Cruz is right that rock and country, with some exceptions, differed in their responses to the fall of the Twin Towers. The most significant rock document that explicitly addressed the tragedy in the years immediately following it was Bruce Springsteen’s The Rising. Kurt Loder summed up its themes in a Rolling Stone review:
Springsteen wades into the wreckage and pain of that horrendous event and emerges bearing fifteen songs that genuflect with enormous grace before the sorrows that drift in its wake. The small miracle of his accomplishment is that at no point does he give vent to the anger felt by so many Americans: the hunger for revenge. The music is often fierce in its execution, but in essence it is a requiem for those who perished in that sudden inferno, and those who died trying to save them.
Neil Young also focused on the human impact of 9/11, with "Let's Roll," which paid tribute to United 93's passengers. But aside from those examples and a little Bush-bashing, rock in general was surprisingly quiet about the attacks. Nu-metal and back-to-basics guitar bands ruling the charts at the time said almost nothing about them; works like P.O.D.’s “Alive” and U2's All That You Can't Leave Behind took on added resonance because of what had happened, but were actually written before 9/11.
Meanwhile, country’s biggest artists released fiercely patriotic songs that vented some of the anger that Loder’s Springsteen review referred to. Toby Keith’s "Courtesy Of The Red, White, And Blue (The Angry American)" hit No. 1 on Billboard’s country charts, thanks in part to these lyrics:
Hey Uncle Sam
Put your name at the top of his list
And the Statue of Liberty
Started shakin’ her fist
And the eagle will fly
Man, it’s gonna be hell
When you hear Mother Freedom
Start ringin’ her bell
And it feels like the whole wide world is raining down on you
Brought to you courtesy of the red, white, and blue
Alan Jackson’s “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning” was a lot less angry but still openly sentimental, and it too went to No. 1 on the country charts. So did Darryl Worley’s pro-war “Have You Forgotten,” released in 2003. There were dissenters like Merle Haggard, but the fact that the Dixie Chicks faced huge amounts of fan backlash when they spoke out against the Iraq War says a lot about attitudes in the genre's mainstream at the time.
There are many different reasons to like a particular song or style of music, and identifying with the lyrics are one of them. Anyone who appreciates the new Kendrick Lamar album for what it says about race, or the new Sufjan Stevens record because it portrays grief so well, knows that. Country music’s response to 9/11 clearly mirrored and arguably fed into the popular feelings that created public support for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. So it shouldn’t be that surprising that the genre’s lyrics and attitude caught the attention of Cruz, who was working in the Bush administration at the time. He might be exaggerating when he says his tastes changed "on" and not "after" 9/11, but then again people did respond in dramatic ways to that dramatic day, and anyone craving a shot of pure musical patriotism would have been able to have it satisfied by, say, Brooks & Dunn's "Only in America," released five months earlier.