A government that had decided to treat its citizens as adults would have, in due course, explained that while the clear and present threat of Al Qaeda would be met by appropriate responses including military, intelligence, and law-enforcement measures, terrorism itself is a permanent feature of modern civilization that can only be minimized at best. A government that regarded its citizens as children would proclaim a state of war, both promising eventual victory and demanding exigent loyalty, while instituting restrictions on civil liberties that would last as long as a single terrorist remained at large. Before the first tower fell, I had no doubt which course the Bush Administration would take.
As much as anyone, Donald Rumsfeld was the public face and voice of the U.S. governments paternalism, assuring Americans that swift and just retribution was being dealt to evil-doers while reminding them that war isnt an ice cream social. If John Ashcroft has been our guilt-invoking mother, claiming that only terrorists and traffickers in drugs and pornography need fear increased surveillance, then Rumsfeld has been our hickory-switch-bearing father, intoning that that the War on Terror hurts him more than it hurts us.
Critics and supporters all agree that the single most important (if not only) argument for voting for George W. Bush this November is that national security is "Job One" and that Bush has demonstrated his superior proficiency at this task. Today, Rumsfeld testified in his Plain-Spoken manner that, given the limitations of intelligence-gathering and the resourcefulness of terrorists, there wasnt much that could have been done to prevent 9/11, and we will likely be attacked again.
But never mind that. Just remember that, as Lileks said, if John Kerry is elected, then the terrorists will have won.