Bush's behavior on 9-11 raises questions

August 18, 2004

Dear Editor:

As voters try to make up their minds about George W. Bush's fitness as commander-in-chief, they should meditate on his behavior during a crucial half hour beginning at 8:46 a.m., Sept. 11, 2001. This behavior was witnessed by a large number of reporters, and much of it was recorded on videotape.

At 8:46 a.m., Flight 11 struck one of the two WTC towers, as Bush's motorcade headed for Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Fla. Within five minutes, TV networks interrupted their regular programming to cover the incident.

At 8:55 a.m., Bush heard about the news as he arrived at Booker Elementary. Nevertheless, at 9:03 a.m. he went into a second-grade classroom, posed for picutres and listened to the students' reading exercises. As he later explained: "I felt it was an accident. I was concerned about it, but there were no alarm bells."


At 9:03 a.m., Flight 175 hit the second WTC tower. Back in Washington, Vice President Cheney and National Security Advisor Rice were told to go to bunkers. At 9:06 a.m., Andrew Card, chief of staff, entered the classroom and whispered to Bush that "a second plane hit the other tower, and America's under attack." Bush remained in the classroom for 7-10 more minutes, listening to "My Pet Goat," and looking befuddled. He later explained: "I'm trying to absorb that knowledge. I have nobody to talk to. I'm sitting in the midst of a classroom with little kids, listening to a children's story and I realize I'm the commander-in-chief and the country has just come under attack."

When he heard about the strike on the first tower, he already knew from the Aug. 6, 2001, Presidential Daily Briefing that bin Laden was planning air hijackings, and that the WTC had already been attacked by terrorists in 1993. He said that after hearing about the second strike he had "nobody to talk to." What does that mean? He had senior staff on hand, and immediate access to military command centers. For all he knew, there could have been many more hijacked airliners about to strike. His authorization would be needed to shoot them down.

How bad does it have to get before this man experiences "alarm bells"?

Brian Cooney


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