TPM watched Mike Huckabee's new children's educational video about 9/11 so you don't have to. What's inside? A lot of talk about how "most Muslims" aren't terrorists, a reference or two to The Kite Runner, more than a couple scenes extolling America's commitment to Israel — and no mention whatsoever of President Obama authorizing the mission that took out bin Laden.
Plus there's a really weird plot-line centering around a pre-teen girl never having known that her mother, with whom she lives in an archetypal American small town, was the town's mayor just a few years ago. But that's not even the strangest hole in Huckabee's telling of the 9/11 story.
By now you've heard the outrage: the latest entry in Huckabee's series of history videos for kids has raised hackles among some who accuse him of profiteering from the decade-old tragedy. On Thursday, Huckabee's company responded to the critics with a long statement accusing them of ginning up a story that doesn't exist.
For those who forget, cashing in on 9/11 has been a American cottage industry since the rubble still smoldered — and much of what's out there for sale doesn't try to educate about the tragedy that's defined the last decade. So, perhaps Huckabee deserves some credit for trying to teach kids about what for them is American history as nebulous as the Iran-Contra Affair seems to the mostly 30-and-under set who make up the TPM reporting staff.
Also, if you're just tuning in, this 9/11 video is just one in a series of tapes about America's past that Huckabee's company, Learn Our History, is cranking out this year. The goal of the videos is to reject "the 'blame America first' attitude prevalent in today's teaching," as the company's marketing materials put it, and offer up an "unbiased" view of the nation's historical events. The first video was about Ronald Reagan, and you can read just about how unbiased that one is here.
So — what does Huckabee's "unbiased" view of 9/11 look like? A lot of praise for the PATRIOT act (which it, should be said, many conservatives don't like), a lot of praise for the Department of Homeland Security, a lot of praise for Israel and the clear implication that President George W. Bush was responsible for the death of Osama bin Laden.
The simple hook connecting all of Huckabee's videos centers around a multi-hued gang of kids from the fictional Amsterdam, USA who develop a time machine and proceed to use it to learn the facts about America's past. The 9/11 video opens on a school assembly in Amsterdam, where the principal introduces a day of reflection about 9/11 and members of the armed forces to meet with students.
On cue, one of our heroes' public school liberal propaganda kicks in.
"I can't believe Principal Clark invited them here," one of the characters scoffs, gesturing to the military guests. "Doesn't he know that fighting is wrong?"
"These people are defending our freedom," her friend responds. "Isn't that worth fighting for?"
And we're off.
The kids venture back in time to the site of the World Trade Center, where they witness the first plane strike the towers and a computer-animated version of all the horror and bravery that immediately followed that moment. Then, like most Americans on that morning, they try to figure out what the heck just happened. And so they travel back to March 3, 2001, where they witness an al-Qaeda meeting led by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
We then learn the pretty standard conservative dogma that it was hatred of America's freedoms and way of life, as well as outrage over America's alliance with Israel, that led to the attacks. There is no mention of the days when America armed and trained the one-time freedom fighters that would help start al-Qaeda, or other more gray-area history that "biased" historians love to bring up.
While in Afghanistan the time-traveling kids meet a girl living under the Taliban who explains she's not allowed to fly her kite. Pretty quickly our heroes disabuse her of her indoctrinated anti-American notions; so much so that she's soon explaining to them that al-Qaeda hates Israel because it's a symbol of democracy — even though she didn't seem to know what that concept was only moments earlier. Anyway, she serves a function: through her the audience is made to understand that "most Muslims" aren't terrorists. Shortly after that dazzling revelation we're whooshed back to the days directly following 9/11 when we see Americans coming together (and one character learning her mother used to be the town's mayor. Even she says, "How could I not know this?")
On the policy front, the kids time travel their way to Sept. 17, 2001, where the war in Afghanistan is being planned in Bush's Oval Office. As should be expected, Bush gets a lot of play in the video — his bullhorn on the WTC rubble speech is played, and then we get the scene of him calling for bin Laden to be captured "dead or alive."
There's some talk about the importance of intelligence gathering (no mention of wiretaps, warrantless or otherwise, or water-boarding) and then we move on to talk about the world since 9/11. The kids are warned to stay vigilant, and then told that vigilance has paid off, as bin Laden's death has demonstrated. No mention of the operation that killed him — or the president who ordered it.
The overall message: stay frosty — the terrorists are still out there.
"Weren't there a bunch of attempted attacks after this?" one character asks while the team stops off in December, 2001.
"Yes, but because of our increased awareness and security, they were stopped before they got started," says another, as figures walk by a "If You See Something, Say Something" sign.