Just a few weeks after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, President Bush’s adviser on homeland security, was called into a meeting with the president. As described by Ridge in his biography “The Test of Our Times,” Bush was concerned that moves taken in response to 9/11 at the borders — essentially, they were closed — were undermining trade and thus an economic recovery.
After any disaster, the tendency is to stop everything: Close the borders in the case of terrorism, shut down offshore oil drilling after an oil spill, or decommission all nuclear plants in the case of an accident. But that instinct is always offset, and more often than not supplanted by, a greater desire: the desire to rebound. By October 2001, Bush recognized that America had to start to get back to normal. Loosen up at the border, he said, and “find a better way, Tom.”