Saturday, September 11, 2010

Point / Counterpoint: Slate on September 11

First, David Weigel answers one of those plaintive political questions that just beg for an ass-whuppin': "Why 9/11 Is No Longer A Day Free of Politics". Weigel (who I've learned before isn't the most trustworthy commentator) gets off to an apolitical bang by jeering at
The liberal panic of the week, now that Saturday's Quran-burning ceremony has been canceled, is the mystery-cloaked rally that Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin are holding in Anchorage tomorrow evening. "Right Wing Leaders Plan To Use September 11th Anniversary To Make Money," writes Lee Fang at ThinkProgress. "Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck Exploit 9/11 for Profit" reads a headline at Firedoglake.
It isn't only the Right which notices the political usefulness of the Koran-burning story: Alexander Cockburn mocked the smothering liberal pieties about tolerance and respect at Counterpunch, for example. But these days panic is the normal mode of the American Right: death panels, Obama the Socialist Terrorist, the Muslim Victory Mosque at the Hallowed Ground Zero, and so on. Weigel has nothing much to say about that. But then his theme is that Before Obama, there was a hands-off policy about the Sacred Day:
Until this year, America basically operated under the impression that politics stopped on Sept. 11. In 2008, Barack Obama's campaign caught some flack for promoting a fundraiser with Warren Buffett that would have been held on the 9/11 anniversary; in public, both his campaign and McCain's campaign were pulling down TV ads. They spent the anniversary attending a solemn memorial at Ground Zero, and that was it.
But as Jack Shafer points out, September 11 was always soaked in politics.
Politicians claimed ownership of 9/11 almost from the get-go to advance their goals. Within five hours of the strike, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld was plotting ways to harness it as an excuse to attack Iraq. The Bush administration and Congress invoked 9/11 as they rushed into law in six weeks an act comprised largely of a police- and surveillance-powers wish list they had been keeping on a shelf, which they dubbed the USA PATRIOT Act. And, of course, the Bush administration repeatedly conjured images of 9/11 over the next 20 months to successfully campaign for the Iraq invasion.
And so on.

Weigel, oddly enough, goes on to concede the very point he started out to deny:
For nine years, supporters of an aggressive approach to terrorism as a response to 9/11 worked to make sure that they owned the anniversary. For nine years they got brushback from the media and from the political actors who had the most to lose if 9/11 was seen as proof that ultra-tough conservatives were right and that ultra-tolerant liberals were wrong. And the conservatives won.
And so on. Maybe Weigel wasn't responsible for the title, but he was responsible for the lead. And Shafer somehow managed to avoid getting weighed down by such a misleading start.