By Craig McKee
“America is under attack.”
These were the words spoken by White House chief of staff Andrew Card to President George W. Bush as he sat in a Florida classroom just after 9 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001. Bush had been listening as the students read a story called The Pet Goat.
The moment was immortalized for comedic effect in Michael Moore’s documentary Fahrenheit 911. Bush looked stunned and confused: like he had no idea what to do. After a few agonizing seconds, he reached for the book and began following along. He sat there for approximately eight minutes reading while all hell was breaking loose in the skies.
But to focus on how incompetent he looked is to risk missing the real point. He may have been in over his head, but there are more serious implications of his behaviour than just incompetence.
Let’s look at Bush’s reaction in context: by the time he received the news from Card, it was known to his top advisors that two hijacked airliners had been flown into the two towers of the World Trade Center. They also knew that a third plane was off course, out of contact, and presumed to be hijacked. It could have been heading to the White House, the Capital Building, or even to Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida where Bush and the kids were reading.
Bush’s schedule had been public for several days, so there was no way to know whether terrorists intended to target him at the school. His life could have been in danger, to say nothing of the lives of the children. (more…)