It’s His Rubble Now

And the American people want him to fix it.
Peggy Noonan
The Wall Street Journal
October 23, 2009

At a certain point, a president must own a presidency. For George W. Bush that point came eight months in, when 9/11 happened. From that point on, the presidency—all his decisions, all the credit and blame for them—was his. The American people didn’t hold him responsible for what led up to 9/11, but they held him responsible for everything after it. This is part of the reason the image of him standing on the rubble of the twin towers, bullhorn in hand, on Sept.14, 2001, became an iconic one. It said: I’m owning it.

Mr. Bush surely knew from the moment he put the bullhorn down that he would be judged on everything that followed. And he has been. Early on, the American people rallied to his support, but Americans are practical people. They will support a leader when there is trouble, but there’s an unspoken demand, or rather bargain: We’re behind you, now fix this, it’s yours.

President Obama, in office a month longer than Bush was when 9/11 hit, now owns his presidency. Does he know it? He too stands on rubble, figuratively speaking—a collapsed economy, high and growing unemployment, two wars. Everyone knows what he’s standing on. You can almost see the smoke rising around him. He’s got a bullhorn in his hand every day.

It’s his now. He gets the credit and the blame. How do we know this? The American people are telling him. You can see it in the polls. That’s what his falling poll numbers are about. “It’s been almost a year, you own this. Fix it.”…

…[Obama’s recent] statements speak of a political misjudgment of his opponents and his situation.They show a misdiagnosis of the opposition that is politically tin-eared. Politicians looking to win don’t patronize those they’re trying to win over.

But the point on the We Inherited a Terrible Situation and It’s Not Our Fault argument is, again, that it is worse than unbecoming. It is unpersuasive…

Noonan’s article continues at WSJ.

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