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September 11, 2018

WHERE DID ALL THE UNITY GO? 17 years ago we came together as one. Today would that still be allowed?

The annual approach of 9/11/01 brought memories, news recaps, and best of all, in some ways, speculation. As in, what’s the matter with Americans today? Where’s now the national unity that marked the aftermath of the attacks; the U.S. flags that decorated pickups and sedans; the spirit of we’re-all-in-this-together?

Umm, yes. Where, in fact, had that unity gone by the time the victory over Iraq had sucked Americans into a guerrilla war and America’s commander-in-chief in that war was being castigated right and left?

I have a suggestion. It is that in 2001, under attack by — I do not think it is too much to say — the powers of darkness, Americans found and asserted their American identity. It took some effort. Vietnam, Watergate, and the Clinton years had produced deep national divisions. The 2000 presidential election had dug them deeper still.

Nevertheless, enough national spirit remained to further and facilitate the coming together of the American tribe, the American family in the interest of punishing suitably the murderous foes of that family. We all suddenly embraced one another. We were in this thing together. God bless the U.S.A.

I have a much more cynical view, unfortunately: On the eve of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal noted that for the far left, losing the Gore-Bush recount fight in November of 2000 was in many ways, a more traumatic experience than the horrors to come the following year. But the magnitude of 9/11 required a rare interregnum (with notable exceptions) in the culture war from the left. By the middle of 2004, it would lead to what the late Charles Krauthammer dubbed “the Pressure Cooker Theory of Hydraulic Release,” in August of that year:

The Democrats fell unnaturally silent. For two long, agonizing years, they had to stifle and suppress. It was the most serious case of repression since Freud’s Anna O. went limp. The forced deference nearly killed them. And then, providentially, they were saved. The clouds parted and bad news rained down like manna: WMDs, Abu Ghraib, Richard Clarke, Paul O’Neill, Joe Wilson and, most important, continued fighting in Iraq.

With the president stripped of his halo, his ratings went down. The spell was broken. He was finally, once again, human and vulnerable. With immense relief, the critics let loose.

The result has been volcanic. The subject of one prominent new novel is whether George W. Bush should be assassinated. This is all quite unhinged. Good God. What if Bush is reelected? If they lose to him again, Democrats will need more than just consolation. They’ll need therapy.

Krauthammer’s 2004 column is remarkably timely, alas. While Trump’s eccentricities no doubt exacerbate the craziness of the left, even if another, much more courtly Republican were president, simply having that (R) after his name would be enough to ensure that he’d face virtually the same level of anger and fury from the reactionary far left.