9/11 Narcissism is a Left-Wing Disease

Here's a funny piece of projection.  In this article, Nation columnist Gary Younge accuses the United States of being "narcissistic" in its response to 9/11.  He quotes Condoleezza Rice and Karl Rove with some lengthy deconstructive flourishes: 

But beyond mourning of the immediate victims' friends and families, there was an element of narcissism to this national grief that would play out in policy and remains evident in the tone of many of today's retrospectives. [...] It was as though Americans were unique in their ability to feel pain and the deaths of civilians of other nations were worth less.

[...] "We have obligations towards our citizens," [Cheney] said. "And we do everything to protect our citizens."

[...] If nothing else the Bush administration had fear on its side. "The next time the smoking gun could be a mushroom cloud," said Rice. "They only have to be right once. We have to be right every time."

But in the end Younge seems to think that these quotes exist in a timeless unchanging context, as if the 10-year memorials to 9/11 are unfurling with the same emotional infrastructure that framed the beginnings of the war on terror.  Quite predictably, the author mentions Barack Obama's complicity in the problematic defense policies he criticized Bush for, only briefly, as an afterthought to his extended rumination against right-wing problems such as "fear, McCain, and Palin":

The response to 9/11 [...] was the central issue in the 2004 election and cast the 2008 election in terms of hope - Obama - against fear, McCain and Palin. Internationally Obama's victory marked the country's belated, more nuanced, more enlightened response to 9/11, signalling (sic) America's readiness to meaningfully re-engage with the rest of the world and the treaties that govern it.

[...] True, Obama killed Bin Laden, and his administration plans to draw down troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and has retired the phrase "war on terror". But they have maintained many of the most problematic elements of that war, including Guantánamo Bay, extraordinary rendition and military commissions, while intensifying the war in Afghanistan.

McCain, Palin, and fear?  This triple-phrase alone reveals that this writer's leftist delusion is the real narcissism.  McCain differed starkly from Bush and Palin was not a national player in the war on terror.  Neither McCain nor Palin promoted a psychology of fear to get things they wanted.  McCain voted against Bush's tax cuts and opposed most enhanced interrogation techniques. 

Palin and fear?  Wasn't it Guardian readers and others on the left who spread wildly exaggerated memes that Palin wanted to force people to learn that the world was only six thousand years old, tried to ban books, forced rape victims to pay for their own treatment kits, and thought Africa was a country?  It was anti-McCain and anti-Palin agitators (otherwise known as Obama supporters) who instilled Americans with irrational fears that a Republican victory in 2008 would have brought about World War III, or evangelical theocracy, or both.

These same fear-mongers, having reaped what they sowed in 2008 with a terrible economy and an Obama foreign policy based on pubescent overcompensation so as not to look wimpy, now want to return us to the debates of the Bush Era.  Why?  Back then, the left had no power and therefore no responsibility to do anything right.  All they had to do was complain about Bush all day to get tenure, publications, grant money, and voracious applause at Cannes, in Cambridge, and at Sundance.

It is the left that reveals gross narcissism, for the left keeps imagining that its role as a watchdog against overreaction to 9/11 is still relevant and necessary.  The right has a delightful crop of politicians who are untainted by the Bush era.  The Tea Party darlings like Marco Rubio came after the war on terror; they were elected based on new ideas about the economy and never needed to beat the tom-toms of war to get elected.  Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin were never in a position to vote in favor of the USA Patriot Act.  By the time they supported keeping Guantánamo open this was already the de facto policy of Barack Obama anyway; Palin and Bachmann arose to prominence because of their ideas on energy, deficit reduction, tax reform, and job creation.  And the right still has the old crew of antiwar critics ranging from Pat Buchanan to Ron Paul.  Who wants to rehash the debate about Bush, Cheney, and Rice?  Certainly nobody powerful on the right.  It's the left that can't let go.

The left had a window of relevance after 9/11.  The Guardian and the Daily Show served a legitimate purpose when the White House, the Senate, and the House were all held by increasingly corrupt country-club Republicans; when journalists not only on Fox News but also in the New York Times were callow and hesitant about criticizing the war effort; when the Republicans sustained their power by contrasting their defense strategies against flimsy and weak-kneed Democrats; when much of the public was truly so blindsided by 9/11 and their own rage that they neglected to watch what was happening with mortgage-backed securities, rising college tuitions based on irresponsible student loans, and an overgrown nanny state devoted to dictating kindergarten lessons, airport searches, and interest rates from Washington.

The problem is that the left lost its chance, investing in the shallow iconography and narcissistic identity politics of Barack Obama.  The left solved nothing the world needed it to solve.  Their response to the mortgage meltdown was a disastrous series of debt-fueled stimulus packages.  Their response to corporate corruption was an unconstitutional health care bill that would force Americans to pay private companies for services they do not want.  And their response to Bush's military policy was to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell, increase the use of drones, inflame tensions on the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan, and make movies glamorizing Barack Obama for gangster-like vengeance because he killed Osama bin Laden (what of Mr. Younge's precious "nuance"?).

And so the right, after many mea culpas and turnarounds, has had to clean up the mess the right and the left made together.  Enter the Tea Party, the spike in Ron Paul's popularity, the boom in independent conservatives, and the new, articulate generation of rightists who reject Bush and anti-Bush radicals with equal intelligence.

I suppose someone in the Guardian may think of writing an article called "we are all narcissists now."  But the left has a sense of humor only about other people's delusions -- never its own.

Robert Oscar Lopez is the author of Colorful Conservative: American Conversations with the Ancients from Wheatley to Whitman, which will come out from Rowman & Littlefield's University Press of America on October 17, 2011. He can be found at criticalnewsscan.blogspot.com or www.colorfulconservative.com.