President George W. Bush Blew It in Shanksville

(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

President George W. Bush, meet Niya McAdoo. Niya is the student body president at the University of Kansas.

Niya McAdoo wasn’t in Bush’s speech at the 9-11 commemoration at Shanksville, but she should have been.


Niya openly hates America. She shares that same “foul spirit” of the people who flew planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. President Bush will recognize the term.

“Foul spirit” was the term used by President Bush to describe the terrorists of that horrible day 20 years ago as well as, it seems, the January 6 rioters. Byron York tears that comparison apart in his piece “George W. Bush’s dreadful 9/11 speech,” noting that instead of being responsible for mass murder, the January 6 rioters were charged with “Parading, Demonstrating, or Picketing in a Capitol Building.”

Niya, like the hijackers, is fond of sloganeering about America. She likes to retweet, “Death to America.”

Those of us old enough to remember that phrase know what it means. We remember the weeks turning into months of our nation held hostage by maniacs in Tehran. We remember the American flags being burned while the mob chanted Niya’s slogan.

President Niya McAdoo defends her foul spirit, saying of America, “Yes, I want to see it waste away. Yes, I want to see it die.”

Why is it that whenever President Bush spends his vast goodwill to engage the modern debate, he trains his fire at the right? Why do we hear Bush attack “nativists” more than the budding totalitarian culture that Niya McAdoo represents?

You would think he would remember what the institutional left did to him.

Bush missed an opportunity at Shanksville to address the real causes of our nation’s division. Bush could have provided a fuller accounting of the “malign forces … at work in our common life,” but didn’t.


It is true that the first part of Bush’s tribute at Shanksville was soaring. No American alive on September 11, 2001, could hear it without reliving those dark uncertain weeks and months and being grateful for President Bush. Bush will live through history as a president who kept America safe after that day, and he deserves it.

Bush, like Trump, did not flinch from framing world events as a never-ending battle between good and evil, because it is true.

But then at Shanksville, Bush pivoted and blew all this goodwill by attacking the right, his own political base that defended him loyally. As Byron York wrote, Bush’s attacks at Shanksville were “jaw dropping.”

This brings me back to Niya McAdoo. McAdoo can fairly be called a domestic enemy of the Constitution of the United States. After all, she can’t wait for it to die.  She is a creature of the militant left. She views people based on skin color, not the content of their character. She despises American institutions, even though she decided to run for student body president of one.

McAdoo is the sort of person who spent year after year of the Bush presidency attacking President Bush. And Bush barely fought back, allowing his tenure to be re-framed by the foul spirits on the left.

McAdoo is the sort of person who seeks to shut up people with whom she disagrees.  Bush once spoke often about the wretched ideologies of the 20th century that sought to do the same.


At Shanksville, Bush didn’t mention these foul spirits invading American campuses.

And what of the violence spreading across American streets, Mr. President? Have you not followed the events in Portland?

If not, there are foul spirits on the loose across American cities. These foul spirits attack peaceful citizens who disagree with them just like other foul spirits did in Leipzig in 1933 and all across Europe in that decade of missed opportunities. Violence, murder, and plenty of broken glass have characterized once tranquil streets in Portland and other American cities.

Yet there was no mention in Bush’s Shanksville speech of these foul spirits.

These days, President Bush is cashing in on the speaking circuit. I think that’s great, and it’s America’s benign way of rewarding retired national leaders compared to the graft of other nations in other times. We can live with that.

But when Bush speaks for a hefty fee, the speech is often secret, per the terms of his speaking contract. I know from people who have attended these events that what you saw at Shanksville is the mild version of Bush’s attacks on conservatives. Those secret speeches are all about the need to amp up immigration, attacks on “nativists” who want to enforce immigration laws, and gripes about the purportedly Trump-driven degraded political discourse. His speech never mentions how the institutional left is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to degrade the political discourse.


In fact, the institutional left gets a pass in most of what President Bush says these days. Perhaps it is the years of abuse they inflicted on him. Instead of fighting back while they destroyed his reputation, he employs a different strategy.

It’s the strategy I heard over and over again fifteen years ago: If you respond, you prolong the story. If you fight back, you legitimize the attack.

We have learned that isn’t true.

Look at how the nation is worse off because we didn’t fight back sooner. We allowed the storm to gather and consume our culture. A loud generation has arisen that seeks to end the constitutional arrangement on so many fronts.

And a president who gallantly and effectively led this nation against foreign enemies failed to recognize the domestic ones emerging around us. What’s worse, he still doesn’t recognize them.


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