The President of 9/12

Friedman has a nice essay in today’s NYT laying out just how far America’s fallen as a result of Bush’s disastrous post-9/11 overreaction.

Like all good satire, the story [in the Onion] made me both laugh and cry, because it reflected something so true — how much, since 9/11, we’ve become “The United States of Fighting Terrorism.” Times columnists are not allowed to endorse candidates, but there’s no rule against saying who will not get my vote: I will not vote for any candidate running on 9/11. We don’t need another president of 9/11. We need a president for 9/12. I will only vote for the 9/12 candidate.

What does that mean? This: 9/11 has made us stupid. I honor, and weep for, all those murdered on that day. But our reaction to 9/11 — mine included — has knocked America completely out of balance, and it is time to get things right again.

It is not that I thought we had new enemies that day and now I don’t. Yes, in the wake of 9/11, we need new precautions, new barriers. But we also need our old habits and sense of openness. For me, the candidate of 9/12 is the one who will not only understand who our enemies are, but who we are.

Before 9/11, the world thought America’s slogan was: “Where anything is possible for anybody.” But that is not our global brand anymore. Our government has been exporting fear, not hope: “Give me your tired, your poor and your fingerprints.”

Friedman goes on to discuss some of the real economic consequences of America’s shifting brand identity. It’s a good read.

Good leaders in time of war, after all, construct a vision for the future — what are we fighting for? Bush promises only decades of endless struggles against some vast and largely unseen Islamo-fascist conspiracy.  But upon what foundation are we to build our will to continue to fight?  I know that there are bad people out there who want to kill us, but what do we accomplish in the victory against them?  To focus merely on our survival belies the fundamental spirit of our people.  Thoman Paine said, “give me Liberty, or give me death.”  Bush says, “please don’t kill me.”  There is no victory without freedom, and since 9/11, our leaders have acted like the scared bullies they undoubtedly have always been.

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