Maureen Dowd begins a column about Obama-era surveillance excesses by looking back to 9/11 and the Bushies:
THE acid that corroded George W. Bush's presidency was fear -- spreading it and succumbing to it.I say this all the time, but I don't think the Bush administration was motivated by fear. What I see when I watch the Booker Elementary School clip is a guy who simultaneously wants to be an easygoing goof-off with a soft life and a man of great consequence. He's president of the United States, which seems like a tough job, but, hell, he was governor of the second-largest state in the Union and that wasn't so hard, was it? He'd had seven and a half not-so-taxing months, and he'd probably struck, by his lights, an ideal balance between consequence high, but not much chance of Rushmore) and leisure (life was pretty good). And now he knew he suddenly had to Get Serious. This wasn't just helping to enable tax breaks for his beloved corporate class. This was life or death. Oh crap -- not only did he have the role of Big Man on America's Campus, he actually had to do stuff. Important stuff. He didn't seem afraid of terrorism, he seemed afraid of a lifestyle change.
You could see the fear in his eyes, the fear that froze him in place, after Andy Card whispered to W. in that Florida classroom that a second plane had crashed into the twin towers.
The blood-dimmed tragedy of 9/11 was chilling. But instead of rising above the fear, W. let it overwhelm his better instincts. He and Dick Cheney crumpled the Constitution, manipulated intelligence to go to war against a country that hadn't attacked us, and implemented warrantless eavesdropping -- all in the name of keeping us safe from terrorists....
As for Cheney: I think he's paranoid, but I don't think he's fearful. What I mean is that he gets off on the notion that America is in extreme peril and he's the guy tasked with saving it -- and that because he shoulders this awesome burden, he's the special target of the targeters. That's his ego trip.
(I see the same thing, by the way, in the personality of Roger Ailes. I don't know whether Ailes really does sit in his office awaiting a violent attack by Muslim terrorists or gay people with guns, but I'm sure some stories of his obsession ith his own security are true, and I think he's obsessed because he simply loves to think of himself as someone worthy of assassination plots. Cf. Dick Cheney and the man-sized safe.)
Bush, I think, came to savor the sense of danger, because it made him utterly consequential. Cheney had savored it all along.
They spread fear, in a calculated way, but I don't think they were frightened.