It is a well known story, but worth recalling again. On the morning of September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush was scheduled to attend a class of second graders at the Emma E. Booker elementary school in Sarasota, Florida. It was a photo op to promote Bush’s education program. At 8:46 AM American Airlines fight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. At that point it was already known to the government that the flight had been hijacked and that there were other hijacked flights in the air. Bush walked into the class room at 9:01.
Later on he issued the following statement: “And 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, ‘There’s one terrible pilot’ And I said, ‘it must have been a horrible accident.’ But I was whisked off from there - - I didn’t have much time to think about it.”
That, of course, was a lie The only video of Flight 11 hitting the tower was not shown on television until later in the day. At 9:05, Andy Card, then Bush’s Chief of Staff, came into the class room where Bush was listening to a story about a goat, and whispered in his ear that a second plane had hit the other WTC tower and that America was under attack. As seen on television, Bush looked confused and then went back to listening to the goat story with a vacant look on his face for between seven and fifteen minutes before he excused himself and left.
Bush did not go directly back to Washington. Air Force One took off in that direction and Bush certainly wanted to return quickly. However, on the advice of Dick Cheney and the secret service, he flew first to an airforce base in Louisiana and then one in Nebraska. He did not return to Washington until about 13 hours after the attack.
To me this story indicates that George W. Bush is essentially a puppet without a mind of his own. His vacant look in the classroom after Card whispered to him is captured on tape forever. His similarity to Pinocchio is fairly close based on the lies they tell, although W’s nose does not grow.
Can you imagine any president other than W doing what he did on 9/11? If you were president, would you not have gotten up and assumed command immediately? Wouldn’t you have insisted on going to Washington a.s.a.p no matter who gave you advice? Wouldn’t you do that if you were “the decider?”
Whatever happened to “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead?” If Bush is a puppet, who are the puppet masters? To switch metaphors, there have been two principal devils who pulled the strings, Karl Rove and Dick Cheney, and lots of little imps like Alberto Gonzales who helped.
Now that Rove is retiring, only Cheney will be left. Of course, there is nothing to prevent W from asking Rove what to do by telephone, but it is probably not the same thing. Nothing like being able to have an unrecorded tete a tete with wise old Texas buddy.
By any reasonable standard the Bush Presidency has been a disaster in almost everything he has touched. It is almost as if he wields a magic wand that turns everything to sh*t. To mention only “the war on terror,” he invaded Iraq in response to Iraq’s NON involvement in 9/11, destroys most of the country, puts our troop into the middle of a sectarian war that they can neither stop nor win, wastes billions on aid to the Iraqis that is stolen or useless, and has not even a clue as to get out of the situation.
In the meantime, he dissipates his win in Afghanistan, destabilizes Pakistan, and Osama bin Laden is not only on the loose but seemingly well in command. And, oh, we are as at risk from terrorism as we ever were,
There are no official statements to the contrary. Certainly we need shed no tear for Karl. If there is a hell, a large hot burner is reserved for him. What is really terrifying, however, is that he will not be replaced in the administration so that the principal string puller will now be Dick Cheney acting alone.
If you think W was bad before, with only about 17 months remaining in W’s term and no chance to be reelection, with Cheney in charge you haven’t seen anything yet. Both Rove and Cheney are extreme conservatives. Both of them have lost touch with the vast majority of the American people, but Cheney is far more dangerous. Rove grew up in politics. He was brilliant at knowing what the people wanted and how they might be persuaded. They were an area of his interest if not concern. Cheney, on the other hand, has absolute contempt for the public and does not so much as pretend otherwise. He acts as if he were anointed, not elected. There is a kind of absolutism about Cheney which, in France, led the king to the guillotine. The response to all this must be increased militancy by the
Democratically controlled congress and their increasing number of Republican allies. Congress can stop the war by its power over the purse, and it can preserve our civil liberties without damaging the national defense.
Remember the date: January 20. 2009. That is when Bush and Cheney leave office. It cannot come too soon.