We still hear this drivel, mostly from the left, 10 years after the terror attacks. But how did Bush blow this alleged consensus, this shared sense of purpose presumably expected to last, well, forever?
Bush's critics pretty much give the same three reasons.
First, "America was ready to sacrifice," they say, but Bush made no demands. "Go shopping," Bush urged Americans, a comment that somehow came to symbolize Bush's alleged wrong-footedness as commander in chief. He blew it! Why, he should have convened a joint session of Congress, asked for network airtime, stared sternly at his teleprompter and barked: "All you American men and women between the ages of 18 and 45, hit the floor and gimme 25 push-ups. I got all your names. I got your addresses! So move those fannies, America!"
Bush wanted the 9/11 Islamofascists to understand that they did not and would not succeed in decapitating the country by attacking the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and our seats of government. His message to the terrorists: Americans do not cower behind closed doors and would not be intimidated. And we intend to take the fight to you.
Second, Bush "divided America" in how he chose to fight the war on terror. Well, yes, figuring out exactly how to fight this war did, indeed, cause a rift or two. Imagine that. Yet the now controversial and much-criticized decision to invade Iraq received broad public support. At the beginning of the Iraq War, over 70 percent of Americans supported it. Seventy-seven members of the Senate voted for the Iraq war resolution. This included several Democrats who ran for president in 2008: Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, John Edwards and Hillary Clinton -- all of whom later renounced their vote and blamed it on everything from "having been misled" to bad sushi.
Biden even co-wrote a pre-invasion op-ed piece explaining his support for the war. He warned that while toppling Saddam Hussein would be easy, it would then take about 10 years to stabilize Iraq. Then, the war, pre-surge, went south. Things turned bleak. Biden pivoted. He suggested a dividing of Iraq into three parts. Then he pivoted again. Alas, he admitted, he erred in voting for the war. Now vice president, Biden pivoted again, calling Iraq, in February 2010, "one of the great achievements of this administration." Don't ask. Just Joe being Joe.
The New York Times editorialized, on March 20, 2003, against the Iraq War. But the paper said it respected the administration's position and wanted success. Even pathological anti-Bush critic Bill Maher, who disagreed with the invasion, seemed almost impressed by Bush's vision in deciding to invade Iraq.