By now we’ve all seen the picture from the Situation Room. President Obama, stone-cold serious. Hillary Clinton, “oh-my-God” hand clasped over mouth. Joe Biden, looking glum (although, admittedly, a weird kind of glum better suited for a tough loss for your favorite football team).
One might think I’m being glib. I’m not. In fact, I’m sure I would have had a similar expression on my face had I been there. However, it’s a look I’ve seen before. Where was it? Oh yeah…it was on President Bush on 9/11 as he was reading My Pet Goat. If you’re like me, you’ll forever have a deep respect and admiration for the man because, differences aside, you knew that he loved his country and loved the troops. You know, like the kids who were in the classroom that day, that George W. Bush is a man who sought to protect us:
“I’ll always remember watching his face turn red. He got really serious all of a sudden. But I was clueless. I was just 7. I’m just glad he didn’t get up and leave, because then I would have been more scared and confused.” Chantal Guerrero, 16, agrees. Even today, she’s grateful that Bush regained his composure and stayed with the students until The Pet Goat was finished. “I think the President was trying to keep us from finding out,” says Guerrero, “so we all wouldn’t freak out.”
The utter seriousness in both pictures show us what it looks like to be sand-blasted by reality (i.e., we live in a world with sick individuals who plot and plan and dream about ways to tear down the pillars of a free society). And we need to see them. It’s healthy to periodically revisit images of the Twin Towers falling or the men and women who chose to jump to their death before it happened. To ignore them allows time to lull us into a false sense of security. Even worse, it opens the door for unscrupulous politicians to demonize others for short-term gain.
And that is why the Situation Room photo is so amazing. Only a few years ago certain individuals in that room (you know who they are), fed their followers rhetorical red meat about George Bush’s motives on Iraq, Afghanistan, Gitmo, and the War on Terror. And yet, there they are—spellbound by the truth. In those moments politics tend to disappear, because when the right thing to do is before you it shines so bright and brilliant it’s hard to see alternatives.
Pakistani sovereignty, anyone? “No thanks. We need to do what needs to be done. And this is no time to theorize as to what it means to be sovereign if you have zero control over your border and your intelligence service is in bed with the bad guys. We’ll take this one alone.”
Conservatives recognize that we live in an imperfect world. Sometimes you aren’t dealing with good guys and bad guys. Sometimes you’re dealing with bad guys and really bad guys.
Sadly, no one cut Bush any slack when he was the one in the Situation Room. I don’t expect an apology anytime soon. But Bush, who always trusted that history would be far kinder to him than the Chris Matthews Leg Tingle Brigade, is looking good these days. And future generations won’t need an apology on record from President Obama or anyone else to understand just how well “W” did with the crappy hand he was dealt. They’ll know.