There has been a lot of debate over the past month or so on television
and in the press about responsibility for the lack of action on the part
of our government that led up to 9/11. In particular, accusations have
been flying around with regard to the presidency of Bill Clinton and his
staff of advisors. Clinton has responded to that, once in a rather
vehement fashion, and his defense has led in turn to even more
accusations against the current president and his advisors and cabinet.
And so the finger-pointing goes back and forth.

The trouble here, if you ask my opinion, is a lack of historical
clarity. We shouldn't be blaming Clinton or Bush for 9/11 or Osama bin
Laden or Iraq. Instead we should be putting the blame where it truly
belongs: On the head of Rutherford B. Hayes.

Rutherford B. Hayes, the nineteenth President of the United States, got
off to an inauspicious beginning for a politician by actually serving in
a war. Serving as Major General of the Union Army during the Civil War,
Hayes was wounded in battle. By virtue of his service Hayes knew the
horror of war and the cost to human lives. Which is not a very good
thing for a politician to know, in that it tends to interfere with the
decision- making process if you want to go to war against somebody.

Hayes, a Republican, was elected in 1877 in a highly disputed election
that made the Bush/Gore and Bush/Kerry elections look like a slam-dunks
by comparison. Nevertheless Hayes quickly gained a reputation for bringing
dignity and honesty to an executive branch that just prior to that had
known only lies and corruption.

Bad idea. Politicians, Democrats and Republicans alike, automatically
flinched at the idea of honesty in politics. And in fact so furious and
resolute was their rejection of honesty and integrity that such concepts
would never again rear their ugly heads in government.

Hayes also insisted on bringing only men of the highest caliber into his
administration. Another bad idea. He pledged to protect the rights of
Blacks in the south and ended Reconstruction. More nonsense.

So there you have it. Hayes' presidency was like the stone thrown into
the center of the pond, creating ripples across the decades.

If you really want someone to blame for 9/11, blame Rutherford B. Hayes.

Rutherford B. Hayes.

It's all his fault.