Few of the Democrats’ 9/11 memes irritated me more over the years than the one in which Michael Moore has cavorted and romped like an obese sweaty pixie for all these years; that George W. Bush was distracted and incompetent because after he got the news about 9/11, he finished reading My Pet Goat to a bunch of first-graders…
…while his staff frantically figured out what was going on.
The kids to whom he read – now juniors in high school – are finally getting their say:
There has rarely been a starker juxtaposition of evil and innocence than the moment President George W. Bush received the news about 9/11 while reading The Pet Goat with second-graders in Sarasota, Florida.
Seven-year-olds can’t understand what Islamic terrorism is all about. But they know when an adult’s face is telling them something is very wrong — and none of the students sitting in Sandra Kay Daniels’ class at Emma E. Booker Elementary School that morning can forget the sudden, devastated change in Bush’s expression when White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card whispered the terrible news of the Al Qaeda attack. Lazaro Dubrocq’s heart started racing because he assumed they were all in big trouble — with no less than the Commander-in-Chief — but he wasn’t quite sure why. “In a heartbeat he leaned back and he looked flabbergasted, shocked, horrified,” recalls Dubrocq, now 17. “I was baffled. I mean, did we read something wrong? Was he mad or disappointed in us?”
I’ve always felt – with good reason – that the Democrats who ragged on Bush for finishing the story also believed that government works like an episode of West Wing or 24; that omnipotently competent bureaucrats always have instant real-life knowedge of everything that goes on around them, that they can zoom in on everything that happens across the land and instantly make perfectly-calibrated decisions.
Real life, even at the highest level of government, isn’t like that. Especially when an unprecedented situation like 9/11 is breaking out. Nobody in the Federal Government knew what was going on on 9/11, and it showed; at one point there were reports of as many as six hijackings, and a bomb blast at the State Department, among many others.
And one of the things a leader does is keep things in perspective while chaos is breaking out all around him.
All sorts of similar kid fears started running through Mariah Williams’ head. “I don’t remember the story we were reading — was it about pigs?” says Williams, 16. “But I’ll always remember watching his face turn red. He got really serious all of a sudden. But I was clueless. I was just seven. I’m just glad he didn’t get up and leave because then I would have been more scared and confused.” Chantal Guerrero, 16, agrees: even today she’s grateful that Bush regained his composure and stayed with the students until The Pet Goat was finished. “I think the President was trying to keep us from finding out,” says Guerrero, “so we all wouldn’t freak out.”
I’ve often wondered – what did the Dems think the President was supposed to do in the opening seconds of the war? Jump up, run to the Presidential limo, and order an attack on…someone, somewhere? Tell NORAD to scramble planes (they do that on their own, although on 9/11 they weren’t equipped to track aircraft inside the US)?
Or keep his composure and not send everyone around him – a classroom full of first-graders – into a blind panic until he actually had something to act on?
Even if they didn’t freak out, it’s apparent that sharing the terrifying Tuesday of 9/11 with Bush has affected those second-graders in the decade since — and, they say, made the news of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s killing by U.S. commandos on Sunday all the more meaningful. Dubrocq, now a junior at Riverview High School in Sarasota, doubts he’d be a student in the rigorous IB, or international baccalaureate program, if he hadn’t been with the President as one of history’s most infamous global events unfolded. “Because of that,” he says, “I came to realize as I grew up that the world is a much bigger place, and that there are differing opinions about us out there, not all of them good.”
The whole piece is worth a read.
A pity Time magazine couldn’t have run it, say, six years ago…