Simply put, watching D.C. 9/11 makes the Bush administration look even more incompetent than they did in the news at the time.
According to this film, the administration only speaks in the most vague terms possible. “Think outside the box… we need a new way of seeing… this is a new kind of war… we need to be proactive, not reactive” etc. Well, duh! This is generally the extent of what the early cabinet meetings are comprised of. The only person who seems to have anything specific to say is, as you might expect, Colin Powell. And we all know how well the administration listened to his ideas. Powell’s central antagonists are the Wolfowitz-Rumsfeld duo who apparently want to do nothing but attack everything in sight.
The film begins, “ironically” enough with Rumsfeld telling his generals that they need to “revolutionize” the military now that the Cold War was over (and yes, this happened in real life). Terrorism, Rummy tells us, is now the biggest threat and they could strike at any time. Har! The morning of 9/11!!! Boy, good thing Rummy said that before the planes hit so he could look prescient!
The performances are wavy. The guy playing Rumsfeld does a great job and Timothy Bottoms as Bush is all right, pious and very much “in command” though he restrains himself from doing a full Texas accent, why I don’t know. Other actors are just silly. The guy playing John Ashcroft makes me laugh every time as it looks like he’s about to nod off at every cabinet meeting. Wolfowitz is depicted in what I’m guessing was an unintentionally sinister way. Cheney, finally, seems basically like your granddad who delivers a truly frightening speech that “Bush is your boss, the President, but he is also the Commander in Chief whose instincts take precedent over your opinions.” Frankly if that’s the case, it’s a wonder this country is still standing.
Of course, what really sinks the movie is that history just doesn’t match up. It’s hard to accept the likes of Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz and their constant warmongering as heroic now that we know the fiasco Iraq has turned out to be. Not to mention the fact they both got fired. Meanwhile Ashcroft is gone, and Powell too. So too Karen Hughes, Ari Fleischer, and Andy Card. It’s difficult to get too invested in these characters knowing that their days with the administration are all numbered.
The film ends with Bush’s address to a joint session of Congress which is intercut with the Philadelphia Flyers watching the speech on the jumbotron, throughout the whole speech! In fact, the last shot of the film isn’t of the White House, Pentagon, or Twin Towers, but the Flyer’s hockey arena! And that about sums up the competence behind this film.