This was our little time of trauma. We were angry. The president didn't focus that anger. He did not channel that anger anywhere it could have done some good. If he had made a speech and said, "You're angry at these people? Well, these are the people who are filling your cars with the substance that funds their terrorist activities," you could have passed a pretty comprehensive energy reform bill, just the way Reagan, after he was shot, could have passed significant gun control legislation. Who could have challenged the president, as he was sitting in the hospital with a bullet an inch away from his heart, on gun control? Even the NRA would not have dared to speak too loudly about that. But he let that moment pass."...let that moment pass"? No, he didn't. This wasn't passive. Bush watched as the moment passed by, walked to the edge of a pier, and just as the American people began to look around after 9/11 and say to themselves, "what do we do now?", Bush pushed that moment over the edge and watched as the last bubbles of oxygen floated to the surface and popped.
The American people were told to go shopping.
The American people were told that if they changed their lives, "the terrorists had won."
Does anyone seriously think for a second that Bush was ever going to use 9/11 to push for serious energy reform? Re-thinking America's foreign policies? He used 9/11 to get exactly what he wanted from the first months of his Presidency -- an invasion of Iraq. For all the good it did him.
To say Bush "let that moment pass" implies that Bush simply didn't think of it, or that he didn't get around to it, or that he didn't realize the mentality he could have called upon. I think that's a profound misreading of what Bush did. Bush (or his handlers, whatever) knew exactly the psychology they could call upon in 2002, and they harnessed it to exactly the ends they wanted.
In retrospect, we all wish the citizens of the Republic had put their post-9/11 spirit to better uses. Bush deserves his share of scorn, no doubt. But as a guy once said, the fault lies not with the stars, but with ourselves...