“I can hear you! I can hear you! The rest of the world hears you and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!”
When President George W. Bush spoke through a bullhorn to emergency rescue workers at Ground Zero just two days after 9/11, he put the world on notice: We are coming to get those who did this, and we will not stop until we do.
The attacks of September 11, 2001 underscored the gravity of threats posed by international terrorist organizations. Responding to the attacks, on October 7th President Bush declared a “war on terror” and identified Osama Bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network responsible. Within weeks, as opposed to our current Commander in Chief’s dithering for months, a US-led coalition launched air-strikes against targets in Afghanistan, where Bin Laden was believed to be sheltered by the Taliban regime.
The Almanac of Policy Issues wrote: “Iraq’s demonstrated capability and willingness to use weapons of mass destruction, the risk that the current Iraqi regime will either employ those weapons to launch a surprise attack against the United States or its Armed Forces or provide them to international terrorists who would do so, and the extreme magnitude of harm that would result to the United States and its citizens from such an attack, combine to justify action by the United States to defend itself.”
Following a wasted year of fruitless entreaties to the United Nations to enforce its several Security Council resolutions against Iraq, believed to be in possession of weapons of mass destruction and harboring and supporting Taliban terrorists, President Bush and Congress moved forward, enacting Joint Resolution 114 to authorize the use of military force against Iraq.
And so began the “Global War on Terror”, the war against radical Islamists. We had crossed the point of no return–the war had begun.
Immediately following 9/11, President Bush’s job approval rating hovered at near 92%, his high water mark. No matter what vision President Bush had for his presidency, it would now be defined by this war and those fighting it.
Recall that at the time, the world was behind us foursquare, including a Congress that went along with it – albeit reluctantly – because of his high poll numbers. That 90-plus rating had to make the Democrats nervous because with ratings like that, President Bush could easily push legislation through Congress, thus setting the agenda, secure reelection in 2004, and greatly influence the GOP’s pick for the next president of the United States in 2008. Even “Ike” didn’t enjoy these ratings, but he came the closest.
The Left in Congress could not, would not, allow that to ever take root. So they launched an anti-war campaign, with an obvious assist from the MSM. The theme was quagmire, waste of blood and treasure, Rumsfeld’s war strategy. Even though the war was succeeding, the President’s ratings were going down. When the war effort stalled, he implemented “The Surge”. We took back control of Iraq and were in a mop up operation, yet the drum beat continued in the MSM, pile driving President Bush into the ground daily in a non-stop effort to drop his poll ratings. Recall the now infamous Harry Reid comment, “The war in Iraq is lost.” Reid & Company was hoping for President Bush to have his own personal LBJ/Vietnam Lost moment.
The full-scale attack to discredit President Bush and the war effort didn’t take long. His job approval numbers began slipping after his Jan. 30, 2002 State of the Union address.
The MSM, wasting no opportunity to malign and discredit President Bush, reported that WMDs he said justified going to war were never found, willfully ignored the successful troop surge in Iraq, and generally promoted a pessimistic outlook of the war. The meme would continue for the rest of his term.
On May 3, 2003, landing on the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in a Navy S3-B Viking jet, President Bush congratulated the military and later told the nation that major combat operations in Iraq had ended. The speech was delivered from the carrier’s flight deck. Above him, the tower was adorned with a banner that read, “Mission Accomplished.”
The left media plastered that banner across their front pages, spinning the narrative to fit the meme.
The picture-perfect landing, covered live on television, marked the latest effort by the White House to showcase President Bush as commander in chief. The president’s address about the success in Iraq comes as Bush’s domestic agenda is under renewed fire by Democrats, especially by a flock of White House hopefuls.
“The president’s going out to an aircraft carrier to give a speech far out at sea … while countless numbers of Americans are frightened stiff about the economy at home,” said Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, who is seeking his party’s presidential nomination.
By the end of April, 2004, President Bush’s numbers had sunk to around 50%. The ongoing drumbeat of negativity from the media was having an impact. Election year posturing was cut throat. Then along came the gift that would keep on giving, toothsome news the New York Times and its acolytes would readily and hungrily sink their teeth into: Abu Ghraib.
The publication of graphic images of prisoners being mistreated and humiliated by a handful of U.S. guards in an Iraqi prison was front and center in the mainstream media for months. Though President Bush condemned the guards’ behavior and held them to justice, his critics clamored that it was authorized at the highest level to “soften up” terrorist suspects, implying that it was just one more thing wrong about this war: torture and roughing up the “detainees”, a term the media deliberately used instead of “prisoners of war”.
In July, 2004, despite lack of evidence that the Bush Administration had tried to coerce officials to fudge their findings, the Senate Intelligence Committee concluded the CIA overstated the threat posed by Iraq. As a result, they said, the U.S. and its allies went to war based on “flawed” information. The media had another chew toy, playing with the report for months, keeping it front page and above the fold and leading the 24-hour cable newscasts. President Bush’s approval ratings dropped into the 40’s.
The media, in Cronkite fashion, dutifully tallied the number of war dead. On October 7, 2004, the MSM touted the 1000th death with the loss of three soldiers in Sadr City and another in a roadside bombing north of Baghdad. To his credit, Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld reminded Americans that fighting terrorism has its cost. Photos of flag draped caskets punctuated the shrill cries of antiwar groups like Code Pink and Cindy Sheehan to “bring them home!”
Despite the hammering he’d taken from the left media and his critics, and a job approval drop of 40 points since 9/11, President Bush was elected to a second term in November 2004, fending off the challenge of Vietnam anti-war activist John Kerry, with help from “Swiftboaters”, men who had served with Kerry in Vietnam, who put their comforts aside and reputations on the line to reveal what they knew about Kerry’s questionable character. The left media consistently tried to discredit these Vietnam vets — some of them POWs and Medal of Honor recipients — by ignoring or ridiculing them, casting the term “Swiftboater” as a pejorative.
The following summer, the nation’s gulf coast was slammed by Hurricane Katrina. New Orleans was particularly hard hit, the full force of the hurricane whipping into the city that lies below sea level. Despite the fact that Louisiana’s Democrat governor Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin did little to nothing to prepare and evacuate residents ahead of the Cat 5 storm, the media blamed FEMA and President Bush for their “incompetence”. Relentless hammering in the media, many running with the headline “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job”, derisively targeted President Bush’s comment to FEMA director Michael Brown, sinking President Bush’s approval rating below 40%.
The MSM avoided reporting the President’s devotion for the troops and their families. In fact, it could be argued that he was able to slip into Iraq unnoticed because the media was asleep, literally and figuratively. When President Bush flew covertly into harm’s way to surprise the troops for Thanksgiving 2003, his life and all on board were at risk.
Our military service men and women never doubted that President Bush had their “six”. He never left his post when it came to supporting our troops. He never hesitated or waffled. In fact, unlike our current commander in chief, President Bush even gave up playing golf because he didn’t think it appropriate when we had men and women in harm’s way.
He cried with Gold Star families, giving his time and attention to those whose loved ones had given the final measure in defending freedom. During a refueling stop in Alaska on his way to Asia, President Bush met privately with the Gold Star family of Spc. Shawn Murphy, 24, of Ft. Bragg, NC.
Sean’s father. Lt. Col Mark Murphy recalled the moment: “…A short time later, the Secret Service opened the door and President Bush walked in. I thought we might get to shake his hand as he went through. But instead, he walked up to my wife with his arms wide, pulled her in for a hug and a kiss, and said, ‘I wish I could heal the hole in your heart.’ He then grabbed me for a hug, as well as each of our sons. Then he turned and said, ‘Everybody out.’ A few seconds later, the four of us were completely alone behind closed doors with the president of the United States and not a Secret Service agent in sight.”
President Bush lingered with the family for so long, Air Force One was late getting wheels up, a rare occurance. Milblogger Matt Burden of Blackfive tells the rest of story.
In a historic moment, President Bush met with influential military bloggers, acknowledging the important work they do in communicating troop concerns, experiences, events, and the role they play in bolstering troop morale. Among the bloggers meeting with the President in the Roosevelt Room was Master Sergeant CJ Grisham, seated to President Bush’s left, whose blogsite “They Have Names” is a tribute to those who have died in the service of our country. Also seated at the table was “Mrs. Greyhawk” of Mudville Gazette, whose husband was deployed to Iraq at the time.
President Bush meets with Military Bloggers. Present were: General Lute, Kevin Sullivan, Mark Pfeifler, Dana Perino, Tony Snow. Milbloggers present were: The Armorer of Argghhh!; Matt Burden of Blackfive; Mrs. Greyhawk of Mudville Gazette who sat in for the deployed Greyhawk; NZ Bear of the TTLB and the Victory Caucus; Steve Schippert of Threats Watch; Ward Carroll of Military.Com; CJ Grisham of A Soldier's Perspective; Mohammed of Iraq the Model. Linking in from Iraq were: Bill Roggio of the Long War Journal, and Bill Ardolino of INDC Journal. White House photo. (Sept. 2007)
How President Bush handled the war will be the subject of discussion and study for years to come. But the one thing he did that scholars and historians alike will agree upon: the irrefutable resolve President Bush had in defending our country, supporting our military, and staying the course. He had his heart in it.
Despite a job approval rating of 38% at the end of his second term as Commander in Chief, when it came to supporting our military and their loved ones, President Bush was rock solid. “Stay the course” was his order of the day when it came to taking the fight to the enemy, and it was his motto when it came to bolstering troop morale or comforting the families who had lost loved ones. His love, respect and support for the American fighting man and woman was ingrained into his very being. On this point, he never wavered, never once leaving his post.