OpEd: Donald Trump's fables about September 11


It must irk Donald Trump that Rudy Giuliani shamelessly milked so much of the political mileage out of 9/11. Rudy was christened "America's Mayor" after the traumatic event in our nation's history. He had presidential stars in his eyes when he went off to Florida to start laying the groundwork for his bid in the same state that had gifted us with George W. Bush. No one seemed to care much about what Rudy wanted and his lofty aspirations fizzled and sputtered out like a campfire in a cloudburst.

I don't really know if Trump, at that particular moment in time, had visions of sitting behind the big desk in the Oval Office or whether he was dreaming about starring in a TV show where he could pretend to be an astute businessman. No one wants to get lost in the vast empty caverns of Trump's mind. But, knowing the man as we do now, it is a pretty safe bet that he wasn't risking his carefully arranged coif by going anywhere near the hellish bedlam in Lower Manhattan.

There is something that borders on sacrilege listening to a man like Trump talk about an event that cost the lives of over 3,000 Americans. He has had more versions of his actions on that morning than Aesop had fables and probably most of them are closer to myth than they are to fact.

He was in an office building in Manhattan. He was in his penthouse on the 58th floor of the Trump Tower. He saw the second plane hit the South Tower. He saw a big explosion. From four miles away, he saw people jumping from the Towers. He watched the unfolding tragedy through a telescope. He went down to Ground Zero to help "a little bit." He sent crews of people who worked for him down to search through the rubble for survivors.

Most of the Trump tales were refuted by people who were really at Ground Zero. If you think that Trump risked his own pampered neck to help the victims of the 9/11 attacks, you probably believe he would have been "honored to serve in Vietnam."

No one saw Mr. Trump in or around Ground Zero on Sept. 11, 2001 and you can bet your last nickel that, if he was there, he would have made people aware of it. He probably would have dragged a camera crew with him. Instead, with his usual complete lack of empathy for human suffering, he boasted to an interviewer that he now owned the tallest building in Lower Manhattan. Now, that we can all believe.

Trump, of course, would take full advantage of the chaos that ensued after the attacks to fictitiously insert himself into this epic drama with little risk that the stories he told would be definitively exposed as lies. Giuliani always skipped the part in his ode to himself that it was his decision to locate the city's Office of Emergency Management in the World Trade Center complex, a prime target for terrorist attacks.

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Trump's fabrications are more than Rudy's butt-covering omissions, however. They are gross insults to the genuine bravery of the hundreds of first responders--policemen, firemen, and others--who were there that morning and would spend days desperately combing through the wreckage for survivors. Many of these real heroes contracted illnesses that would later kill them.

Trump would claim during his campaign for president that he saw thousands of Muslims celebrating the destruction of the Trade Center in New Jersey. When George Stephanopoulos called him on the lie, Trump did what he always does. He doubled down on it: "It was on television. I saw it," Trump said. "It was well covered at the time, George. Now, I know they don't like to talk about it, but it was well covered at the time. There were people over in New Jersey that were watching it, a heavy Arab population, that were cheering as the buildings came down. Not good."

Well covered at the time? The only thing I remember about cheering in New Jersey was some idiotic statement made by a bigoted rich boy whose big mouth was only surpassed by a need for attention that bordered on the pathetic.

It would be difficult to access the direction the United States has traveled since that day in 2001 but, even if it could be construed as progress, it would probably be measured in inches rather than miles. We suffered the attacks when one of the least competent administrations in our history was installed in Washington. The response, to our everlasting regret, was a mistake that even puts Donald Trump's monumental bungling into perspective. We are still mired in the wars in the Middle East 16 long, deadly, and costly years after George W. Bush declared, "Mission accomplished!" on the deck of an aircraft carrier.

John Bolton dispensed much of the bad advice that Bush II was so eager to follow. Bolton, one of the most consistently wrong people ever to attain high office in our government, had no use for words if there was a stockpile of bombs somewhere. It was partially at his urging that a terrible foreign policy mistake became a morass that we still cannot extricate ourselves from today.

I suppose it was inevitable that Bolton, with his carton mustache, would end up in Trump's cartoon administration. He was the president's third National Security Advisor until he was shown the exit door after objecting to Trump's totally tone-deaf idea to hold negotiations with the Afghan Taliban at Camp David during the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Trump doesn't want advice, even if it is usually wrong. He wants fawning yes men like Mike Pompeo and Bill Barr.

The one consolation with Bolton's leaving is that, as he has done numerous times in the past, Trump could hardly replace him with someone worse. Or maybe I'm selling Trump short. Let's all hope that Sean Hannity is really happy at Fox.

Alden Graves is a regular Journal columnist.


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