Listened to a NatRad broadcast about American Muslims earlier this afternoon. Surprisingly nuanced, but if you haven't heard of Debbie Schlussel - a hyper-Islamophobe who was interviewed in the broadcast - she's even more nutbarish and hypocritical than Ann Coulter and Glenn Beck. I read that Wikipedia entry so that you don't have to.
I thought Cheney was pretty much under the radar and Bush was the butt of lots of jokes (remember how he nearly choked to death on a pretzel while watching football? Good times) in that first six months in office. But perhaps I am misremembering. Or misunderestimating, to quote the man himself.
My memory of that period is that the heatedly partisan nature of the election simply carried over through the inauguration and on to 9/11. Republicans were basically saying: "we won, you lost, suck it up, losers'. And the Dems were kicking up a stink about the 'stolen election'. Florida, hanging chads, Diebold, etc. I recall there was a smallish movement determined to reveal the truth about how the votes had been deliberately miscounted. They didn't really gain a lot of traction, but they weren't going away, either.
Bush's limo got egged on it's way to his first day on the job. There were stories about how all the 'W' keys had been removed from the white house keyboards, and so on.
The whole thing was rather neatly summed up by this graphic that was doing the rounds at the time.
As well as being the butt of a lot of jokes, I recall the European press being full of stories pitched with a sort of "OMG do you see what the village idiot and his croneys have done now?". For example, the Hainan Island incident got quite a lot of play, mostly pitched at showing how Bush was an over-aggressive bullying thug with no subtlety, determined to throw America's weight around to show who was boss.
9/11 simply made all that disappear (well, mostly). People like Bill Keller happily wrapped themselves in the flag and followed the drumbeat to war without asking the hard questions.
I don't think it was a conspiracy, but it was a gift-wrapped opportunity that Cheny et al weren't slow about exploiting in order to push the PNAC agenda which they probably knew they couldn't get moving any other way.