit.”
Here, we’re obliged to remember that this is the same Republican president who rightly took our nation to war in Afghanistan — a 20-year war that Joe Biden just lost — and who wrongly, as most Americans now believe, took us to war in Iraq.
For those too young to recall that clear September day, it is hard to describe the mix of feelings we experienced. There was horror at the scale — there was horror at the scale of destruction, and awe at the bravery and kindness that rose to meet it. There was shock at the audacity — audacity of evil — and gratitude for the heroism and decency that opposed it. In the sacrifice of the first responders, in the mutual aid of strangers, in the solidarity of grief and grace, the actions of an enemy revealed the spirit of a people. And we were proud of our wounded nation.
In these memories, the passengers and crew of Flight 93 must always have an honored place. Here the intended targets became the instruments of rescue. And many who are now alive owe a vast, unconscious debt to the defiance displayed in the skies above this field.
Indeed, as Mene Ukueberuwa put it in The Wall Street Journal: “[Todd] Beamer was among the passengers on United Airlines Flight 93 who attacked the hijackers and prevented them from crashing the Boeing 757 into the U.S. Capitol. His rallying cry, ‘Let’s roll,’ rests in America’s memory. It is exalting to think of what he and his fellow passengers did on that short flight, and the people they saved on the ground.”
Beamer, armed with a strong body and an even stronger Christian faith, led three other passengers who spearheaded the revolt — Jeremy Glick, Mark Bingham, and Tom Burnett. Flight 93’s intended target was likely either the Capitol building or the White House.
As President Bush movingly put it: “We learned that bravery is more common than we imagined, emerging with sudden splendor in the face of death. We vividly felt how every hour with our loved ones was a temporary and holy gift. And we found that even the longest days end.”
And then, sadly, the former president went off the rails:
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.
We wish we could un-hear those deeply, profoundly, despicably misguided words, but we can’t. No one has to defend the rioters whom our Mark Alexander called “jackasses” to chafe at Bush’s comparison. But hey, at least Joe Biden liked the speech.