UQ Wire: Bush's Tangle of Lies, Part 1
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Bush Gets Tangled in his 9-11 LiesPart 1: A Strange White House Press Conference...
by Jared Israel and Francisco Gil-White
http://www.tenc.net * [Emperor's Clothes]
[Posted 25 September 2002, Updated 27 September 2002]
Note: This article has been substantially revised based on generous input from readers (for which thank you all!) and TENC Deputy Editor Francisco Gil-White. It was reposted 9:20 AM, Eastern U.S. time. - Jared Israel
Dear Emperor's Clothes,
Regarding your article, "The President as Incompetent liar" at
I have two points.
One, the president was speaking with a 3rd grade child...
Two, everything was very chaotic and it is very easy to screw up time frames. But perhaps you have never been in a life-or- death adrenaline trip. Had to have been massive overloads of information, both true and false.
Thanks for the comments.
In criticism of the article, you note that "the president was speaking with a 3rd grade child." However, we did not criticize Mr. Bush for using childish language in answering 8 year-old Jason at the Florida Town Hall meeting. We accused Bush of lying.
You also write that Mr. Bush could have "screw[ed] up time frames" because he was on "a life-or-death adrenaline trip." This is certainly possible. People often misremember things, especially after a crisis.
As you will recall, Bush said he learned of the first World Trade Center crash sitting outside a classroom at the Booker School. He said he saw TV video footage of the plane hitting the building. Of course, this is impossible because, at the time, the TV stations didn't have such footage. Indeed, the TV news people weren't even sure it was a plane crash until the second plane hit the WTC. For example, here is Charles Gibson on ABC news speaking shortly after 9 AM:
"GIBSON: Well, obviously, we don't know if this was--if it was a plane, and I underline, if it was, we don't know if it would have been deliberate or accidental. We know so little now..." http://emperors-clothes.com/9-11backups/abc911.htm So, Dan, Bush definitely did not see TV footage of the crash. However, as you argue, he could have misremembered.
The question is, *did* he? Did he misremember? Or was he lying?
Fortunately we have evidence that can help answer this question.
For the sake of argument, let's suppose Bush did *not* lie. Let's suppose he made false statements at the Florida Town Hall meeting due to faulty memory. Wouldn’t members of his staff have corrected him?
They certainly would. Because his "mistakes" contradicted the previous White House story about what Mr. Bush knew and when on 9-11. That story was outlined at a Press Conference the evening of September 11th by Mr. Bush's press secretary, Ari Fleischer.
A Press secretary has to face the media and explain apparent inconsistencies in the boss's statements. Mr. Fleischer had a personal stake in correcting Mr. Bush so that Mr. Bush wouldn't make the same mistake again.
And yet, one month later, in a Town Hall Meeting in California, Mr. Bush repeated the same falsehoods as in Florida.
We'll deal with the California meeting later on. Now let's look at the September 11th press conference. Keep in mind that Fleischer's job is to present the official White House spin. So the following did not originate from Fleischer. He was just verbalizing what the White House decided to tell the public.
[Start excerpt from Press Conference]
PRESS GAGGLE WITH WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN ARI FLEISCHER AS RELEASED BY THE WHITE HOUSE
"MR. FLEISCHER: Okay. What I'd like to do is just try to give you a walk-through of the President's day, *what he did when he learned various pieces of information.* So this may take me a moment or two, but let me try to give you a good walk through.
"The President arrived just shortly before 9:00 a.m., at the [Booker] elementary school in Sarasota, when Andy Card informed him, as the President finished shaking hands in a hallway of school officials, about the crash of the first plane into the World Trade Center.
"The President then proceeded directly into his hold and spoke with Dr. Condoleezza Rice, who provided him with that information, as well. *The President then went before you all, in the public event, for the first event with the small children.*
*And during the course of his speech to the -- his remarks to the children,* Andy Card was notified about the crash of the second airplane.
Andy approached the President, whispered into his ear, *with the press before and the children before him*, about the crash of the second plane. *The President had been intending to make remarks about the first plane in that session, but he decided to wait until he could ascertain additional information, given the fact now that it was not one, but two, crashes*, which was an immediate indication, of course, of the serious nature of this suggesting terrorism.
*Then, as you know, the President returned to his hold*, received additional information from Dr. Rice. Information was still very sketchy at that point -- *this is shortly after 9:00 a.m.* And then the President proceeded -- the decision was made by the President that he would go and speak to the nation about what transpired. You have the record of that. And then the President immediately departed for the airport." (*my emphasis*)
[END excerpt from Press Conference]
Speaking for the White House, Fleischer says that Bush arrived at the Booker school "shortly before 9:00 am." He says Andrew Card briefed the President as he "finished shaking hands in a hallway [full] of school officials."
This hand shaking takes time. People exchange pleasantries, freeze the handshake for the cameras, etc. So by the time Card supposedly briefed Bush, it would already have been *at least* 9:00 AM. According to Fleischer the phone conversation with Condoleezza Rice was even later.
Attention to the time is important because the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) reports that around 8:20 it "suspected" Flight 11 out of Boston had been hijacked. (1)
The FAA was tracking Flight 11 with radar and therefore knew this was the plane that flew into the World Trade Center. And that is why, according to Vice President Cheney, the FAA established open lines with the Secret Service starting at about 8:45 (2)
Of course the Secret Service would immediately have alerted Bush’s Chief of Staff (Andrew Card) and also his National Security Advisor (Condoleezza Rice). So if Bush had conversations with Card and Rice *after* 9:00 am, then he was speaking to people who - unlike Mr. Gibson on ABC-NEWS - already knew that a terrorist attack was afoot. And their *job* was to tell the President.
So why did the Commander in Chief of the US Armed Forces proceed to dawdle in the hallway of the Booker School and then spend about 20 minutes observing a reading lesson?
Mr. Fleischer never addressed this question on the evening of Sept. 11th. However, as we shall see, it is the question that hung over his whole press conference.
Let us now take a close look at the text of this Sept. 11th White House press conference.
Consider the phrase, "The President then went before you all, in the public event, for the first event with the small children."
What "event" is Mr. Fleischer talking about? Mr. Bush was attending a *reading* class. And yet Fleischer says, "The President then went before you all." Who is "you all"?
As is clear from the video of President Bush at the Booker School (3) Bush entered the classroom, said hello *to the children* and then sat down and watched a reading lesson. He did not go "before you all."
Why is Mr. Fleischer speaking in this bizarre fashion?
By using the phrase "went before you all," Fleischer creates the false impression that President Bush went in front of a group of reporters.
Next he calls this "the public event," a sensible description of a press conference but not of a reading lesson. Finally he calls it "the first event." This puts it in the same category as the *second* event, Bush's speech to the nation at 9:30, televised from the Booker School. Fleischer then maneuvers children into this constructed image with the finishing touch: "with the small children."
How might Mr. Fleischer's misleading words be expected to affect public opinion?
Well, consider someone who heard a rumor that President Bush was watching a grade-school reading lesson instead of doing something to protect his fellow Americans. Such a person might hear the White House version and think, "So *that’s* what happened! He had a press meeting in that classroom. *That's* why children were present!"
But in fact that is *not* what happened. Bush did *not* have a "first event" with the press. What he did was to sit down, watch a reading lesson, cheer, clap, smile, and twice give pep talks, even as terrorist attacks continued.
Consider Fleischer's sentence, "during the course of his [Bush's] speech to the -- his remarks to the children, Andy Card was notified about the crash of the second airplane."
Notice that once again Mr. Fleischer appears to put things clumsily. He appears to stumble. But does he? The phrase, "during the course of his speech," suggests…a speech. But Fleischer "corrects" himself, substituting "remarks" for "speech."
You see, in addressing a *nation,* one makes a speech, but in addressing an audience of reporters and some small children, one would only make "remarks." Thus Fleischer’s apparent "stumble" and "correction" again creates a parallel between the 9:30 speech (the important "second" event) and the fictitious press conference (the humble "first event"). And once again Fleischer stirs the Booker children into this image by putting them in the audience for Bush's imaginary remarks during the fictional "first event."
Fleischer says that in the middle of those "remarks," Andrew Card learned about the second WTC crash. He then:
"approached the President, whispered into his ear, with the press before and the children before him."
Again Fleischer's awkward English - "with the press before and with the children before him" - has an effect. It creates the impression that the rumors about Bush wasting his time with school children stem from a misunderstanding of that "first event" during which Bush used a classroom to meet with the press. And in the middle of this meeting, with children present, Card whispered that "America is under attack." .
This impression is strengthened by what Fleischer says next:
"The President had been intending to make remarks about the first plane in that session, but he decided to wait until he could ascertain additional information, given the fact now that it was not one, but two, crashes, which was an immediate indication, of course, of the serious nature of this suggesting terrorism."
This completes the creation of the false impression, which is as follows:
1) The president turned a pre-arranged classroom visit into an impromptu meeting with reporters, albeit with children present.
2) He started to talk about the first plane crash, which he did not yet realize was a deliberate act of terrorism.
3) Then his trusty Chief of Staff learned that there had been a second crash and immediately told the president.
4) So the president changed his mind, deciding to get more facts and then make one official statement.
Note that Mr. Fleischer is claiming that Andrew Card whispered in Mr. Bush's ear "during the course of his speech to the -- his remarks to the children."
But we know from the Booker school video that Bush was *not* delivering a speech *or* making any remarks to anyone when Andrew Card whispered in his ear. He was sitting, silently, watching a reading lesson. And it was some minutes after Card left that Bush made some "remarks to the children."
Here are those remarks:
"These are great readers. Very impressive! Thank you all so much for showing me your reading skills. I bet they practice [unintelligible] reading more than they watch TV? Anybody do that? Read more than you watch TV? [Hands go up] Oh that's great! Very good [unintelligible] Very important to practice! Thanks for having me. Very impressed." -- Transcribed from video of Bush visit to Booker School, 11 September 2001. To download this video, go to http://emperors-clothes.com/indict/bvl.htm (3)
Getting back to Fleischer's imaginary reality, what did Mr. Bush do after Andrew Card told him - supposedly for the first time! - that this was a terrorist attack? Of course, he didn't stay in that room. He did what you would expect him to do:
"Then, as you know, the President returned to his hold." [A "hold" is apparently a room given for the use of the presidential party.]
But as we know from the video, this is totally untrue.
After Card whispered in his ear, Bush did...nothing.
He did not ask Card for details or give him orders, as one would expect if the President was informed there had been an "attack on America."
He did not budge. He continued to sit. He observed the reading lesson for some minutes. When the kids did a good job he cheered the way a man might cheer at a sports event. He smiled. He gave two pep talks.
How many minutes did this last? Well, of that we cannot be sure because the video was been edited at least twice. The second time, at about the six minutes, two seconds mark, was after Card left. Some of the reading lesson has been cut out; there's an obvious jump. So we can only guess, but our educated guess is that Bush spent at least 20 minutes in the reading class.
Note that Mr. Fleischer says, "Then, as you know, the President returned to his hold." This gives the impression that Bush's visit to the Booker revolved around meetings with his staff. But as we know from the video, his visit revolved around sitting in a reading class. And the use of the phrase "you know" gives the impression that Fleischer's misinformation is common knowledge.
Referring to Mr. Bush's imaginary "return" to the supposed "hold," Fleischer says:
"this is shortly after 9:00 a.m. And then the President proceeded -- the decision was made by the President that he would go and speak to the nation."
This creates the impression that between entering the Booker School ("just shortly before 9:00 a.m.," according to Fleischer) and "proceed[ing]" to make his speech to the nation, ("shortly after 9:00 a.m.") only a few minutes passed. Again, this is false. Bush did not make a speech until around 9:30. And it is clear from the video that he dawdled in the reading class. Indeed, the scene appears stolen from a film by master-of-suspense Alfred Hitchcock: while the world collapses outside, the guy who's supposed to *do* something about it wastes his time giving pep talks to children. And the clock is ticking…
All this is plain to see in the video of Bush at the Booker. (3)
The purpose of Fleischer's White House press conference was to put the proper spin on "the President's day, what he did when he learned various pieces of information." But as we shall see in Part II, and with apologies to Robert Burns, "The best laid spins o' mice an' men gang aft agley."
Continued in "Part II, A White House Press Conference Creates More Problems than it Solves." If part 2 has been posted it can be read at
Footnotes and Further Reading
For more, see our full list of "Articles on 9-11," at
1) Newsday, 23 September 2001,
2) Cheney on MEET THE PRESS, 16 Sept. 2001,
3) The vide can be viewed in two versions. Full length, at
Or just the section where Andy Card whispers to Bush, at
Thank you for reading Emperor's Clothes!
http://www.tenc.net * [Emperor's Clothes]
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