9/11, Partisanship, and Politicization

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As we know, on 9/11 members of congress came down with an uncharacteristic bout of bipartisanship. (And if you think bipartisanship is a good in itself I’d just refer you to the USA Patriot Act.) It didn’t last, of course–which is fine by me: the ruinous Bush policies of the past five years have cried out for vigorous opposition, and the only cause for regret is that it hasn’t been vigorous enough.

Democrats have too often been cowed by the administration’s strategy of equating political dissent to the politicization of 9/11 and the war on terror, even as Republicans have perfected that art. Of course, “evenhanded” media accounts cast both sides as equally apt to turn terror to political advantage (as in this AP piece in which the tendency is bemoaned as “a danger both parties face”). Except that Democrats don’t get to dominate the airwaves, as the president does, with vague (and poll-boosting) warnings; don’t get to raise terror alerts at political whim; and don’t get to stage Republican-only symbolic photo ops like the one below.

Blog_Bush_9_11_2006.jpg

Pondering this shot, Kevin Drum writes:

Bush and his handlers understand very well that pictures are everything these days, and even on a day like this they’d rather have their big toes cut off than include New York’s two Democratic senators in a ceremony where cameras are rolling.

These guys just don’t know when to quit. It’s enough to make you ill.

Amen. America would be much nicer–and its politics more productive–if there were less partisanship and less political exploitation of genuinely important issues–like the very real threat from terrorism. (On which see “The Master Plan” Lawrence Wright’s terrifying piece in the Sept. 11 issue of the New Yorker, not yet online.) But as long as the current crew–for whom no political maneuver is too crass–is in charge, I’d say we need more, not less, partisanship.

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