I’ve been reluctantly leaving open the door for Donald Trump, at least with regard to the general election, if he should win the Republican primary. His evocation of September 11 as a protective smokescreen against Ted Cruz’s damaging reference to Trump’s New York values has closed that door.
Roger Kimball and Ben Shapiro (both worth a read) are correct that everybody knows what Cruz meant and that he was right. I grew up close enough to the city to have been within the sphere of its culture and to have multiple personal connections to that horrible day, and it’s undeniable that the area’s values, in terms of politics and society, aren’t shared across the country. Look at the current mayor, for crying out loud. But that didn’t stop Trump from laying it on this thickly:
When the World Trade Center came down, I saw something that no place on Earth could have handled more beautifully, more humanely than New York. You had two one hundred…you had two 110-story buildings come crashing down. I saw them come down. Thousands of people killed, and the cleanup started the next day, and it was the most horrific cleanup, probably in the history of doing this, and in construction. I was down there, and I’ve never seen anything like it. And the people in New York fought and fought and fought, and we saw more death, and even the smell of death — nobody understood it. And it was with us for months, the smell, the air. And we rebuilt downtown Manhattan, and everybody in the world watched and everybody in the world loved New York and loved New Yorkers. And I have to tell you, that was a very insulting statement that Ted made.
For the past fifteen years, I’ve felt that the response to September 11, above all, represented American values. That’s why people started calling Rudy Giuliani “America’s mayor.” It wasn’t something that made New York City special; it was something that makes America special. The strength shown in those weeks and months was undeniably admirable, but it has nothing to do with the defining local political and social values of a kind that Trump has acknowledged in the past.
To harness the powerful emotions that still surround that point in history for a narrow political goal and for parochial distinction shows a divisiveness and willingness to manipulate that Americans should find disconcerting in a candidate for president.