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Profile: Laura Bush

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Laura Bush was a participant or observer in the following events:

Laura and George W. Bush on the left, Sami al-Arian on the right.Laura and George W. Bush on the left, Sami al-Arian on the right. [Source: Al-Arian family via Associated Press]Sami al-Arian poses for a picture with George W. Bush and his wife, Laura Bush, while Bush is campaigning for president in Florida. Bush chit-chats with al-Arian’s family and gives his son Abdullah the nickname “Big Dude.” Al-Arian is a former Florida professor and Muslim political activist who has been under investigation for suspected ties to US-designated terrorist groups. [Washington Post, 2/22/2003] Al-Arian will later tell friends that he used the occasion to press Bush about overturning the Justice Department’s use of “secret evidence” to deport accused terrorists, which is an issue for many Muslim Americans during the presidential campaign. Newsweek will later comment, “In those pre-9-11 days, Bush was eagerly courting the growing Muslim vote—and more than willing to listen to seemingly sincere activists like al-Arian.” [Newsweek, 3/3/2003] At the time, al-Arian is vigorously campaigning for Bush at mosques and Islamic cultural centers in the pivotal state of Florida. In a reference to Bush’s tight margin for victory in Florida which wins Bush the presidential election, al-Arian will later say, “We certainly delivered him many more than 537 votes.” [Newsweek, 7/16/2001] Author Craig Unger will later comment, “Astonishingly enough, the fact that dangerous militant Islamists like al-Arian were campaigning for Bush went almost entirely unnoticed.” Bush’s speechwriter David Frum will later write, “Not only were the al-Arians not avoided by the Bush White House—they were actively courted.… The al-Arian case was not a solitary lapse… That outreach campaign opened relationships between the Bush campaign and some very disturbing persons in the Muslim-American community.… [We] Republicans are very lucky—we face political opponents too crippled by political correctness to make an issue of these kinds of security lapses.” [Salon, 3/15/2004]

Entity Tags: Sami Al-Arian, Laura Bush, David Frum, Abdullah al-Arian, George W. Bush, Craig Unger

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Margaret Spellings.Margaret Spellings. [Source: Harvard University]Laura Bush, the president’s wife, learns of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center while she is leaving the White House, on her way to a Senate hearing on Capitol Hill, but thinks the crash was an accident. [Us Weekly, 10/15/2001; Bush, 2010, pp. 197-198] Bush is set to appear before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, to plead for more federal funding of early childhood education. [CNN, 9/12/2001; Andersen, 2002, pp. 2] She is scheduled to arrive at the Russell Senate Office Building, located just north of the Capitol building, at 9:15 a.m. and to appear at the hearing there at 10:00 a.m. [USA Today, 9/10/2001; Bush, 2010, pp. 197]
Secret Service Agent Tells First Lady of Crash - Members of the White House press corps who will be going to Capitol Hill with the first lady have been watching coverage of the crash in New York on television. However, when she is escorted out of the White House by Gary Walters, the chief usher, Bush is unaware of what has happened. But then, as she is getting into her limousine, Ron Sprinkle, the head of her Secret Service detail, leans over and whispers in her ear that he has just been informed that a plane has hit the WTC. [National Journal, 8/31/2002; Bush, 2010, pp. 197]
First Lady Thinks Crash Is an Accident - Bush speculates about what could have happened with Andi Ball, her chief of staff, and Margaret Spellings, the White House domestic policy adviser, who are with her at this time. [Kessler, 2006, pp. 135; Bush, 2010, pp. 197-198] Bush does not think the crash was due to terrorism. “Of course, at that time we thought it was just some weird freak accident,” she will later recall. [Us Weekly, 10/15/2001; Gerhart, 2004, pp. 162]
Motorcade Subsequently Heads for Capitol Hill - The exact time when Sprinkle informs Bush of the crash is unclear. According to Walters, it happens “at 8:55.” [National Journal, 8/31/2002] Us Weekly magazine will place the incident at “[j]ust before 9 a.m.” [Us Weekly, 10/15/2001] But Bush will write that she is told of the crash “a few minutes after 9:00 a.m.” [Bush, 2010, pp. 197] Bush’s limousine and motorcade will leave the White House at 9:07 a.m., several minutes after the second plane hits the WTC, according to Noelia Rodriguez, the first lady’s press secretary (see (9:07 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [National Journal, 8/31/2002] Bush will learn of the second crash, and realize this is a terrorist attack, shortly before arriving at the Russell Office Building (see (9:14 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [CNN, 9/11/2002; Gerhart, 2004, pp. 162; Bush, 2010, pp. 198]
First Lady's Testimony before Congress Expected to Be 'Big News' - Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), who chairs the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, invited Bush to appear before his committee today. [USA Today, 9/10/2001; Gerhart, 2004, pp. 160] Bush is set to become only the fourth first lady to testify before Congress. [USA Today, 9/6/2001; Us Weekly, 10/15/2001] Rodriguez will recall that before receiving the news of the crash in New York, with Bush’s planned appearance at the hearing ahead, “We expected it to be a big news day for us.” Kennedy will say, “There was a lot of anticipation about [Bush’s] presence, a lot of the excitement.” [CNN, 9/11/2002] The hearing will be canceled as a result of the attacks in New York. [CNN, 9/12/2001]

Entity Tags: Andrea Ball, Gary Walters, Ron Sprinkle, Edward M. (“Ted”) Kennedy, Margaret Spellings, Noelia Rodriguez, Laura Bush

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Laura Bush, the president’s wife, leaves the White House in her limousine, on her way to Capitol Hill where she is scheduled to testify before a Congressional committee, but she is unaware that a second plane has crashed into the World Trade Center. [Us Weekly, 10/15/2001; National Journal, 8/31/2002; Bush, 2010, pp. 198] Bush is set to appear before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, where she will talk about early childhood education. [CNN, 9/12/2001; CNN, 9/11/2002] She was informed of the first crash at the WTC by her lead Secret Service agent as she was getting into her limousine (see (8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
First Lady Unaware of Second Crash - The limousine leaves the White House at 9:07 a.m., according to Noelia Rodriguez, the first lady’s press secretary. [National Journal, 8/31/2002] The second aircraft, Flight 175, hit the WTC four minutes earlier (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 8] However, Bush and those with her in the limousine are unaware of this. [Bush, 2010, pp. 197-198]
First Lady Thinks about Canceling Hearing - Nevertheless, Bush already thinks the Senate hearing she is on her way to should perhaps be canceled, because New York Senator Hillary Clinton is on the education committee and is therefore supposed to attend. Bush will comment, “Even after the first [crash], when I thought it was just an accident, I thought we probably should cancel, because Mrs. Clinton was on the committee and she’s from New York, and she’d probably want to rush home at that time.” [USA Today, 9/10/2001; Gerhart, 2004, pp. 162] All the same, Bush continues with the two-mile journey from the White House to Capitol Hill. She will learn of the second crash, and realize this is a terrorist attack, shortly before arriving at the Russell Senate Office Building, where the hearing is set to take place (see (9:14 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
Secret Service Allows Bush to Head to Event - Members of Bush’s Secret Service detail apparently raise no objection to Bush going ahead with her trip to Capitol Hill. [CNN, 9/11/2002; Gerhart, 2004, pp. 162; Bush, 2010, pp. 198] The Secret Service is responsible for protecting the first lady, and she is considered to be one of the nation’s “most visible targets.” [US Department of the Treasury, 5/8/2001; Office of Management and Budget, 7/2001, pp. 82 pdf file] The agency’s mission includes keeping her “in sight and out of harm’s way,” according to a book about the Secret Service by author Philip Melanson. [Melanson, 2002, pp. 273] And, as one of the Secret Service’s “permanent protectees,” the first lady, like the president, has a detail of special agents assigned to her. [United States Secret Service, 2002] Bush currently travels with four Secret Service agents and two Secret Service cars. [Kessler, 2006, pp. 136; Kessler, 2009, pp. 181] However, the Secret Service will only take her away from Capitol Hill to a “secure location”—actually the agency’s headquarters—after the terrorist attacks have ended (see (10:10 a.m.-10:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; National Journal, 8/31/2002; Kessler, 2006, pp. 136]

Entity Tags: Laura Bush, US Secret Service, Noelia Rodriguez

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Noelia Rodríguez.Noelia Rodríguez. [Source: Harvard University]Laura Bush, the president’s wife, is told that a second plane has crashed into the World Trade Center and realizes this is a terrorist attack while she is being driven from the White House to Capitol Hill, where she is scheduled to testify before a Congressional committee. [Us Weekly, 10/15/2001; CNN, 9/11/2002; Bush, 2010, pp. 197-198] Bush is set to appear before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions at 10:00 a.m., where she will talk about early childhood education. [USA Today, 9/10/2001; CNN, 9/12/2001; CNN, 9/11/2002] Her lead Secret Service agent informed her of the first crash at the WTC as she was getting into her limousine, outside the White House, but she’d thought the crash was an accident (see (8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [National Journal, 8/31/2002; Gerhart, 2004, pp. 162]
First Lady Told of Second Crash, Knows It Is Terrorism - The Secret Service agents traveling with Bush now tell the first lady about the second crash at the WTC while her limousine is driving up Pennsylvania Avenue, approaching Capitol Hill. “The car fell silent; we sat in mute disbelief,” Bush will later recall. “One plane might be a strange accident; two planes were clearly an attack.” She will note, “We knew then that it was terrorism.” [CNN, 9/11/2002; Bush, 2010, pp. 198]
Members of First Lady's Staff Learn of Crash - Members of Bush’s staff also learn about the second crash around this time, while they are on their way to Capitol Hill. Ashleigh Adams, the first lady’s deputy press secretary, learns of it while traveling in the press van. “It must have been only a couple of minutes after we departed the White House,” Adams will recall, “that the reporters’ and photographers’ pagers and cell phones started to go off, and someone shouted to me, ‘Ashleigh, the second Twin Tower was hit.’” Adams calls Noelia Rodriguez, the first lady’s press secretary, who is traveling in the staff van, and tells her the news. After Rodriguez arrives on Capitol Hill, she will jump out of the staff van, run to Bush’s limousine, and get inside. But she will find that the first lady has already been informed of the second crash. [National Journal, 8/31/2002]
First Lady Learns of Crash 11 Minutes after It Occurs - Bush will recall that she arrives at the Russell Senate Office Building, where the hearing she is set to attend is supposed to take place, two minutes after she is told about the second crash, at 9:16 a.m., meaning she learns of the crash at 9:14 a.m. [Bush, 2010, pp. 198] This is 11 minutes after the second plane, Flight 175, hit the WTC (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 8]

Entity Tags: Ashleigh Adams, Noelia Rodriguez, Laura Bush, US Secret Service

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The Russell Senate Office Building.The Russell Senate Office Building. [Source: Senate Photography Studio]Laura Bush, the president’s wife, spends time in the office of Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) after arriving at the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill, where she was originally scheduled to testify before the Senate education committee. [Bush, 2010, pp. 197-199] Bush was set to appear before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, which Kennedy chairs, at 10:00 a.m., to talk about early childhood education. [USA Today, 9/10/2001; CNN, 9/12/2001; CNN, 9/11/2002]
First Lady Arrives at Senate Building - She arrives at the Russell Senate Office Building at 9:16 a.m. [National Journal, 8/31/2002; Bush, 2010, pp. 198] Her Secret Service agents informed her of the first crash at the World Trade Center as she was getting into her limousine for the drive from the White House to Capitol Hill (see (8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and told her about the second crash a couple of minutes before she arrives at the Russell Office Building (see (9:14 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [CNN, 9/11/2002; Bush, 2010, pp. 197-198] Kennedy, who has been informed of the attacks in New York, goes to greet Bush when she arrives. [CNN, 9/11/2002; Kennedy, 2009, pp. 492]
First Lady and Kennedy Discuss 'Mundane Things' - After Kennedy meets Bush, the two agree immediately to postpone the Senate hearing. [Us Weekly, 10/15/2001; Andersen, 2002, pp. 4] Instead of going to the hearing room, they go to Kennedy’s office, accompanied by members of Bush’s staff. [National Journal, 8/31/2002; Kessler, 2006, pp. 135] A television is on in the corner of the room, showing the coverage of the burning WTC towers. However, rather than focusing on the attacks in New York, Kennedy takes Bush on a tour of his office, pointing out various pictures, furniture, and pieces of memorabilia. He also presents her with a print of a painting he has done. [Bush, 2010, pp. 198] Bush will later recall that she and Kennedy talk about “mundane things,” such as the Capitol and the offices there. [CNN, 9/11/2002; Gerhart, 2004, pp. 162]
Senator Gregg Joins First Lady and Kennedy - After a time, they are joined by Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH), who is on the education committee and is a Bush family friend. While Gregg and Bush sit on couches in the office, Bush will recall, Kennedy continues “chatting about anything other than the horrific images unfolding on the tiny screen across the room.” Gregg will say: “I think Senator Kennedy was trying to distract everybody, keep us thinking about other things, maybe. But we were talking about some other items [besides the terrorist attacks], actually.” However, Bush keeps glancing at the television to see the coverage of the attacks. [CNN, 9/11/2002; Bush, 2010, pp. 198-199]
Secret Service Agents 'Frantically' Seek Details of Attacks - While the first lady is in Kennedy’s office, her Secret Service agents and senior staff “frantically worked their earpieces and cell phones to get a handle on the unfolding attacks,” according to Us Weekly magazine. Although those in the room aren’t catching everything about the attacks that is being shown on television, Bush will recall that they “knew what was happening because people kept coming in.” [Us Weekly, 10/15/2001] However, members of Bush’s staff have difficulty contacting others. Noelia Rodriguez, the first lady’s press secretary, will say, “Nobody could get a cell [phone call] to get through, and we took turns using the office phone.” [National Journal, 8/31/2002]
First Lady Works on Public Statement - The first lady and those with her watch President Bush delivering a short statement to the nation from the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, at 9:30 a.m. (see 9:30 a.m. September 11, 2001) on a small television on the desk of Kennedy’s receptionist. [White House, 9/11/2001; CNN, 9/12/2001; Bush, 2010, pp. 199] Although Jim Manley, Kennedy’s spokesman, initially tells reporters that the senators and the first lady will not be making any statements to the press, Kennedy subsequently decides they should. [Gerhart, 2004, pp. 161] Therefore, after watching the president’s statement, the first lady goes to a private room with Rodriguez and they start writing down what she will say. [National Journal, 8/31/2002] Kennedy, Gregg, and Bush will appear before the press at around 9:41 a.m. (see 9:41 a.m. September 11, 2001). [CNN, 9/11/2001; Bush, 2010, pp. 199]

Entity Tags: Judd Gregg, Jim Manley, Laura Bush, Edward M. (“Ted”) Kennedy, Noelia Rodriguez, US Secret Service

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Brian Wilson.Brian Wilson. [Source: Publicity photo]There is apparently no increase in the level of security at the Capitol building in Washington, DC, even though First Lady Laura Bush has arrived at the nearby Russell Senate Office Building and more than 10 minutes have passed since a second plane hit the World Trade Center. [Gilbert et al., 2002, pp. 64; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 8; Bush, 2010, pp. 198] At 9:16 a.m., Bush arrived at the Russell Senate Office Building, located just north of the Capitol building, where she was scheduled to testify before a Senate committee at 10:00 a.m. [USA Today, 9/10/2001; CNN, 9/12/2001; Bush, 2010, pp. 198]
Reporter Sees No Signs of Increased Security - The first lady is considered one of the nation’s “most visible targets,” and, as one of the Secret Service’s “permanent protectees,” like the president, she has a detail of special agents assigned to her. [US Department of the Treasury, 5/8/2001; Office of Management and Budget, 7/2001, pp. 82 pdf file; United States Secret Service, 2002] And yet, even though Bush has arrived on Capitol Hill, and over 10 minutes have passed since the second aircraft hit the WTC (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001), there is apparently no increase in the level of security at the Capitol building. Fox News correspondent Brian Wilson will later recall that when reporting from the Capitol building around this time, he is “talking about the first lady being in the Capitol and saying that I had not seen any signs of tighter security in the building.”
Reporter Surprised at Plan to Hold a Photo Op - Wilson is also surprised that, although the Senate hearing Bush was scheduled to attend has been canceled, the first lady is still going to make a public appearance. He will comment that “they were (incredibly) trying to set up a brief photo opportunity.” [Gilbert et al., 2002, pp. 64; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 8] (Wilson is presumably referring to Laura Bush’s appearance before reporters and cameras alongside Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Judd Gregg (R-NH), which takes place at 9:41 a.m. (see 9:41 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; CNN, 9/11/2001; Bush, 2010, pp. 199] )
Capitol Evacuated Later On - The Capitol building will only be evacuated at 9:48 a.m., apparently in response to reports of a plane heading toward it (see 9:48 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Associated Press, 8/21/2002; CNN, 9/11/2006] The first lady will only be taken away from the Russell Office Building to a “secure location” by members of the Secret Service at 10:10 a.m. (see (10:10 a.m.-10:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; National Journal, 8/31/2002; Bush, 2010, pp. 200]

Entity Tags: Brian Wilson, Laura Bush, US Capitol building

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Laura Bush with Senators Edward Kennedy and Judd Gregg.Laura Bush with Senators Edward Kennedy and Judd Gregg. [Source: CNN]First Lady Laura Bush, Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), and Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) appear before reporters and television cameras to announce that a planned Senate education committee hearing has been postponed, and to comment on the terrorist attacks in New York. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; CNN, 9/11/2001; Bush, 2010, pp. 199] Bush was scheduled to testify before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, which Kennedy chairs, at 10:00 a.m. [USA Today, 9/10/2001; CNN, 9/12/2001] She now goes with Kennedy and Gregg to the Caucus Room in the Russell Senate Office Building, to tell reporters there that the hearing has been called off. [Time, 12/31/2001; Bush, 2010, pp. 199] The beginning of their appearance is shown live on CNN.
Hearing Has Been Postponed, Not Canceled - Kennedy starts by emphasizing that today’s hearing has been postponed, rather than canceled, and then says, “We are not going to see the business of America deferred because of terrorism, whether it’s in education or another area of public policy.” [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; CNN, 9/11/2001; CNN, 9/11/2001]
First Lady Becomes 'Comforter in Chief' - After Kennedy asks her if she would like to say anything, Bush says to the reporters: “Our hearts and our prayers go out to the victims of this act of terrorism and… our support goes to the rescue workers. And all of our prayers are with everyone there right now.” Then, as she and the senators turn to leave, Laurence McQuillan of USA Today says to her: “Children are kind of struck by all this. Is there a message you could tell to the nation’s…” Before he can finish the sentence, Bush replies, “Parents need to reassure their children everywhere in our country that they’re safe.” [CNN, 9/11/2002; Gerhart, 2004, pp. 163; Bush, 2010, pp. 199] With these words, journalist and author Ronald Kessler will later write, Bush “became the comforter in chief, calmly reassuring the nation and dispensing advice on how parents should deal with the tragedy.” [Kessler, 2006, pp. 136] Noelia Rodriguez, the first lady’s press secretary, will later comment that Bush’s response to McQuillan is “what people remember her for that day.” [National Journal, 8/31/2002] As Bush, Kennedy, and Gregg are leaving the room, Bush’s advance man will receive a call informing him of the attack at the Pentagon (see (9:45 a.m.-9:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Bush, 2010, pp. 200]

Entity Tags: Judd Gregg, Larry McQuillan, Edward M. (“Ted”) Kennedy, Laura Bush, Noelia Rodriguez

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Ann Gerhart.Ann Gerhart. [Source: Simon & Schuster]Ann Gerhart, a Washington Post reporter, is warned by a Capitol Police officer to stay away from a window of the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, DC, because, the officer says, a suspicious plane is heading their way, and yet the first lady is allowed to remain in the building at this time and is only evacuated later on. [National Journal, 8/31/2002; Gerhart, 2004, pp. 163] Gerhart is in the Russell Senate Office Building, just north of the Capitol building, where she has been watching Laura Bush, the president’s wife, appearing before reporters and cameras alongside Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Judd Gregg (R-NH) (see 9:41 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Gerhart, 2004, pp. 160-163; Bush, 2010, pp. 199]
Officer Says, 'We're under Attack' - After Bush’s appearance has ended, Gerhart hurries to phone her newspaper and file the quotes. But, Gerhart will later recall, “As I moved closer to one of the building’s tall, beautiful leaded glass windows to get better cell phone reception, a Capitol Police officer practically tackled me.” The officer yells at her, “Get away from the window!” Gerhart asks, “Why?” and the officer replies: “Because we’re under attack! There’s still one plane up there and it’s headed right for us!” Gerhart then glances through the window and sees “huge clouds of thick smoke billowing up from the south.” She asks the officer what this is and is told, “A plane’s gone into the Pentagon.” [Gerhart, 2004, pp. 163-164]
First Lady Not Evacuated, despite Concerns - The Capitol building will be evacuated at 9:48 a.m., apparently because of the concern that a plane is heading toward it (see 9:48 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Associated Press, 8/21/2002; CNN, 9/11/2006] The Russell Senate Office Building will also be evacuated. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001] However, despite the fear that a plane is heading toward Capitol Hill, the first lady remains in the Russell Office Building at this time. She goes to Gregg’s office (see (9:45 a.m.-9:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (9:50 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and will only be taken from the building to a “secure location” at 10:10 a.m. (see (10:10 a.m.-10:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [National Journal, 8/31/2002; Kessler, 2006, pp. 136; Bush, 2010, pp. 200]

Entity Tags: US Capitol Police, Laura Bush, Ann Gerhart

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The Russell Senate Office Building Caucus Room.The Russell Senate Office Building Caucus Room. [Source: Architect of the Capitol]First Lady Laura Bush and those accompanying her head toward the office of Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) after they learn of the attack on the Pentagon and Bush’s Secret Service agents instruct them to go to the basement of the building they are in. [CNN, 9/11/2002; Bush, 2010, pp. 200] Bush has just appeared before reporters in the Caucus Room of the Russell Senate Office Building, on Capitol Hill, alongside Gregg and Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) (see 9:41 a.m. September 11, 2001).
Advance Man Told of Pentagon Attack - As Bush and the senators are walking out of the Caucus Room, John Meyers, the first lady’s advance man, receives a call on his cell phone. The caller, a friend of his, says that “CNN was reporting that an airplane had crashed into the Pentagon,” Bush will later write. [Time, 12/31/2001; Bush, 2010, pp. 199-200]
Secret Service Says First Lady and Staff Cannot Leave Yet - Before going to the Caucus Room, Bush spent time in Kennedy’s office (see 9:16 a.m.-9:40 a.m. September 11, 2001). [National Journal, 8/31/2002; CNN, 9/11/2002] She now goes back there. Then, she will recall, she begins “moving quickly toward the stairs, to reach my car to return to the White House.” But suddenly, Ron Sprinkle, Bush’s lead Secret Service agent, turns toward the first lady and her staff and tells them they need to head immediately to the basement of the Russell Senate Office Building, Bush will recall. [Bush, 2010, pp. 200] Andi Ball, the first lady’s chief of staff, who is with Bush at this time, will give a slightly different account. She will say that as Bush and her staff are walking down the corridor, on their way to the cars that will take them to the White House, Bush’s Secret Service agents tell them, “[W]e can’t go right now.” The agents say they all “need to go back and wait a few minutes.” Ball will add: “Our agents thought another plane was coming toward Washington. The Capitol was being evacuated.” [Kessler, 2006, pp. 136] (The Russell Senate Office Building and the nearby Capitol building are evacuated at 9:48 a.m., apparently due to concerns that a plane is heading toward Capitol Hill (see 9:48 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Associated Press, 8/21/2002; CNN, 9/11/2006] )
First Lady and Entourage Go to Senator's Office - The group then takes off “at a run,” according to Bush. Gregg suggests they all go to his office, which is on a lower floor and is an interior room. Bush’s Secret Service agents then tell Meyers that they are waiting for the emergency response team to arrive. They say the team will take the first lady away but leave her staff behind. Overhearing this conversation, Bush turns back and says, “No, everyone is coming.” Bush and her entourage then reach Gregg’s office, where they will remain until the Secret Service takes them away to a “secure location” at around 10:10 a.m. (see (9:50 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001, (Shortly After 10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001, and (10:10 a.m.-10:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [National Journal, 8/31/2002; Bush, 2010, pp. 200]

Entity Tags: John Meyers, Edward M. (“Ted”) Kennedy, US Secret Service, Andrea Ball, Laura Bush, Judd Gregg, Ron Sprinkle

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Judd Gregg.Judd Gregg. [Source: US Congress]Laura Bush, the president’s wife, and her entourage stay in the office of Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) as they wait for the Secret Service emergency response team to arrive and take them away from Capitol Hill. Bush and those with her in the Russell Senate Office Building headed to Gregg’s office after they learned of the attack on the Pentagon and Bush’s Secret Service agents told them to go to the basement (see (9:45 a.m.-9:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Gregg’s office is on a lower floor of the building, though whether it is in the basement is unclear.)
First Lady Unable to Contact Daughters - From Gregg’s office, Bush tries calling her daughters, Barbara and Jenna, who are both at university. [Bush, 2010, pp. 200] She is unable to reach them at this time. According to journalist and author Christopher Andersen, she is told that “they had both already been hustled off to what the Secret Service called ‘secure locations.’” [Newsweek, 12/3/2001; Andersen, 2002, pp. 6]
First Lady and Senator Talk about Families - The first lady then sits with Gregg, who is a longtime Bush family friend, and, she will later recall, they talk “quietly about our families and our worries for them, and the overwhelming shock we both felt.” [New York Times, 10/4/2004; Bush, 2010, pp. 200] Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), who is also in Gregg’s office at this time, will recall, “We kept the television set off and simply talked for a while.” [Kennedy, 2009, pp. 492]
Reporters Cannot Travel with First Lady - Noelia Rodriguez, the first lady’s press secretary, is worried about the pool reporters who are with them. She will describe, “We put them all in a room,” but Bush’s Secret Service agents tell her, “We have to leave here and we can’t take [the pool reporters] with us.” Laurence McQuillan, of USA Today, reassures Rodriguez, telling her, “Don’t worry about us.” [National Journal, 8/31/2002] Bush remains in Gregg’s office until members of the Secret Service, including the emergency response team, collect her from there (see (Shortly After 10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Bush, 2010, pp. 200] She and her staff leave the Russell Senate Office Building at around 10:10 a.m., and are then driven to a “secure location” (see (10:10 a.m.-10:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [National Journal, 8/31/2002]

Entity Tags: Jenna Bush, Barbara Pierce Bush, Noelia Rodriguez, US Secret Service, Larry McQuillan, Laura Bush, Edward M. (“Ted”) Kennedy, Judd Gregg

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

President Bush on the phone during the flight from Sarasota to Barksdale Air Force Base.President Bush on the phone during the flight from Sarasota to Barksdale Air Force Base. [Source: White House]President Bush and his staff have difficulty communicating with colleagues in Washington, DC, while they are traveling on Air Force One, after the plane takes off from Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Northwest Indiana Times, 9/22/2002; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/10/2006; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] Bush had problems calling his colleagues at the White House while he was being driven to the airport, after leaving the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, at around 9:35 a.m. (see (9:34 a.m.-9:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/10/2006]
Air Force One Should Have 'Outstanding Communications' - He ought to have more success after he boards Air Force One, at around 9:45 a.m. (see (9:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001), since the plane has state-of-the-art communications systems. [Inside the White House, 9/1998; Hardesty, 2003, pp. 167] Its capabilities are “just as good as the communications from the Oval Office in terms of [the president] being able to call, in a secure way, the secretary of defense, the secretary of state, the generals that might have to fight a war, or the vice president or… the national security adviser,” White House chief of staff Andrew Card will later comment. The plane has the “capacity to have… outstanding communications,” he will say. [White House, 8/12/2002]
Communications Systems Are 'All Jammed' - However, Bush and his staff have great difficulty sending and receiving information about the day’s events while they are on Air Force One. [Northwest Indiana Times, 9/22/2002] The “multiple [communications] systems—commercial and terrestrial systems” on the plane are “all jammed,” according to Master Sergeant Dana Lark, superintendent of communications. Lark actually wonders, “Did someone sabotage our comms?” [Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016]
Bush Has Problems Communicating with Vice President Cheney - Bush finds that his calls are successful only intermittently. [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/10/2006] Attempts are made to establish an open line with Vice President Dick Cheney and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, who are at the White House, but the line keeps dropping. [Bush, 2010, pp. 131] “It was absolutely stunning, standing next to the president as he was talking to the vice president, then holding the phone off his ear because it cut off,” White House press secretary Ari Fleischer will comment. [Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] At one point, Bush pounds his desk in frustration and shouts: “This is inexcusable. Get me the vice president.” [CBS News, 9/11/2002] He also has difficulty reaching his wife, Laura, since the line keeps dropping when he tries to call her. He eventually talks to her shortly before 11:45 a.m., when Air Force One is approaching Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana (see (Shortly Before 11:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Bush, 2010, pp. 132]
Officials in Washington Are Unable to Call the Plane - Some key individuals in Washington are unsuccessful when they try calling Air Force One. Scott Heyer, a communications officer in the White House Situation Room, is unable to contact the plane while it is flying from Sarasota to Barksdale Air Force Base, even when he tries calling its satellite phone (see 9:54 a.m.-11:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 3/16/2004] And White House counselor Karen Hughes is unable to reach the president when she tries calling him while he is airborne (see (Between 10:31 a.m. and 11:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 1/27/2002; NBC, 4/4/2004]
Bush Has His First Teleconference Hours after Leaving Sarasota - As a result of his problems communicating from the plane, Bush will hold his first teleconference with his principal advisers at around 3:15 p.m. (see (3:15 p.m.) September 11, 2001)—more than five hours after he takes off from Sarasota—after he arrives at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, where there is sophisticated communications equipment (see 2:50 p.m. September 11, 2001). [Northwest Indiana Times, 9/22/2002; Business Week, 11/4/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 326] By that time, the communication problems will apparently have started to ease. Lark will recall that as Air Force One is flying to Offutt, “some of the commercial systems finally began to become available” and she actually receives a call from her chief. [Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016]
Good Communications Are 'Critical' for the President - Bush’s communication problems may have a significant impact on the government’s ability to respond to the terrorist attacks. Thomas Kean, the chairman of the 9/11 Commission, will explain why the president’s ability to communicate during a crisis is so important, saying, “In the case of any kind of attack in the United States, what you’re supposed to do is get the president off the ground and Air Force One then becomes the command center.” Once he is airborne, the president is “commanding the forces of the United States from the air,” Kean will say. [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/10/2006] “The president literally can’t function in his constitutional role unless he can communicate, so [good communications are] absolutely critical,” Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Herman, a senior presidential communications officer, will similarly comment. [Marist Magazine, 10/2002] The president “is the only one who can give certain orders that need to be given,” Kean will note. [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/10/2006] However, Mark Rosenker, director of the White House Military Office, will claim that the communication problems have only a limited impact. “[F]or the most part I believe the president had the ability to do what was necessary to be in control and have command of his forces, and talk with his national security structure,” he will say. [White House, 8/29/2002]
Communications Systems Are Supposedly 'Saturated' - Lark will learn at a later date that the communication problems occur because, she will say, “the commercial systems were all just saturated.” [Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] Rosenker will similarly suggest that the problems may be partly due to the fact that communications from Air Force One “have to get through a regular telephone network,” and when there is a crisis, the increased volume of communications “jam and overuse the structure.” [White House, 8/29/2002] On top of their problems making and receiving calls, Bush and his staffers have difficulty monitoring the television coverage of the attacks while they are airborne, because the reception on the plane is poor and intermittent (see (9:54 a.m.-6:54 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [CBS News, 9/11/2002; Northwest Indiana Times, 9/22/2002; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016]

Entity Tags: Thomas Kean, Condoleezza Rice, Ari Fleischer, Thomas Herman, Scott Heyer, Andrew Card, Mark Rosenker, Dana Lark, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, George W. Bush, Laura Bush, Karen Hughes

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Secret Service emergency response team officers patrolling the South Lawn of the White House.Secret Service emergency response team officers patrolling the South Lawn of the White House. [Source: Associated Press]Laura Bush, the president’s wife, is escorted out of the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, DC, by members of the Secret Service with their guns drawn, to be driven away to a secure location. [National Journal, 8/31/2002; Bush, 2010, pp. 200] People began evacuating from the Russell Senate Office Building and the nearby Capitol building at 9:48 a.m., apparently due to concerns that a plane was heading toward Capitol Hill (see 9:48 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Associated Press, 8/21/2002; CNN, 9/11/2006] While Bush and her staff were waiting for the Secret Service emergency response team to arrive and take them away from the Russell Office Building, they stayed in the office of Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) (see (9:50 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
Emergency Response Team Arrives with Guns Drawn - Secret Service agents collect the first lady from Gregg’s office at “[s]ometime after 10:00 a.m.,” Bush will later recall. [Bush, 2010, pp. 200] Bush usually travels with four Secret Service agents. [Kessler, 2006, pp. 136; Kessler, 2009, pp. 181] But her usual agents are now joined by “an additional Secret Service detail and an emergency response team, dressed in black tactical clothing like a SWAT force and moving with guns drawn.” As Bush is being hurried through the hallways, past panicked staffers leaving their offices, members of the emergency response team escorting her shout, “Get back!” and cover her every move with their guns. [Bush, 2010, pp. 200]
First Lady Escorted to Her Limousine - Noelia Rodriguez, the first lady’s press secretary, will recall that she and several other members of Bush’s staff reach Bush’s limousine before the first lady does. While they are waiting there, they chat excitedly, asking each other: “What could this be? Where are we going? What’s next?” But the driver instructs them to be quiet, saying, “Ladies, this is a time to pay attention.” “Just then,” Rodriguez will say, “what seemed like two dozen of these ninja guys surrounded the car—Secret Service agents all dressed in black. Mrs. Bush then got in the car.” [National Journal, 8/31/2002] Bush will describe, “We reached the underground entrance; the doors on the motorcade slammed shut, and we sped off.” [Bush, 2010, pp. 200]
Motorcade Delayed before Leaving Capitol Hill - However, Bush and those accompanying her reportedly face a delay as they are about to drive off. Ashleigh Adams, the first lady’s deputy press secretary, will describe, “At one point, we were all going to leave, and then Mrs. Bush got out of the motorcade and they [presumably members of the Secret Service] told us to stay in the staff van.” At this point, Adams will say, “Everyone was distraught” and they “didn’t know what was going on.” She will add: “We knew something was going on in DC, because we could see people running around. A lot of us were under the impression that there were car bombs going off throughout the city.” Bush and those accompanying her leave Capitol Hill at 10:10 a.m., according to Rodriguez. [National Journal, 8/31/2002] Bush’s Secret Service agents say they are going to take everyone to a secure location. This turns out to be the Secret Service headquarters in Washington (see (10:10 a.m.-10:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Kessler, 2006, pp. 136]

Entity Tags: Laura Bush, Noelia Rodriguez, Ashleigh Adams, US Secret Service

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Andi Ball.Andi Ball. [Source: White House]Laura Bush, the president’s wife, and her entourage are driven from Capitol Hill to the Secret Service headquarters in Washington, DC, for their own security, but their journey is slowed by the heavy traffic. [Woodward, 2002, pp. 17; National Journal, 8/31/2002; Kessler, 2006, pp. 136; Bush, 2010, pp. 200-201] Bush has been at the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, where she was originally scheduled to testify before a Senate committee. [CNN, 9/12/2001; Woodward, 2002, pp. 16-17] Her Secret Service agents have said they are going to take the first lady and her staff to a secure location. [Kessler, 2006, pp. 136] After the Secret Service emergency response team arrived for her, Bush was escorted out of the Russell Senate Office Building and to her limousine (see (Shortly After 10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Bush and those accompanying her leave Capitol Hill at 10:10 a.m., according to Noelia Rodriguez, the first lady’s press secretary.
Agents with Guns Drawn Protect Motorcade - Secret Service agents protect Bush’s motorcade with their guns as it heads to the secure location. Ashleigh Adams, the first lady’s deputy press secretary, will later recall, “It felt like we were in a war, because the Secret Service was driving next to the motorcade and they were hanging out of the windows with their machine guns out.” She will add that she has “been around the agents” before, but has “never seen them with their guns.”
Motorcade Delayed by Traffic - However, the motorcade is slowed by the heavy traffic. Bush will describe, “Outside our convoy windows, the city streets were clogged with people evacuating their workplaces and trying to reach their own homes.” Rodriguez will say, “In the car, we seemed to be going in slow motion.” [National Journal, 8/31/2002; Bush, 2010, pp. 200] “The traffic was so bad that everything was stopped,” Andi Ball, Bush’s chief of staff, will recall. One of the Secret Service agents escorting Bush and her staff will later say a car sideswiped them during the journey.
Secure Location Is Secret Service Headquarters - The “secure location” that Bush and her staff are being taken to turns out to be the Secret Service headquarters. [Kessler, 2006, pp. 136] The Secret Service headquarters, according to journalist and author Ronald Kessler, is “an anonymous nine-story tan brick building on H Street at Ninth Street NW in Washington.” [Kessler, 2009, pp. 23] It is located a few blocks from the White House. After the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) it was reinforced to survive a large-scale blast. Bush and her entourage arrive there through an underground entrance. [Washington Post, 8/23/2009; Bush, 2010, pp. 200-201]
Journey Reportedly Takes 45 Minutes - The exact time they arrive at is unclear. According to Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward, “In the traffic jam from the Capitol, it took 45 minutes to get [Bush] to Secret Service headquarters.” This would mean the first lady arrives there at around 10:55 a.m. [Woodward, 2002, pp. 17] However, Bush will write that she watches the North Tower of the World Trade Center collapsing “live in front of my eyes,” on a screen at the headquarters. [Bush, 2010, pp. 201] If this is correct, she must arrive at the headquarters sometime before 10:28 a.m., when the North Tower comes down (see 10:28 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 311] White House spokespeople will refuse to disclose where the first lady has been taken to, only saying she is at a “secure location.” [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; CNN, 9/12/2001; CNN, 9/11/2002]

Entity Tags: Andrea Ball, Laura Bush, Ashleigh Adams, Noelia Rodriguez, US Secret Service

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

President Bush, who is on Air Force One, is informed that his wife, Laura Bush, and his daughters, Jenna and Barbara, have been moved to safe locations. When he got on Air Force One in Sarasota, Florida, Bush was concerned about the safety of his wife and daughters, and requested additional protection for them (see (9:44 a.m.) September 11, 2001). At that time, the first lady was on Capitol Hill, in Washington, DC (see 9:16 a.m.-9:40 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 9:41 a.m. September 11, 2001). Barbara and Jenna Bush are students at Yale and the University of Texas, respectively. [New Yorker, 9/25/2001; Sammon, 2002, pp. 100, 108]
President Told Wife and Daughters Are Safe - Edward Marinzel, the head of Bush’s Secret Service detail, who is with the president on Air Force One, has been contacted by Secret Service Director Brian Stafford, and told that the first lady and the president’s daughters have all been safely relocated. [United States Secret Service, 2001] This news is now passed on to the president by Andrew Card, Bush’s chief of staff. Card tells Bush that the first lady is “in a secure location with the Secret Service and that his daughters had been removed to safer locations,” Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward will later write. [Woodward, 2002, pp. 18] The first lady is taken to the Secret Service headquarters, in Washington (see (10:10 a.m.-10:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (10:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Bush, 2010, pp. 200-201] Barbara and Jenna Bush are taken to the Secret Service office in New Haven, Connecticut, and the Driskill Hotel in Austin, Texas, respectively (see 10:51 a.m.-10:57 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Woodward, 2002, pp. 17]
President Given Phone Number for First Lady - Bush then asks Card, jokingly, about Barney, his Scottish terrier. Card replies, “He’s nipping at the heels of Osama bin Laden now.” [New Yorker, 9/25/2001; Sammon, 2002, pp. 108] Bush also requests, and is provided with, a direct contact telephone number for the first lady. [United States Secret Service, 2001] But according to the president’s senior adviser, Karl Rove, who is on Air Force One at this time, the news that his wife and daughters have been secured “reassured the president and allowed him to put off calling Laura until later in the morning, when events provided a brief window to do so.” [Rove, 2010, pp. 258] It will be nearly 11:45 a.m. before Bush is able to talk to the first lady (see (Shortly Before 11:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Bush, 2010, pp. 132]

Entity Tags: Edward Marinzel, Laura Bush, Brian L. Stafford, Barbara Pierce Bush, George W. Bush, Jenna Bush, Andrew Card, Karl C. Rove

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Laura Bush, the president’s wife, and her entourage arrive at the Secret Service headquarters in Washington, DC, where they will remain for much of the rest of the day, and where they make phone calls to their relatives and watch television coverage of the terrorist attacks. [Woodward, 2002, pp. 17; National Journal, 8/31/2002; Bush, 2010, pp. 201-203] Bush and her staff have been brought to the headquarters for their own security by members of the Secret Service. The building, located a few blocks from the White House, is strengthened to survive a large-scale blast. Bush and those accompanying her were driven there from the Russell Senate Office Building, on Capitol Hill (see (10:10 a.m.-10:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Kessler, 2006, pp. 136; Bush, 2010, pp. 200-201] They are initially taken to the office of Brian Stafford, the Secret Service director, which is on an upper floor of the building. [Draper, 2007, pp. 143; Bush, 2010, pp. 201]
First Lady and Staff Call Their Families - Bush tells her staffers to call their families. Noelia Rodriguez, the first lady’s press secretary, will later recall, “Mrs. Bush told us, ‘Find phones, get hold of your families, and let them know you are okay.’” Bush calls her daughters, Jenna and Barbara, and her mother (see (Between 11:00 a.m. and 11:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [National Journal, 8/31/2002; Bush, 2010, pp. 202] She will also talk with President Bush while at the headquarters (see (Shortly Before 11:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Bush, 2010, pp. 132; Bush, 2010, pp. 202-203]
First Lady Moved to Basement - After a time, the first lady and her staff are moved from the director’s office to the basement of the headquarters, apparently after they have made their phone calls. Ashleigh Adams, the first lady’s deputy press secretary, will recall, “[W]e took turns using the telephone and then we went to another floor where there was a large-screen TV.” Journalist and author Robert Draper will note that Bush’s Secret Service agents move the first lady after realizing that, in light of the day’s attacks, having her on an upper floor is “perhaps not such a hot idea.” [National Journal, 8/31/2002; Draper, 2007, pp. 143; Bush, 2010, pp. 201] In the basement, Bush and her staff go to the William Wood Conference Room. [Woodward, 2002, pp. 17] The windowless room has a large display screen across one wall, showing a constant TV feed. “For a while,” she will recall, Bush sits “in a small area off the conference room, silently watching the images on television.” According to Adams, “Mrs. Bush didn’t want the volume up, so we just sat there watching the TV like a silent movie.”
First Lady and Staff Lack a 'True Sense' of What Is Happening - Bush will describe the “chaos” regarding the attacks that she and those with her experience, writing: “It got so that we were living in five-minute increments, wondering if a new plane would emerge from the sky and hit a target. All of us in that basement conference room and many more in the Secret Service building were relying on rumors and on whatever news came from the announcers on television. When there were reports of more errant planes or other targets, it was almost impossible not to believe them.” According to Adams, “Because the TV was on, but we didn’t have volume, it was hard to have a true sense of what was going on.” Bush and her staff will remain in the conference room for several hours. [National Journal, 8/31/2002; Bush, 2010, pp. 201-203]

Entity Tags: Noelia Rodriguez, US Secret Service, Ashleigh Adams, Laura Bush

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Laura Bush with her mother, Jenna Welch.Laura Bush with her mother, Jenna Welch. [Source: Tara Engberg / White House]Laura Bush, the president’s wife, talks over the phone to her daughters, Jenna and Barbara, and then to her mother, after arriving at the Secret Service headquarters in Washington, DC. [ABC, 9/18/2001 pdf file; Bush, 2010, pp. 202] Bush and her entourage were brought to the Secret Service headquarters for their own security (see (10:10 a.m.-10:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Upon arriving, they were taken to the director’s office (see (10:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Kessler, 2006, pp. 136; Bush, 2010, pp. 200-201] There, Bush told her staffers to call their families and let them know they were alright. [National Journal, 8/31/2002]
First Lady Calls Daughters at 'Secure Locations' - Bush now makes her own calls. First, she calls her twin daughters, Barbara and Jenna, who are both at university. [Us Weekly, 10/15/2001; Bush, 2010, pp. 202] She tried to call them earlier this morning, but was told they had been taken to “secure locations” (see (9:50 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Newsweek, 12/3/2001; Andersen, 2002, pp. 6] Barbara and Jenna Bush have now reached these “secure locations” (see 10:51 a.m.-10:57 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 108; Woodward, 2002, pp. 17] The first lady will later recall that she calls her daughters now “to make sure they were fine and to tell them I was fine.” [Us Weekly, 10/15/2001] She tells them they are “going to be safe and that… I loved them and… that things were going to be alright,” she will say. [ABC, 9/18/2001 pdf file]
First Lady Calls Mother for Reassurance - Bush then calls her mother, Jenna Welch, at her home in Midland, Texas. [Andersen, 2002, pp. 7; Bush, 2010, pp. 202] Bush will describe: “I called my mother to tell her I was fine. But the fact is I was calling her to hear her voice, to be reassured myself.” [Us Weekly, 10/15/2001] However, when she tries phoning President Bush at this time, her calls cannot get through. She will eventually talk to him at around 11:45 a.m. (see (Shortly Before 11:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Bush, 2010, pp. 132; Bush, 2010, pp. 202-203]

Entity Tags: Barbara Pierce Bush, Jenna Welch, Jenna Bush, Laura Bush

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

President Bush and his wife, Laura Bush, finally talk over the phone after their previous attempts at calling each other this morning have been unsuccessful. Bush is on Air Force One, which is descending toward Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, while the first lady is at the Secret Service headquarters in Washington, DC, where she has been taken for her own safety. [Kessler, 2006, pp. 136; Bush, 2010, pp. 132; Bush, 2010, pp. 202-203]
First Lady Reassures President, Says Daughters Are Fine - Bush and the first lady talk over a secure phone line. [CNN, 9/12/2001] After she hears her husband’s voice, the first lady says to the president, referring to the day’s catastrophic events: “How horrible. How terrible.” She then reassures him that she is okay. [Us Weekly, 10/15/2001; Andersen, 2002, pp. 6] She says she has been taken by the Secret Service to a safe location. Bush is “very relieved,” he will later recall, when the first lady then tells him she has spoken to their daughters, Barbara and Jenna, and says both of them are fine (see (Between 11:00 a.m. and 11:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The first lady asks the president when he is coming back to Washington. He tells her “that everyone was urging me not to return, but that I would be there soon,” he will recall. “I had no idea whether that was true, but I sure hoped so,” he will comment. [Bush, 2010, pp. 132] (Bush will in fact arrive back at the White House many hours later, at 6:54 p.m. (see (6:54 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [CNN, 9/12/2001; Sammon, 2002, pp. 128] ) Later reflecting on this call, the president will say his wife “couldn’t have been more calm, resolved, almost placid” during it, which, he will say, “was a very reassuring thing.” [Newsweek, 12/3/2001] The first lady will describe the call, saying, “From the way [Bush] spoke, I could hear how starkly his presidency had been transformed.”
Previous Call Attempts Have Been Unsuccessful - Bush and the first lady have been trying to call each other throughout the morning, but until now have been unsuccessful in their attempts. [Bush, 2010, pp. 202-203] Bush was provided with a direct contact phone number for the first lady earlier in the morning (see (10:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [United States Secret Service, 2001] But before they made contact, he had “placed several calls,” he will recall, but “the line kept dropping.” Bush will comment, “I couldn’t believe that the president of the United States couldn’t reach his wife.” [Bush, 2010, pp. 132] The first lady had similarly been trying to call the president, but also without success. After she arrived at the Secret Service headquarters (see (10:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001), she “tried to reach [the president], but my calls could not get through,” she will write. John Meyers, her advance man, promised he would keep trying to contact the president for her. The first lady will comment, “It is stunning now to think that our ‘state-of-the-art’ communications would not allow him to complete a phone call to Secret Service headquarters, or me to reach him on Air Force One.” [Bush, 2010, pp. 202-203]

Entity Tags: Laura Bush, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

President Bush and Laura Bush with their dogs, Barney and Spot.President Bush and Laura Bush with their dogs, Barney and Spot. [Source: White House]Laura Bush, the president’s wife, is told by her Secret Service agents to be prepared to leave Washington, DC, for several days, and members of her staff then go to the White House to fetch some of her belongings. [National Journal, 8/31/2002; Bush, 2010, pp. 203] Bush is at the Secret Service headquarters in Washington, where she was brought for her own safety (see (10:10 a.m.-10:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (10:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Kessler, 2006, pp. 136] At the headquarters, there is “a debate over what to do with [President Bush] and what to do with me,” the first lady will later recall. Her Secret Service agents tell her “to be prepared to leave Washington for several days at least.” To help her prepare, several members of her staff briefly return to the White House and collect some of her belongings. They are escorted there at about 1:30 p.m., according to Noelia Rodriguez, Bush’s press secretary. Sarah Moss, Bush’s assistant, collects some of the first lady’s clothes. John Meyers, Bush’s advance man, collects the Bush family dogs, Spot and Barney, and the family cat, India. While they are at the White House, the first lady’s staffers also collect their own purses and keys. The Secret Service agent with them instructs them: “Be fast. Run. Get your things.” The staffers then return to the Secret Service headquarters. However, Bush and those with her at the headquarters subsequently learn that the president will be returning to Washington today (see (4:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001 and (4:33 p.m.) September 11, 2001). It will therefore be decided that the first lady can stay in the capital. She will be taken to the White House at 6:30 p.m. (see 6:30 p.m. September 11, 2001). [National Journal, 8/31/2002; Bush, 2010, pp. 203]

Entity Tags: Laura Bush, Noelia Rodriguez, John Meyers, Sarah Moss, US Secret Service

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Bush speaking to Cheney shortly after leaving Offutt.
Bush speaking to Cheney shortly after leaving Offutt. [Source: White House]Air Force One, with President Bush on board, takes off from Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska and heads for Washington, DC. [CNN, 9/12/2001; Sammon, 2002, pp. 123; Draper, 2007, pp. 143] The president’s plane landed at Offutt at 2:50 p.m. While he was at the base, Bush conducted a meeting of the National Security Council in a secure video teleconference (see (3:15 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Bamford, 2004, pp. 89, 91; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 326] Against objections from the Secret Service, he has announced that he will be returning to Washington (see (4:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Woodward, 2002, pp. 28; Washington Times, 10/8/2002; Bush, 2010, pp. 135]
Bush Thanks Personnel at Offutt - Bush waved to personnel at the base as he was making his way out to his plane. “We were working at our desks and all of a sudden, there was the president striding down the hallway,” Julie Ziegenhorn, a public affairs officer, will later describe, adding, “He walked right out the front door, waving to us.” He shouted to the personnel, “Thanks for all you’re doing!”
Pilot Was Surprised that Bush Is Leaving - Colonel Mark Tillman, the pilot of Air Force One, was incredulous when he was told the president was getting ready to leave, since he’d expected Bush to stay at Offutt for a much longer time. He had been in an office at the base when a young airman ran up to him and said, “It looks like the president is heading back to the plane.” He dismissed the airman, saying, “It probably wasn’t the guy,” but the airman replied, “No, I’m pretty sure I just saw him drive by.” Tillman then raced back to Air Force One and found the president waiting for him at the top of the stairs by the cockpit. Bush told him: “Tillman, we got to get back home. Let’s get back home.”
Reporters Are Allowed to Say What Bush Is Doing - Reporters who have been traveling with Bush are finally permitted to describe the president’s movements on the record. “I called my bureau and told them that the president was heading back to Washington and would address the nation from the Oval Office,” Ann Compton of ABC Radio will recall. [US Air Force, 2/29/2012 pdf file; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016]
Bush Tells His Wife, 'See You at the White House' - As Air Force One is taking off, Bush calls his wife, Laura, who is at the Secret Service headquarters in Washington (see (10:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001), to let her know he is returning to the capital. He tells her: “I’m coming home. See you at the White House. I love you. Go on home.” After talking to her, he feels comfortable enough to make a joke. “If I’m in the White House and there’s a plane coming my way, all I can say is I hope I read my Bible that day,” he says to his aides. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 123; Woodward, 2002, pp. 17, 28; Washington Times, 10/8/2002]

Entity Tags: Laura Bush, Julie Ziegenhorn, Ann Compton, Mark Tillman, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Laura Bush, the president’s wife, is driven, by members of the Secret Service, to the White House from the Secret Service headquarters in Washington, DC, and is then escorted down to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House. [Bush, 2010, pp. 203-204] Bush was brought to the Secret Service headquarters this morning for her own safety (see (10:10 a.m.-10:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (10:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Woodward, 2002, pp. 17; Kessler, 2006, pp. 136]
First Lady Reassured that No More Attacks Will Occur - There, she spent much of the afternoon “like most other Americans, glued to the television,” according to Us Weekly magazine. Bush was, however, “perhaps more at ease than the average American because her [Secret Service] agents were receiving news before it was reported on television.” Bush will later recall: “[A]fter some time, we started hearing from our agents that most of the planes [in US airspace] had been accounted for, fairly early in the day, I think, before they really started announcing it on television. So at some point we started feeling reassured that [a terrorist attack] wasn’t going to happen again that day.” After Bush and those with her learned that the president would be returning to Washington today (see (4:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001 and (4:33 p.m.) September 11, 2001), Bush’s Secret Service agents decided that the first lady could go back to the White House.
First Lady Arrives at White House - At 6.30 p.m., she will recall, Bush gets into a Secret Service motorcade and is driven to the White House by Dave Saunders, one of her agents. [CNN, 9/11/2001; Us Weekly, 10/15/2001; Kessler, 2006, pp. 136; Bush, 2010, pp. 203] It is a short journey, as the Secret Service headquarters is just a few blocks from the White House. [Washington Post, 8/23/2009] Bush is driven along the deserted streets and then her vehicle goes at full throttle through the gate of the White House. She notices “[h]eavily armed men in black” swarming over the White House grounds. She then gets out of the vehicle, preceded by her Secret Service agents.
First Lady Taken to Underground Conference Room - Bush is “hustled inside” the White House, she will recall, and taken “downstairs through a pair of big steel doors that closed behind me with a loud hiss, forming an airtight seal.” She then walks along the hallway below the White House to the PEOC, and is taken into the conference room adjacent to the PEOC’s “nerve center.” Those already in the room include National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, White House counselor Karen Hughes, and deputy White House chief of staff Josh Bolten. Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife, Lynne Cheney, are also there. Lynne Cheney comes over and hugs the first lady. She then whispers into the first lady’s ear, “The plane that hit the Pentagon circled the White House first” (see 9:34 a.m.- 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). This information, Bush will comment, causes a “shiver” to “vibrate down [her] spine.” [Bush, 2010, pp. 203-204] President Bush will join the first lady in the PEOC at 7:10 p.m., after he arrives at the White House (see 7:10 p.m. September 11, 2001). [Bush, 2010, pp. 137-138; Bush, 2010, pp. 204-205] Staffers who were with the first lady at the Secret Service headquarters went to the White House and then headed home at around 4:30 p.m. (see (4:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [National Journal, 8/31/2002]

Entity Tags: Joshua Bolten, Dave Saunders, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, US Secret Service, Condoleezza Rice, Laura Bush, Karen Hughes, Lynne Cheney

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

President Bush and Laura Bush talking with Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center.President Bush and Laura Bush talking with Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center. [Source: Eric Draper / White House]President Bush is reunited with his wife, Laura Bush, in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House, shortly after arriving back at the White House. [Bush, 2010, pp. 137-138; Bush, 2010, pp. 204-205] Bush arrived at the White House at 6:54 p.m. (see (6:54 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [CNN, 9/12/2001] He headed to the Oval Office, where he read through a draft of the speech he is going to deliver to the nation later in the evening and modified a few lines. He then headed down to the PEOC, where the first lady was waiting for him. [Bush, 2010, pp. 137-138] The first lady was taken to the PEOC after she was driven to the White House from the Secret Service headquarters, at around 6:30 p.m. (see 6:30 p.m. September 11, 2001). Bush walks into the PEOC at 7:10 p.m. and hugs his wife. [Bush, 2010, pp. 203-205] The first lady will later recall, “We were really glad to see each other, but also the enormity of what had happened in our country had really sunk in by then, and so we just comforted each other.” [Us Weekly, 10/15/2001] The president will describe: “We didn’t have a lot of time to talk, but we didn’t need to. Her hug was more powerful than any words.” Other senior government officials are in the PEOC, including Vice President Dick Cheney, who is there with his wife, Lynne Cheney. After their reunion, the president and the first lady “talked with the Cheneys a bit,” Laura Bush will recall. The president will subsequently head upstairs, practice his speech, and then go to the Oval Office to deliver it (see 8:30 p.m. September 11, 2001). The first lady will go to the White House residence (the first family’s living quarters). [Bush, 2010, pp. 138; Bush, 2010, pp. 204-205]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Lynne Cheney, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Laura Bush

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

After refusing the Secret Service’s instruction to sleep in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House, and going instead to his bedroom (see (Shortly After 10:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001), President Bush is awoken by someone telling him, “Mr. President, Mr. President! Incoming plane! We could be under attack! Come on! Right now!” Bush and the first lady get out of bed, and join everybody else heading to the PEOC. On the way down, they run into Andrew Card, Condoleezza Rice, and also Neil Bush—one of the president’s younger brothers—who apparently is staying at the White House at this time. About a minute after arriving at the PEOC, though, someone comes in and says, “Mr. President, good news! It’s one of our own!” Bush later says the incoming plane was just an F-16 fighter jet. The Secret Service still wants him to spend the night in the PEOC, but Bush refuses and goes back to the residence for the rest of the night. [Newsweek, 12/3/2001; Sammon, 2002, pp. 134-135; Woodward, 2002, pp. 36]

Entity Tags: Neil Bush, Laura Bush, Condoleezza Rice, George W. Bush, Andrew Card

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Laura Bush, wife of President Bush, temporarily takes over her husband’s weekly radio address to condemn the Taliban’s policies toward women. The war in Afghanistan will benefit women, she says. “I’m delivering this week’s radio address to kick off a worldwide effort to focus on the brutality against women and children by the al-Qaeda terrorist network and the regime it supports in Afghanistan, the Taliban.… The severe repression and brutality against women in Afghanistan is not a matter of legitimate religious practice.… Only the terrorists and the Taliban forbid education to women. Only the terrorists and the Taliban threaten to pull out women’s fingernails for wearing nail polish.… [I]n Afghanistan we see the world the terrorists would like to impose on the rest of us.… The fight against terrorism is also a fight for the rights and dignity of women.… Because of our recent military gains, women are no longer imprisoned in their homes.” Mrs. Bush’s radio address coincides with the release of a State Department report on “The Taliban’s War Against Women,” which describes women’s losses of rights and opportunities under the regime. [White House, 11/17/2001; US Department of State, 11/17/2001; New York Times, 11/18/2001; Associated Press, 11/18/2001]

Entity Tags: US Department of State, Laura Bush, Taliban

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

President Bush holding the fake turkey.President Bush holding the fake turkey. [Source: AP / Anja Niedringhaus]President Bush makes a surprise visit to Iraq to have a carefully staged “Thanksgiving dinner with the troops” at the Baghdad International Airport. [White House, 11/27/2003] Most of the 600 or so troops present for the meal are from the Army’s 1st Armored Division and 82nd Airborne units. For security reasons, Bush never leaves the airport, and leaves shortly after the meal. Bush’s entrance is carefully choreographed, with Coalition Provisional Authority head Paul Bremer telling the gathered troops that the most senior official present should read Bush’s Thanksgiving proclamation. Then, turning to a curtained-off area and asking, “Is there anybody back there who’s more senior than us?” Bush enters the area wearing military fatigues. [USA Today, 11/27/2003]
Fake Turkey - Bush poses with a lovely, huge, golden-brown turkey. The turkey is not real, but merely a prop prepared by the food service arm of Kellogg, Brown and Root. The troops actually eat turkey and vegetables from a cafeteria-style steam tray. White House officials later claim not to have known about the enormous decorative bird, and say that Bush’s memorable photo-op of him holding the fake turkey was an impromptu moment that was not planned in advance. Military sources later say that such decorative turkeys are standard features of holiday “chow lines.” [CBS News, 11/27/2003]
Some Soldiers Denied Dinner - Not all the soldiers at the airport are able to eat with the president, or in fact are able to eat at all. In December, Sergeant Loren Russell writes in a letter to Stars & Stripes that soldiers from his unit were denied entrance to the Bob Hope Dining Facility, where Thanksgiving dinner was being served, “because they were in the wrong unit.” Russell writes that his soldiers “understand that President Bush ate there and that upgraded security was required. But why were only certain units turned away? Why wasn’t there a special meal for President Bush and that unit in the new dance hall adjoining the 1st Armored Division’s band building? And all of this happened on Thanksgiving, the best meal of the year when soldiers get a taste of home cooking.” [Stars and Stripes, 1/27/2007]
Secret Flight - The trip to Iraq is conducted under conditions of extreme secrecy; only Laura Bush and a very few top officials are told of the planned visit. Had word leaked of the trip, it would have been canceled. Most White House officials and reporters are told that Bush would spend the holiday at his ranch in Crawford, Texas. Instead, Bush, accompanied by National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, is driven away in an unmarked vehicle. At a nearby airport, he boards Air Force One from the back stairs instead of the usual front entrance. After stopping at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington, where the entourage picks up a few aides, and four reporters and one camera crew sworn to secrecy, the aircraft departs for Iraq. In all, the press corps traveling with the president totals five reporters, five photographers, a TV producer, and a two-person camera crew. All the media members in the group had agreed to surrender their cell phones and wireless e-mail devices beforehand in order to keep them from surreptitiously reporting on the impending trip. [USA Today, 11/27/2003; PressThink, 12/3/2003; Associated Press, 6/14/2006]
Public Relations Effort - According to New York Times columnist and media reporter Frank Rich, the trip was set in motion by the White House’s public relations team and its desire to chase the Chinook tragedy (see November 2, 2003 and November 2, 2003) off the front pages. [Rich, 2006, pp. 110] White House officials say that Bush had been talking about such a visit for weeks, and the final decision to go was reached the day before in a conference call between Bush and Vice President Cheney. [USA Today, 11/27/2003] Journalism professor Jay Rosen later observes that the willing participation of reporters in this kind of event destroys the boundaries between reporters and the subjects they cover. Rosen will write: “The whole notion of the trip as an independently existing thing that could be ‘covered’ is transparently false, as the White House warning to journalists demonstrates. If word leaked out, the trip was to be canceled—it would no longer exist—and the airplane would turn around and head back to Washington. That does not mean the trip was illegitimate to undertake or to treat as news; but it does mean that its potential legitimacy as news event lies outside the logic of ‘things happen and we cover them’ or ‘the president took decisive action and the press reported it.’ Here, the press took action and it was equally decisive. It agreed, first, to go along and record the scene and then to keep the flight a secret; and these decisions by journalists were not incidental to Bush’s decision to go but integral to it. Would the trip have made sense, would the danger have been justified, if reporters and camera crews were not taken along? The answer is clearly no. But this means the press is part of the presidency, an observation that, while true enough, makes it harder to cover the presidency as an independently existing thing.” [PressThink, 12/3/2003]
Negative Reactions - An Army nurse at the American hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, which receives and treats wounded US troops coming from Iraq and Afghanistan, has a different take on Bush’s visit. In an e-mail to the Boston Globe, the nurse, who does not wish her name made public, will write: “My ‘Bush Thanksgiving’ was a little different.… I spent it at the hospital taking care of a young West Point lieutenant wounded in Iraq. He had stabilization of his injuries in Iraq and then two long surgeries here for multiple injuries; he’s just now stable enough to send back to the USA. After a few bites of dinner I let him sleep, and then cried with him as he woke up from a nightmare. When he pressed his fists into his eyes and rocked his head back and forth he looked like a little boy. They all do, all 19 on the ward that day, some missing limbs, eyes, or worse.… It’s too bad Mr. Bush didn’t add us to his holiday agenda. The men said the same, but you’ll never read that in the paper. Mr. President would rather lift fake turkeys for photo ops, it seems. Maybe because my patients wouldn’t make very pleasant photos… most don’t look all that great, and the ones with facial wounds and external fixation devices look downright scary. And a heck of a lot of them can’t talk, anyway, and some never will talk again.… Well, this is probably more than you want to know, but there’s no spin on this one. It’s pure carnage.… Like all wars, the ‘shock and awe’ eventually trickles down to blood and death. But you won’t see that. I do, every single day.” Globe columnist Joan Vennochi will add: “How much of this is enough for the president of the United States? It depends whether the goal is public relations for a presidential campaign or public acknowledgment of the consequences of war—the human consequences. They are convalescing in places like Landstuhl.” [Boston Globe, 12/11/2003] In 2007, author Annia Ciezadlo will recall her Thanksgiving in Baghdad during the same time. Ciezadlo, who spent the holiday with an Iraqi family, will write: “We saw pictures of him later, serving Thanksgiving dinner to American soldiers, posing like a waiter with a great big [turkey] on a tray. He never left the base. ‘You are defeating the terrorists here in Iraq,’ he told the troops, ‘so we don’t have to face them in our own country.’ An Iraqi friend once told me it was that line about fighting in Iraq to make America safer that turned his adoration of Mr. Bush into hatred.” [New York Times, 11/27/2007]

Entity Tags: Dan Bartlett, Frank Rich, George W. Bush, Annia Ciezadlo, Kellogg, Brown and Root, Condoleezza Rice, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, US Department of the Army, Loren Russell, Laura Bush, Jay Rosen, L. Paul Bremer

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation, Domestic Propaganda, 2004 Elections

Diane Sawyer with President Bush.Diane Sawyer with President Bush. [Source: USA Today]President Bush gives a rare one-on-one interview to ABC’s Diane Sawyer. Among other topics addressed, he reaffirms his belief that terrorists operated in Iraq before the March 2003 invasion (citing Ansar al-Islam, “a al-Qaeda affiliate, I would call them al-Qaeda, was active in Iraq before the war, hence—a terrorist tie with Iraq…”) and that his insistence that Iraq had an active and threatening WMD program was based on “good solid intelligence[, t]he same intelligence that my predecessor [Bill Clinton] operated on.” [ABC News, 12/17/2003] In 2004, former Nixon White House counsel John Dean will respond, “His predecessor, however, never claimed that Saddam [Hussein] had imminent… nuclear capacity, nor did his predecessor say that Iraq had ties to al-Qaeda.” [Dean, 2004, pp. 153]
Iraq Had WMD Program, Bush Insists - Bush insists that weapons inspector David Kay proved Iraq did have a burgeoning and active WMD program (see October 2, 2003), and implies that it is just a matter of time before the actual weapons are found. Sawyer says, “But stated as a hard fact, that there were weapons of mass destruction as opposed to the possibility that he could move to acquire those weapons still,” to which Bush replies, “So what’s the difference?” Sawyer appears taken aback by the answer, and Bush continues that since it was possible Hussein would acquire WMDs, it was necessary to “get rid of him” to make “the world a safer, freer place.” Sawyer presses the point home: “What would it take to convince you he didn’t have weapons of mass destruction?” and Bush responds: “Saddam Hussein was a threat. And the fact that he is gone means America is a safer country.” Sawyer asks, “And if he doesn’t have weapons of mass destruction?” and Bush replies tartly: “Diane, you can keep asking the question. I’m telling you, I made the right decision for America. Because Saddam Hussein used weapons of mass destruction, invaded Kuwait (see August 2, 1990). But the fact that he is not there is, means America’s a more secure country.” [ABC News, 12/17/2003] White House press secretary Scott McClellan will later write, “Bush’s response was telling, much more so than I stopped to contemplate at the time.” [McClellan, 2008, pp. 200]
Why Read the News? - Sawyer asks Bush about his reported penchant for not reading the news for himself. Bush confirms that he gets his news from National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and White House chief of staff Andrew Card, who, Sawyer says, “give you a flavor of what’s in the news.” Bush agrees that this is the case, and says: “Yeah. I get my news from people who don’t editorialize. They give me the actual news. And it makes it easier to digest, on a daily basis, the facts.” Sawyer asks, “Is it just harder to read constant criticism or to read?” to which Bush replies: “Why even put up with it when you can get the facts elsewhere? I’m a lucky man. I’ve got, it’s not just Condi and Andy. It’s all kinds of people in my administration who are charged with different responsibilities. And they come in and say, ‘this is what’s happening, this isn’t what’s happening.’” Laura Bush, who joins her husband halfway through the interview, says she reads the newspapers, including the opinion columns, but says: “I agree with him that we can actually get what is really happening from the people who really know what’s happening. And that isn’t always what you get in the newspapers.… There are certain columnists I won’t read. I mean, what, you know, why would I?” [ABC News, 12/17/2003]
Wilson: Bush 'Systematically Deceived' US, 'Betrayed' Military - Months later, former ambassador Joseph Wilson will write: “It was clear, from this one statement, […] that the administration, from the president on down, had systematically deceived the American people, Congress, and the world. Most of all, the president had betrayed the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines who so bravely march out when ordered into war to defend our country against immiment threats, or even from grave and gathering dangers. Iraq had posed neither. The difference, Mr. President, I thought, is that war was not the only option, or even the best one. We had gone to war over capacity, not stockpiles, not mushroom clouds (see September 4, 2002), not intent, or, as John Bolton had earlier said more directly, because scientists were on Saddam’s payroll. Our troops had died—and were continuing to die—in vain. I came away from this sad revelation resolved that, unlike the other bitterly divisive war debate of my lifetime, over the war in Vietnam, we should admit this terrible fact sooner, rather than later, and thereby revise our national policies accordingly.” [Wilson, 2004, pp. 414-415]

Entity Tags: Laura Bush, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Scott McClellan, Joseph C. Wilson, David Kay, Diane Sawyer, Al-Qaeda, George W. Bush, Andrew Card, Condoleezza Rice, Ansar al-Islam, Saddam Hussein

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Iraq under US Occupation

President and Mrs. Bush enjoy a laugh at the Correspondents’ Dinner.President and Mrs. Bush enjoy a laugh at the Correspondents’ Dinner. [Source: MSNBC]The highlight of the annual White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner (an annual fete where, as author and media critic Frank Rich will write, “reporters suck up to people in power [and] clamor to rub shoulders with… C-list celebrities”) is the scripted comedy stylings of First Lady Laura Bush. The media will report that Mrs. Bush “steals the show” with her jibes at her husband. She “interrupts” President Bush as he is beginning his address to the assemblage; Rich will write that her move “prompt[s] the ballroom full of reporters to leap to their feet and erupt in a roar of sycophancy like partisan hacks at a political convention.” She tells a risque joke involving her husband, a horse, and masturbation, receiving roars of adulation. The entire act is carefully scripted and staged, but reporters gush over it in the next morning’s news, even as they acknowledge it for the public relations stunt it truly is. “We truly saw the real Laura Bush,” one reporter writes. Others write of Mrs. Bush’s “most humanizing populist riff, [her] affection for the runaway new television hit Desperate Housewives,” but few note that her press secretary later acknowledged that Mrs. Bush had never actually seen an episode. Rich wonders at the reception such a performance, featuring off-color masturbation jokes and lies about television-watching habits, might have received from conservative journalists had the performer been named Hillary Clinton. “The press corps’ eagerness to facilitate and serve as dress extras in what amounted to an administration promotional video,” Rich will write, “was a metaphor for just how much the reality-based community had been co-opted by Bush’s own reality over the past four years.” [Associated Press, 5/1/2005; Rich, 2006, pp. 174-175]

Entity Tags: White House Correspondents’ Association, Frank Rich, Laura Bush, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

Former First Lady Laura Bush says some positive things about Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor (see May 26, 2009). On ABC’s Good Morning America, Bush says: “I think she sounds like a very interesting and good nominee.… As a woman, I’m proud there might be another woman on the Court. So we’ll see what happens, but I wish her well.” [Think Progress, 6/8/2009] Bush’s comments stand in contrast to some conservatives’ gender-based attacks on Sotomayor (see May 26, 2009, May 28, 2009, and June 5, 2009).

Entity Tags: US Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor, Laura Bush

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

Laura Bush, during her interview with Larry King.Laura Bush, during her interview with Larry King. [Source: CNN / Mediaite]Former First Lady Laura Bush tells CNN talk show host Larry King that she supports the right of women to choose abortions. She also supports the principle of gay marriage. Bush is on King’s show to discuss her new biography, Spoken from the Heart, in which she recalls asking her husband, then-President Bush, not to make gay marriage a “hot button” issue in the 2004 election. Asked by King if she supports gay marriage, Bush tells him: “Well, I think that we ought to definitely look at it and debate it. I think there are a lot of people who have trouble coming to terms with that because they see marriage as traditionally being between a man and a woman. But I also know that when couples are committed to each other and love each other, that they ought to have, I think, the same sort of rights that everyone has.” Of abortion, Bush says, “I think it’s important that it remain legal, because I think it’s important for people for medical reasons and other reasons.” Her husband does not agree with her, she says: “I understand totally what George thinks and what other people think about marriage being between a man and a woman. I guess that would be an area that we disagree” on. “I understand his viewpoint and he understands mine.” [Los Angeles Times, 5/12/2010; Mediaite, 5/12/2010; CBS News, 5/13/2010]

Entity Tags: Larry King, Laura Bush, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties, 2004 Elections

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