"Shortly after a passenger jet crashed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, Air Force Gen. Richard Myers raced back to the military headquarters from a meeting on Capitol Hill. The four-star general, acting head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that day, went directly to the Pentagon's command center. With smoke spreading into the cavernous room, he ordered the officer in charge, Maj. Gen. W. Montague Winfield, to raise the military's alert status to Defcon III, the highest state of readiness since the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.
"That account is based on interviews with Gen. Winfield and a former White House official. In the months after Sept. 11, President Bush had a different public explanation about who put the military on high alert. The president said publicly at least twice that he gave the order. During a town-hall meeting in Orlando on Dec. 4, 2001, Mr. Bush said that after the attacks, 'one of the first acts I did was to put our military on alert.'"
There isn't much that wasn't already public in this Wall Street Journal story
, written by Scott Paltrow, but it puts the lie to the hagiography that has been erected around Bush. We have been hearing, increasingly, that Bush's "performance on that day" showed leadership and bravery, and "helped unite the country." In fact, although Bush did recover his composure within a few days, on "that day" he was confused, hesitant (like most of us), but also bizarrely more interested in reading a children's book than in responding to the news that a second
plane had hit the World Trade Center.
"In a CNBC television interview almost a year later, Mr. Card said that after he alerted Mr. Bush, 'I pulled away from the president, and not that many seconds later, the president excused himself from the classroom, and we gathered in the holding room and talked about the situation.'
"But uncut videotape of the classroom visit obtained from the local cable-TV station director who shot it, and interviews with the teacher and principal, show that Mr. Bush remained in the classroom not for mere seconds, but for at least seven additional minutes. He followed along for five minutes as children read aloud a story about a pet goat. Then he stayed for at least another two minutes, asking the children questions and explaining to Ms. Rigell that he would have to leave more quickly than planned."
The story also contains some bizarre factoids:
"At the Dec. 4, 2001, town-hall meeting in Orlando, Mr. Bush said, 'I was sitting outside the classroom, waiting to go in, and I saw an airplane hit the tower -- the TV was obviously on. And I used to fly myself, and I said, 'Well, there's one terrible pilot.' Several weeks later, he said essentially the same thing at another public event in Ontario, Calif."
Of course, there was no real-time footage of the jets hitting the towers so this is not true. And it seems weird to me on a couple of levels. First, after nearly three months, didn't the president have enough self-awareness to think about what he saw and what he didn't on that day, and even if he's too unconcerned, hadn't his staff developed a timeline for his actions? Secondly, isn't that a really strange thing to say? Having just seen (or thought he remembered seeing) a jet hit the north tower in a brilliantly clear day, causing a tremendous fiery explosion, he says to himself (or thinks he did), "Well, there's one terrible pilot." Not, "Oh my God," or "Oh, those poor people," or even "Oh, shit."
And then again, there's the Minister of Misinformation:
"Although in the days after Sept. 11, Mr. Cheney and other administration officials recounted that a threat had been received against Air Force One, Mr. Bartlett said in a recent interview that there hadn't been any actual threat. Word of a threat had resulted from confusion in the White House bunker, as multiple conversations went on simultaneously, he said. Many of these exchanges, he added, related to rumors that turned out to be false, such as reports of attacks on the president's ranch in Texas and the State Department. As for the Air Force One code name, Mr. Bartlett said, 'Somebody was using the word 'angel,' ' and 'that got interpreted as a threat based on the word 'angel.' ' (Former Secret Service officials said the code wasn't an official secret, but a radio shorthand designation that had been made public well before 2001.)
"The vice president's office gave an account differing from Mr. Bartlett's, saying it still couldn't rule out that a threat to Air Force One actually had been made."
When in doubt, keep lying.
And keep stalling. Choosing a strange day to make this announcement, Minister of the Cold War, Condi Rice, declares she will not testify
at the 9-11 Commission.