The Talking Dog

April 3, 2008, Political gag reflex

California Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) (who, you'll recall, was the one-time-car-thief-turned-car-alarm-king and financial force in the recall of Gray Davis that gave us Governor Schwarzenegger) appears to have put his foot in his mouth by calling the events of 9-11 "just a plane crash" resulting in "just another fire". The usual suspects-- numerous Republicans, "the families," New York's tabloids, etc.--have duly jumped on this statement. The statement was apparently intended by Issa as a justification for opposing funding of an aid-to-New-York-bill, thereby screwing various rescue workers and other New Yorkers sickened by toxins released from the 9-11 events-- who were previously screwed by the federal government (and St. Rudy, of course) into believing that conditions at the WTC site, "Ground Zero" were less hazardous (and likely to cause permanent injury or premature death) than, in fact, they were-- out of any further federal assistance for their medical expenses.

What's interesting about the statement, as I see it, is the "meta-" nature of it. Because, in terms of the surface value of the statement, something to the effect of "9-11... can't we just get over it, already?"... it happens to be something I agree with. The joy of being a ludicrously light-trafficked blogger as oppposed to a Republican member of Congress is that I don't have to worry too much about the repercussions of making statements like that. The fact remains, however, that unlike Darrell Issa... or most of you... I have moral authority to speak about the events of 9-11, and you probably don't. You see, unlike Hillary Clinton in Tuzla, I was actually quite in or near "a war zone" assuming one considered being in an office a block uptown of the WTC site that morning (close enough to see glass, steel, paper and people falling from one's office window) as a war zone, though I never believed myself in any particular personal danger; I did have an irrational fear of driving over bridges for some time thereafter-- though that fear was, to be sure, stoked by New York's ever vigilant local media, and then our Lord Mayor (Il Duce). Yes, yes, I lost people I know (as did numerous other people I know), I lost my job (the building was in "the frozen zone"), and I and my family lived in the now-known-to-be-toxic pall that surrounded downtown, and blew down our way over Brooklyn, for months and months. Oh... I still work a block from "Ground Zero." So there. Some of you have similar stories; most of you don't. What of it?

The fact is, 9-11 was a one-off. A horrible tragedy. A national calamity, really. But. That's. It. It was NOT a religious experience, of mythic proportion, a sufficient justification to flush rationality-- not to mention our Constitution-- down the toilet. It was not a justification to pointlessly invade non-threatening countries (thereby effectively devastating our own military's ability to defend us from anything else.) So, as irreverent as Issa's comments were on their face... he has an interesting point, and I don't disagree with the fact that we should really "de-sanctify" the events of September 11th once and for all, and with six and a half years hindsight, put them in perspective. Of course, that's not what he was trying to say.

Which takes us to Issa's second point, what he was trying to say: in Republican ideology, the actual individuals called upon to carry out policy can go screw themselves, whether they be members of our military, or Ground Zero rescue and recovery workers. The government exists only to serve the already rich and powerful, preferably those already operating in the corporate form, and the rest of us... well, we can go screw ourselves, be we soldiers or marines or firefighters, New Yorkers or New Orleaneans or whomever. That's all he was trying to say, which is why it's a tad disingenuous for some of his fellow Republicans to jump on him for so clearly expressing all that they stand for.

On the one hand, it is, admittedly, bad form for a Republican to try to assert that September 11th isn't totemic and magical... after all, but for it, we wouldn't be in Iraq, Junior wouldn't have a second term, and for all we know, the "Gingrich Revolution" would have ended in 2002 instead of 2006. On the other hand, Issa almost presents us with a political zen koan: "How can the Republicans be so good about protecting us by being better on national security while they are so miserable at actually protecting the individuals involved in protecting us including the victims of actual national disasters after they actually occur?" Ponder that, particularly while Sen. Clinton tells us that some Republican such as Sen. McCain will make a better commander in chief than some Democrat like... you know.

Or something. This has been... "political gag reflex."