Tag Archives: President Bush

Presidents Obama and Bush Invoke America’s Religious Heritage at Ground Zero 9/11 Memorial

Last week, Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City made headlines when he expressly excluded clergy-led prayer from the planned 10th anniversary 9/11 Memorial Service at Ground Zero. It troubled many Americans that a prominent public official would ignore the profound role the faith community played in the aftermath of 9/11. Yet, thanks to the intervention of two American Presidents who were invited, the memorial service ultimately did reflect our nation’s religious heritage.

Following remarks by Mayor Bloomberg, President Obama stood to offer solace to the families of 9/11 victims who were gathered. His entire speech was taken straight from Psalm 46, a passage cited in difficult times by courageous leaders from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Reverend Billy Graham used this text in his memorable sermon at the National Cathedral on September 14, 2001.

Former President George W. Bush briefly spoke at the Ground Zero memorial service as well. He pointedly acknowledged the American tradition of faith, as he echoed the words of Abraham Lincoln: “I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost.”

President Obama’s policy record on supporting religious liberty, including freedom of conscience for chaplains and health care professionals, has been lacking. His decision to invoke our nation’s Judeo-Christian heritage in the public square, when organizers insisted on a nonreligious program, is a recognition of the continuing significance of religious practice for the common good—and should be followed up in policy deed.

Cross-posted at The Foundry

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How 9/11 Changed Our World Forever

I was late. In only my third week as a freshman at ORU, here I was in a mad rush from my dorm room on Michael 12 to make it to American History. A strange sight in the fishbowl commons area slowed my speed-walking: a dozen students gathered around the big-screen TV watching images of a burning New York skyscraper.

My frame of reference led me to one thought: Why is everyone watching Armageddon so early in the morning? Arriving at class, I learned the images on TV were real. Classes were called off, the Chapel hosted an intense prayer and worship service a few hours later… and by day’s end, that American history textbook we discussed on September 11, 2001 was outdated.

Be Alert, not Afraid

A homemaker I met recently introduced me to her “9/11 TV” as she called it. “Oh, after 9/11 happened, I realized I knew almost nothing about what was happening in the world. So I installed a large TV in my bathroom – my 9/11 TV – and watch the news every morning as I put on my face.”

She reflects a much larger trend: we’ve become more aware of how complex and interconnected our world is. In the process, we’ve become more fearful at times. 24/7 media is complicit; thanks to much larger potential audiences following 9/11, cable news networks ratchet up the drama—with Red Alerts often interrupted by sirens-blazing Breaking News.

In the wake of 9/11, the clips on repeat were indeed scary. These terrorists could legitimately be feared. Their methods flipped Washington’s accepted security doctrines on their head: a group not acting officially under a state government launched a suicide mission that killed three thousand Americans. Even with overwhelming military might, that’s a difficult threat to overcome.

Discretion and Debate

“The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States,” states Article II, Section 2 of the United States Constitution. While it provides Congress an important role in approving all funds spent in military action, our nation’s guiding charter gives the President discretion in waging war to ensure our nation’s safety.

How President George W. Bush and his administration exercised this discretion following that fateful day remains a topic of intense debate. Launching an aggressive attack against Afghanistan, where the terrorists were trained and organized, as well as later Iraq, continues to involve trillions in U.S. taxpayer dollars, overwhelming amounts of data gathered by intelligence agents, millions of foreign nationals affected overseas, and the personal sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of military families.

Then there’s the results. Reasonable evidence exists on both sides; some friends of mine point to how average wages in Iraq have actually decreased since before the conflict, while others emphasize Iraq and Afghanistan’s unprecendented free elections and human rights improvements. “Unmitigated disaster” or “The liberation of oppressed peoples”: the truth likely lies somewhere between these two extremes.

What’s indisputable is the Bush administration’s good sense to reorganize our intelligence programs to stop another large-scale strike from happening. This effort has been a great success. Over 40 attempted terrorist attacks have been thwarted since 9/11. Opening secure channels between CIA, FBI, NSA, OSD and other acronym agencies surely involved a lot of boring internal politics. Yet it’s exactly what was needed to save lives.

United We Stand… Divided We Fall

Of the movies and TV specials produced to date, United 93 gets closest to the heart of 9/11. Telling one story well, it becomes a microcosm of our national decade-long struggle.

Confusion reigns as stewardess and control tower alike have no idea what’s happening. Then shock when we realize what is happening. Followed by impatience when we hatch our own plan but cannot take action right away.

Ultimately, the pivotal moment comes when Todd Beamer rallies other passengers to storm the cockpit and stop United Flight 93 from reaching the U.S. Capitol. Race, income, religious background, occupation: none of this mattered. Pulling together is how these everyday heroes stopped the madness.

America learned from their courage. According to The Economist reporting on a string of recent in-air incidents, “After 9/11, the vast majority of airline passengers are now inclined to resist any attempts to hijack a plane.”

Their example carries through to the larger struggle. Those serving in the US Armed Forces have learned and sacrificed most in this fight. (Full disclosure: my brother Tim, also a former ORU student, is currently deployed to Afghanistan.) Early on in the war, Defense and State Departments alike faced a steep learning curve. Where do we engage this unknown enemy? How do we ensure safety and sanity of people on both sides? And when the fighting stops, how do we spark a national culture shift?

Maybe answers are not so far from our grasp. Imagine a future business graduate in dialogue with social workers, crafting a plan for all to benefit from oil discoveries. Engineering and psych experts have safety and sanity questions to tackle. Teaching children drama and music opens up new directions in their culture. Yes, we even need philosophy majors: Just War Theory may once again be at the forefront of discussion.

This strategy of synergy—pardon the marketing buzzwords—isn’t fantasy. A friend of mine here in DC, who happens to have a theology degree, embeds Old Testament history in his briefing reports to top-ranking officers at the Pentagon. (Like all theologians, he says his greatest struggle is keeping his insights to the standard one page.) Thank God he didn’t dismiss it as a useless degree.

Everyone was late in grasping the enormity of 9/11. How we think and interact must continue to change. Rather than fear and lethargy getting the better of us, let’s roll.

Originally published in The Oracle, Sept. 9 2011 edition

Breakdown of Legitimacy: How the Disastrous Bailout Passed

I do not profess to know much on economics, especially not an economy as complex as our nation’s. But I do have a brain, along with a few years in business school. And for the past two weeks since this “financial crisis” has been looming, I’ve devoted many hours to researching this plan. Neither the mainstream nor conservative media has been much help.

Americans must realize what role the 24/7 news cycle has played in this debacle. For the past year or so, the words “credit”, “housing” and “financial” could not be said on-air without being followed by the word “crisis.”

Is that really an accurate way to view the world? Or have all these sectors gone up-and-down over the past many decades? Does the market inevitably have cycles?

We live in a world where TV commentators report on a story one day, then in the “follow-up” tomorrow want the issue solved. It’s more entertaining that way, and today the news industry plays the ratings race perhaps more so than dramatic TV.

TV is not alone in thinking only short-term, ultimately trying to build public support for this big-government solution. Here’s my recent letter to the editor of the Wall Street Journal

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Examining the role of media in the recent $700 billion bailout provides a missing understanding of how the events transpired. Though I have long been an avid reader of The Wall Street Journal, it is apparent that this “big tent” of conservative thought has excluded other viewpoints on this risky, highly controversial handout to Wall Street.

On any issue of the day–regarding education, government regulation, corporate policies, technology, health care, military, climate change, gun rights, and many others–I have counted on WSJ for robust debate and a discovery of facts that other media missed. So it was that I visited WSJ.com’s Wall Street in Crisis section trying to understand the pros and cons of the bailout.

Story after story, blog after blog, op-ed after op-ed in this section preached only the benefits and urgency of the bailout. This perspective even seeped into front page news stories. On Monday, September 29, as more Americans than ever were reading The Wall Street Journal trying to understand what was going on, the paper referred to Lehman Brothers as a “158 year-old” financial institution whose collapse meant certain “crisis.”

“Wow, Honey, maybe this financial stuff really is serious if a bank that old is going down?” The problem is, this article said nothing about Lehman Bros. being essentially a shingle for American Express, which spun off this unit in 1994. It said nothing about the 2003 investigation into the company’s shady investment practices.

We were just supposed to think that Lehman was as legitimate a bank as say Wells Fargo, backed with solid collateral but now going under. This was simply not true. Clearly The Wall Street Journal had a dog in this fight, and the editors made sure it ended up winning.

Not only has the financial sector suffered a breakdown of legitimacy in the past weeks–so has the media, even conservative-leaning media previously thought to be trustworthy. Media junkies beware: no news outlet is, in fact, “fair and balanced.”

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The last reference is, of course, to Fox News. It’s notable that Bill O’Reilly bought the Treasury’s arguments early on, and espoused those views for the two-week public debate on the bailout.

From what I could tell, O’Reilly’s stand with President Bush convinced Sean Hannity and others to back down on their hard line against the bailout. Interesting audio clip from Bill here:

Bill O\’Reilly audio clip from The Laura Ingraham Show

So where do we go from here?

For starters, don’t buy the pointless commentary espoused on TV: “We’re concerned about what the market’s going to do tomorrow.” The markets will go up and down. It would’ve gone down if the bailout failed, and that’s natural. We’re likely looking at a worse crash in 2009 due to this bailout; watch Cato.org for the best analysis I’ve seen.

Second, it pains me that President Bush’s legacy is The Republican who Stood for Big Government. Even apart from defense spending, you cannot deny that Bush has bloated the government beyond what any true conservative would ever stand for. He may be the strongest Christian evangelical the White House has seen in a long time, but that’s no excuse for his poor economic policies.

It should be noted, though, that the state of the economy isn’t all Bush’s fault–that’s a really dumb view propagated by the far left. A lot of people are at fault.

Third, the election. I’ve noticed an editorial tilt even in the Wall Street Journal that hopes for an Obama administration. Opinion columns are showing both views, sure, but regular coverage is giving more space to pro-Obama voices. Despite the fact that WSJ has traditionally been against big government, which is exactly what Obama/Biden mandate.

Maybe The Wall Street Journal, clearly in the tank for corporate fat cats, is scared that McCain/Palin would deliver on their promise to affect the financial sector in favor of the American people (to the extent that the Executive branch can, which may be negligible). And WSJ wants nothing of it. This is just my view, though, and less fact-based the rest of the commentary presented here.

Your thoughts?