Monday, June 21, 2004

Bush's seven minutes of fame

I'm glad that the Bush's seven minute wait in the Florida classroom, after hearing that the 2nd tower had been attacked, is finally starting to get some media attention. This is due, in no small part, to Michael Moore's inclusion of the entire seven minute scene in Fahrenheit 9/11. But this is something that has always bugged me since that day. Why did Bush just sit there while the world was falling apart around him? As presidential historian Douglas Brinkley says in the above linked article:

"I don't understand how one sits there. I just don't. Minutes are an eternity in that sort of situation. . . . A quick presidential decision may save lives."

The Bushies are trying to push the line that Bush didn't want to panic anyone by rushing out of the classroom the second Andrew Card whispered in his ear. But, as Tom Schaller points out, the choice of "run from the room" and "sit there and act calm" is a false dichotomy. A good leader can project an aura of calm even as they "rush" off to take care of a breaking situation. Doing so would have only taken 30 seconds tops.

But, what has always been even more telling to me than the fact that Bush didn't get up and leave once he learned of the second attack is the fact that, none of his people tried to get him out of their either. In other words, they didn't think the situation was important enough to cut a photo-op short and steer him into another room to find out what was going on.

I think those seven minutes of footage will be devastating to the image of Bush as the steely-eyed leader. And that image is really the only thing he has got going for him.


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