MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell talked to author Frank Rich about his recent column in New York Magazine which takes a look at the real tragedy in America since the attacks on 9-11 and as he wrote there:
The hallowed burial grounds of 9/11 were supposed to bequeath us a stronger nation, not a busted one... In retrospect, the most consequential event of the past ten years may not have been 9/11 or the Iraq War but the looting of the American economy by those in power in Washington and on Wall Street.
You can read the entire article here -- Day’s End: The 9/11 decade is now over. The terrorists lost. But who won?.
Transcript via Lexis Nexis below the fold:
O`DONNELL: In tonight`s Spotlight, the hard realities about the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks. The day that some believed would unify the nation going forward has done no such thing. Frank Rich, in a piece for "New York Magazine," asks the questions, if the terrorists lost, who won?
He writes, "the connection between the 10-year-old war in Afghanistan and our new civil war over America`s there year old economic crisis may well prove the most consequential historical fact of the hideous decade they bracket. The hallowed burial grounds of 9/11 were supposed to bequeath us a strong nation, not a busted one. In retrospect, the most consequential event of the past 10 years may not have been 9/11 or the Iraq war, but the looting of the American economy by those in power in Washington and on Wall Street."
Joining me now, Frank Rich, writer at large for "New York Magazine." Frank, thanks for joining me tonight.
FRANK RICH, "NEW YORK MAGAZINE": Nice to be with you.
O`DONNELL: You mention in your piece something that I had forgotten in the flow of history, that the Enron scandal broke just about a month after 9/11. And it seems we actually had at least as big a lesson in the Enron scandal about what was to come in this decade than what had happened on 9/11.
RICH: If you go back, indeed, and look at the Enron scandal, it had all the features of the subprime crisis that would come and the housing bubble, you know, phoney bookkeeping, worthless paper, credit agencies that fell down on the job.
And it was very embarrassing to President Bush at the time because of his long association with Enron as a political donor. And he promised a lot of the cleanup of Wall Street that we`ve heard about in recent years. And none of it happened.
He was going to have a SWAT team that would go against Wall Street crime. As soon as it faded from the headlines, nothing happened. We know what did happen; basically, Wall Street and the banks and mortgage lenders and all the rest were given the green light to go ahead with impunity, during wartime.
O`DONNELL: You talk about how 9/11 was used, kind of pulled off the shelf in certain situations politically and in governing, in the instance, for example, of helping to justify the invasion of Iraq. But much of the piece is about what`s happened to the economy, what`s happened to the politics of the economy.
You make a point here about taxation when you say if we don`t need new taxes to fight two wars, why do we need them for anything? That, as much as anything else, informs where our tax debate has gone.
RICH: Exactly. I think in the end, the most crucial decision that Bush made right after 9/11 -- and he said it explicitly by the end of September of that year -- was we don`t want the American people to sacrifice. You know, maybe longer lines at airport check-in, but that was that. Go to Disney Land, go shopping. And there would be no taxes to pay for what would turn out to be two wars.
I think that injected a cancer into the American political culture just as you were saying. If we don`t pay for wars, why do we have to pay for anything? And I think you see the seeds now of this anti-government movement that`s in some ways paralyzing the country.
O`DONNELL: And the not paying for anything Bush style could not go on forever. You mention that he delivered this very large Medicare prescription drug benefit completely unpaid for, large and expensive new benefit. But you also say it is that America where rampage and greed usurp the common good in wartime, the country crashed just as Bush fled the White House that we live in today.
It did crash by the time Bush had fled the White House, the whole scheme of doing things without paying for them. That has been visited entirely on President Obama as a burden. Has there been any better way for him to have managed that burden, given the Republican resistance of the last couple of years?
RICH: There probably has been. For instance, I wish, as I think many do, that he had talked about jobs and the connection between the loss of jobs and this whole crisis and what happened to Wall Street much earlier and more concretely than he is by this late date, giving this speech, the starting time of which is so contended, next week.
But Republicans were out to destroy him. As we know, Mitch McConnell said their main goal is to keep Obama from being reelected. But this comes, again, out of the post-9/11 lapse in this country. This country was ready to sacrifice. Bush had an approval rating that was almost perfect.
People after that very contentious 2000 election were willing to give him another chance and unite behind him. Instead, everyone went their separate ways and here we are.
O`DONNELL: It`s hard to say what`s most surprising about the aftermath of 9/11. But I think in your piece, the thing that most jumped out as the -- wouldn`t have predicted that is that turn of events where we saw some legislation pending that was to help the first responders to 9/11 who developed health issues after being in that rubble and breathing in that dust and the dangerous elements that were in the air down there.
That was being blocked by Republicans in Congress. And you write, "the most vocal champions of the surviving 9/11 victims and their families were New York officials and celebrities like Jon Stewart, most of them liberal Democrats. The righteous anger of the right had moved on to the cause of taking down a president with the middle name `Hussein.`"
Who would have predicted that it would have fallen to Jon Stewart to be the champion of those victims?
RICH: It`s amazing, particularly since you had a Republican party, as epitomized by people like Rudy Giuliani, who were 9/11 -- a noun, a verb, 911, as Biden said. They were all guarding this horrible tragedy, and you know, enforcing a kind of political correctness. And we get to a point not that many years later where you have Tom Coburn, a conservative Republican, leading the charge to keep the federal government from helping first responders and their families from 9/11.
That`s an enormous sea change, matched, by the way, by the new isolationism in the Republican party, because that`s the other big change. The McCain, Lindsey Graham view about -- neoconservative view, the Bush view, the Bush-Cheney view, is now also not the mainstream of the GOP anymore. It`s going back to its isolationist, pre-9/11 mind set, as they would say.
O`DONNELL: It is a compelling and grim piece. Frank Rich, writer at large for "New York Magazine," thank you very much for joining me tonight.
RICH: Delighted to be with you.