The September 12 Mentality

I think Andrew Sullivan made an effort to popularize that term at one point, and I liked it. Take, for example, Steve Hayes latest bout of enthusiasm for Dick Cheney who, he says, "has not moved on. He still awakens each day asking the same questions he asked on Sept. 12, 2001."

I mean, is that really supposed to be a good thing. I don't remember my mental state on 9/12/01 in perfect detail, but a broad-brush outline would be that I was freaking out. Nobody knew how many people had died the previous day, but the total was assumed to be way higher than the 3,000 or so it turned out to be. People (except for Dick Cheney, The Weekly Standard, and The New Republic) mostly assumed it was al-Qaeda, but nobody really knew and nobody really knew anything about al-Qaeda. Meanwhile, I was really, really, really scared that we'd just witnessed the first wave of some sustained assault on the United States. Like emergency workers were going to be deployed to New York, only to find skyscrapers in the cities they'd left tumbling down. Or maybe a masked man would just start opening fire in a crowded shopping mall and gun people down. Going to a college that doubles as a tourist attraction suddenly went from neat-but-annoying to terrifying.

It simply put, wasn't the best day to be making decisions. Obviously, the country's top leaders need to make decisions in crises. At the same time, they're bound to be fallible like everyone else. And, like everyone else, eventually they need to calm down, step back, and evaluate what's happening. But Cheney and his hagiographer see it as a virtue that he continues to make decisions based on the panicky and inaccurate vision of events we had on 9/12.