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Michael Hasty
Terrible Pilot 2
June 5, 2002

"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. I said, it must have been a horrible accident. But I was whisked off there, I didn't have much time to think about it. And I was sitting in the classroom, and Andy Card, my Chief of Staff...walked in and said, 'A second plane has hit the tower, America is under attack.'" - George W. Bush

Now that we know that Bush was informed before the 9/11 attacks of a terrorist plot to hijack American airliners, this explanation of his reaction to the news, given to a Florida audience last December, raises a number of disturbing questions.

For one thing, it contradicts contemporaneous news accounts of his actions that fateful morning, which reported that he was asked even before he went into the elementary school whether he knew about the first plane hitting the World Trade Center. He replied that he had, and would issue a statement later.

A more curious anomaly is that there were, in fact, no television pictures of the first plane hitting the tower until hours after the WTC had collapsed, when the networks received video footage from an independent filmmaker. Bush couldn't have been talking about the second strike - which millions of people witnessed live - because at that time he was already in the classroom. The White House has issued no clarification of this point.

But the most remarkable aspect of Bush's statement, especially in the wake of ongoing revelations about how much information his administration actually had prior to 9/11, is that it represents an open admission of his failure to assume the duties of Commander-in-Chief.

Before the first plane hit the tower, federal authorities knew that this was an unprecedented multiple hijacking. The military had been notified, and National Guard F-15s had already been dispatched to try to intercept the flights to New York.

It is inconceivable that this information was not passed on to the presidential entourage in Florida.

Yet despite his certain knowledge of the scope of the crisis; and despite the CIA briefing he had received, at his specific request, just one month earlier, outlining Al-Qaeda plans (including the possible hijacking of commercial airliners) to strike targets "in the US;" and despite his sworn duty to "protect and defend" America, Bush chose instead to let himself be "whisked off" into a second-grade classroom, where - even after hearing about the second plane - he sat for another twenty minutes, reading a children's story about a goat.

He spent the rest of that tragic day flying around the country, "just trying to get out of harm's way," as he told a German television reporter on his recent European trip.

Now imagine what the reaction would be if we were talking about Bill Clinton here instead of Bush. The cable TV commentators and radio talk show hosts would be screaming their angry heads off 24 hours a day; and more than likely, the House of Representatives would have already passed articles of impeachment.

Hmm. Not a bad idea.