Editors Note: Personally, I don’t believe that 9/11 was anyone’s fault in government. I think it would have happened whether George Bush or Al Gore were president, because we’re an open society that values that openness. And when you’re facing an enemy with no respect for human life (their own or anyone else’s), events like the destruction of the World Trade Center are going to happen. Hence, no single politician should be blamed. However, you can’t talk sense to Republicans, who think the solution to every problem is conservatism, and the cause of every problem is liberalism. At least one person made an effort to answer the question I posed in the second paragraph. Good for you, Maura Mudd.

9/11 Conservatives and Liberals



In the 12 years since 9/11, many new phrases have entered the American lexicon: “72 virgins”; “see something, say something”; “ground zero”; “underwear bomber.” However, one of the more curious concepts is the “9/11 conservative.”

By definition, 9/11 conservatives were liberals on 9/10/01, but woke up Republicans two days later. I’ve met people who label themselves this way, and I’ve never heard a persuasive answer as to how Islamic terrorists convinced them to alter their positions on everything from taxes to abortion by flying airliners into NYC buildings. It makes sense that 911 might make someone more hardline on terrorism, but why would it cause a Democrat to drastically change his values across a wide range of unrelated issues?

How did Muslim fundamentalists cause the onset of the belief that George W. Bush had evolved into a great president overnight, and, later, that Sarah Palin was presidential material? The 9/11 conservative is similar to newly born-again Christians who become right-wing fanatics because “god is a Republican,” despite the fact that the answer to the question, “What would Jesus do?” is seldom even remotely that one-sided.

The most well-known 9/11 conservative is ex-libertarian/comedian Dennis Miller. Cynics might say he revived a floundering career by becoming The Right’s house comic. To counter this perception, he has repeatedly stressed how “9/11 changed me,” although he never explained why this event turned him into a Herman Cain backer. The same was true of actor Ron Silver, an ex-liberal Democrat, who became a staunch Bush supporter.

During the premier of his CNBC talk show in 2004, Miller expressed his admiration for President Bush, and stated he’d brook no criticisms of the president’s policies — an oddly counterproductive format for a debate-style political program (which was canceled almost instantaneously). Nowadays, as Bill O’Reilly’s sidekick on Fox, he appears to have drunk the Tea Party Kool-Aid on the whole gamut of social and economic issues.

Regarding 9/11, the party line is that it wasn’t Bush’s fault (even though it happened on his watch) because Bill Clinton had failed to “get” bin Ladin. Meanwhile, W’s inability to get bin Laden also wasn’t his fault, and the fact that President Obama did earns him no credit, because his success was the result of W’s prior good works. None of this is a reasonable 9/11 epiphany — it only makes sense to already-committed conservatives.

Of course, 9/11 conservatives are no more monolithic than any other Republicans: They range from the moderate Right to the wingnuts, like ex-Congressman Alan West, who told Fox News, “Obama believes there isn’t a war on terror.” This, despite the president’s increased use of drones and NSA surveillance, both of which conservatives didn’t become dubious about until there was a Democrat in the White House.

The radio talk show types consider Obama a secret Muslim and a foreigner, which causes his hatred of America. This makes him soft on terrorism, despite the “surge” in Afghanistan, and his belligerence in Pakistan and Yemen. And, although more al Quaeda leaders and far fewer Americans have been killed during Obama’s tenure than W’s, he’s not keeping us safe.

Such nonsense aside, why did 9/11 conservatives also abandon the rest of their liberal principles, including values unrelated to 9/11, from the rejection of science (e.g., global warming and evolution) to desegregating church and state? Opposed to fundamentalist Islam, they feel warmth for fundamentalist Christians (as Miller put it, “I dig them”) and share their concerns, including their hostility toward gays and gun control.

A more reasonable position is that of the “9/11 liberals,” a term libertarian talk show host Bill Maher coined for himself and other progressives, such as author/neuroscientist Sam Harris and the late journalist Christopher Hitchens. While retaining their basic liberal principles, on militant Islam, they have an aversion to and see a unique danger in Islamic fundamentalism. This makes sense, because liberalism has even less in common with radical Islam than it does with Christian conservatism.

The 9/11 liberals are more rationally consistent than the far Left, which seems to have problems with every religion other than Islam. Many leftist intellectuals (e.g., linguist Noam Chomsky) characterize the murderous Palestinian thugs in Hamas and Hezbollah as heroic martyrs, while the Israelis are always the aggressors, rather than the victims of terrorism. Like the “Old Left” of the 1930s, who made excuses for Stalin’s genocidal crimes, they see the U.S. as the villain in any conflict between the West and the Arab/Islamic world.

Many in this group irrationally label any criticism of militant Islam as racist, despite the fact that Islam isn’t a race. This is odd, in that the far Left has virtually nothing in common with the Islamists, other than a shared dislike of Christianity, Zionism and American foreign policy. And, on the fringe, plenty of leftist conspiracy nuts think 9/11 was an inside job carried out by the Bush CIA, perhaps with the cooperation of the Mossad.

Maybe it’s not conservatism and liberalism that make no sense, it’s extremism at either end of the political spectrum. If 9/11 should have taught us anything, it’s how many of our problems stem from simpleminded fanaticism. Look no further than our own Congress for the confirmation of that.

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