More “Democrats Did It, Too”

Fox writer Bill Sammon accuses James Carville of rooting for George W. Bush to fail a few minutes before planes hit the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, and then renouncing his words after hearing about the attacks:

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, just minutes before learning of the terrorist attacks on America, Democratic strategist James Carville was hoping for President Bush to fail, telling a group of Washington reporters: “I certainly hope he doesn’t succeed.”

Carville was joined by Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg, who seemed encouraged by a survey he had just completed that revealed public misgivings about the newly minted president.

“We rush into these focus groups with these doubts that people have about him, and I’m wanting them to turn against him,” Greenberg admitted.

The pollster added with a chuckle of disbelief: “They don’t want him to fail. I mean, they think it matters if the president of the United States fails.”

Minutes later, as news of the terrorist attacks reached the hotel conference room where the Democrats were having breakfast with the reporters, Carville announced: “Disregard everything we just said! This changes everything!”

The press followed Carville’s orders, never reporting his or Greenberg’s desire for Bush to fail. The omission was understandable at first, as reporters were consumed with chronicling the new war on terror. But months and even years later, the mainstream media chose to never resurrect those controversial sentiments, voiced by the Democratic Party’s top strategists, that Bush should fail.

That omission stands in stark contrast to the feeding frenzy that ensued when radio host Rush Limbaugh recently said he wanted President Obama to fail. The press devoted wall-to-wall coverage to the remark, suggesting that Limbaugh and, by extension, conservative Republicans, were unpatriotic.

Of course, Sammon does not say where these quotes come from, or give any information about the context in which they were said (if they were), but that’s no big shock — this is Fox “News,” after all.

Steve Benen’s dry response: “I don’t think they’ve thought this one through.” He goes on:

There are two problems with this. First, we don’t have the full quote or context with Carville. “I certainly hope he doesn’t succeed” could refer more generally to the president’s success in passing his agenda. Likewise, hoping a focus group dislikes what the president is saying seems pretty routine. “I want the stimulus package to fail,” meanwhile, lacks ambiguity. I think there’s a problem with false equivalence here.

Second, and more important, is the fact that the anecdote from Fox News’ Sammon does more to reinforce the progressive argument than undermine it. Note that Carville was bashing Bush, right up until he learned of a major crisis, at which point the Democratic consultant said, “This changes everything!”

And that’s largely the point. In 2001, in a time of crisis, even the most die-hard Democrats changed direction and said they hoped a conservative Republican president succeeded. And in 2009, in the midst of another crisis, die-hard Republicans are still putting party and ideology above patriotism.

Some on the right perceive this Fox News revelation as evidence of a double-standard. I’m afraid they have it backwards.

Like I said — this is Fox News.

3 Responses to “More “Democrats Did It, Too””

  1. DrGail says:

    What scares me most of all is the legitimization of a debate about whether one wants the US President to fail or not at salvaging the economy and saving thousands (millions?) of lives in this country and around the world. Nothing says “Country First” quite like this.

  2. Did we want Georgie to fail at the start? Of course we did. Few of us with any brains doubted he wasn’t going to be the uniter he promised but the divider he showed himself to be and he demonstrated that at the get-go with the tax cuts that were designed to open the gap between have’s and have-not’s. But we were not in a position of catastrophe at the time. The dot-com bubble had burst, but that was a mere mosquito bite compared to global economic meltdown. After 9-11 the only people not behind Bush were a handful of level-headed observers who feared he would use the tragedy as an excuse to further a neo-con agenda in the Mideast. And they were vilified as traitors.

  3. Kathy says:

    Gregory, wanting someone to fail, and being certain he will fail because he is shallow and limited are two different things. Anyone who *wants* a president to fail is insane.

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