(part I link here)
(part II link here)
9/11 was one of those days in history that most presidents would handle the same way. Politics steps aside, as events dominate the discussion and the actions taken. The only president of my lifetime who might have handled events differently than Bush would have been Carter. Even with his ineptness, he might have handled it the same.
That being said, I would hope to handle things as well, and in the same way, as Bush did.
The only place I would fault Bush, and I will admit I am nitpicking, is his personal response when he found out the second plane hit the World Trade Center. I would have given my apologies to that class, but I would have been out of there VERY quickly. You would not have seen me sitting in a classroom looking stunned.
On that day, I remember when I heard the first plane hit. My reaction was somewhat jaded. We hear about plane crashes all the time. I assumed this was just another one. Plus there was historical precedent, since a plane hit the Empire State Building back in the 1940's.
When I heard the second plane hit, I knew this was not coincidence. I knew something was happening. My first reaction was to head straight to the internet, to find out all I could.
If I was president, I would have ordered my staff to gather all the information possible in the shortest amount of time possible. I do not doubt Bush did something similar, but I would have done it sooner. But that is the news junkie in me talking.
After 9/11, my actions would have been similar, if not identical, to Bush's actions. I would have handled Afghanistan the exact same way. Unfortunately, I am afraid my actions would have also let bin Laden slip away at Tora Bora. Our actions at Tora Bora were consistent with our strategy which allowed us to take Afghanistan from the Taliban.
Where I diverge from Bush would be in the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. I would have sought to open lines of communication within the existing information-gathering departments (i.e. CIA, FBI, NSA, etc.). Information should be available seemlessly, with the only considerations being security clearance and agency purview.
There are other issues which are related to 9/11, but I am saving those for part IV, which deals more extensively with 2002.