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The President as Incompetent Liar: Bush's Claim that he Saw TV Footage of 1st Plane Hitting WTC
Comments by Jared Israel
[Posted 12 September 2002]

* * [Introductory comments from Emperor's Clothes] * *

On this page we've posted the transcript of remarks in which George W. Bush made two claims:

* First, that he saw the first plane hit the World Trade Center while he was in the hall at the Booker School, before sitting in on a reading class. This would be in or around 9 AM;

* Second, that he only realized the U.S. was under terrorist attack after 9:06, when his chief of staff, Andrew Card, told him that a second plane had hit the World Trade Center.

Regarding Mr. Bush, the important question on the morning of 9-11 is: "What can we be sure he knew, and when?"

This is vital because given the nature of the attack, and the fact that he would be an obvious target, Mr. Bush had positive obligations *as soon as he knew* what was happening.

A great deal of effort has been expended to convince all of us that Mr. Bush did not know there was a national emergency until the second plane hit the World Trade Center. That's what Mr. Bush said at the 'Town Hall Meeting" in Orlando, Florida on 4 December 2001. He repeated the same argument, in almost the same words, at a later meeting in California.

Assuming Mr. Bush were innocent of criminal involvement in the events of 9-11, there is solid evidence that he would have known a terrorist attack using commercial jets was underway around 8:45, and possibly earlier. (Obviously, if he is guilty, he knew much earlier.) But he claims he only found out roughly 21 minutes later.

If we are right, if his claim that he did not realize the seriousness of the attack - or indeed, that there was an attack - until after the second plane hit - if we are right that this is a lie - the implications are very serious.

If he is lying, then he deliberately shirked obligations - including the obligation to contact his military command. If he is lying, what he said in Orlando was a deliberate effort to cover-up for either criminal negligence or treason. And if it is treason he is hiding, then it follows that elements of the US military and the US government were involved in the planning of 9-11.

So a lot hangs on whether Mr. Bush told the truth in Orlando.

A White House Briefing was published with a transcript of the Orlando meeting during which Mr. Bush took questions from local people. During the meeting, a boy named Jordan, a third grade student (about 8 years old) asked Bush how he had felt on 9-11. Mr. Bush answered with what we will show was an elaborate lie.

We have posted the full transcript of the 'Town Hall' meeting at http://emperors-clothes.com/indict/town.htm

Below is the part with the exchange between Bush and Jordan. This text is unaltered except that there are two comments by me. The comments are clearly indicated.

-- Jared Israel
Editor, Emperor's Clothes


Remarks By President George W. Bush At Town Hall Meeting (Excerpt)

Q Mr. President, I want to say they haven't won. I got in my car today, and I'm in the same building with you, speaking to you. They have not won.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you very much.

Q And would you say hello to my son, Jordan, and my daughter, Patricia?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Jordan and who?

Q Patricia.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Hi, Patricia. How are you?

How old is Patricia?

Q Five, and Jordan's in third grade. And Jordan has the question, if I could give him the microphone.

PRESIDENT BUSH: You bet. That's -- your mother's relaying the mike to you, Jordan.

Q One thing, Mr. President, is that you have no idea how much you've done for this country. And another thing is that -- how did you feel when you heard about the terrorist attack?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Well -- (applause) -- thank you, Jordan.

Well, Jordan, you're not going to believe where -- what state I was in when I heard about the terrorist attack. I was in Florida. And my chief of staff, Andy Card -- well, actually I was in a classroom, talking about a reading program that works. And it -- I was sitting outside the -- the classroom, waiting to go in, and I saw an airplane hit the tower of a -- of a -- you know, the TV was obviously on, and I -- I used to fly myself, and I said, "Well, there's one terrible pilot." And I said it must have been a horrible accident.

[START Note from Jared Israel]

[Note from Jared Israel. First, at 9am on September 11th, when Bush was at the Booker School, there was no TV footage of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center for the very good reason that the TV news people didn't know it was going to happen. As Peter Jennings said on ABC *after* the second plane hit the World Trade Center, that is, after the time when Bush claims he saw TV footage of the first crash:

"JENNINGS:... No, nobody who saw--watching "Good Morning America" today, for example, saw, at least those of us working on television, saw a first plane crash into the building. Much of the country watching television this morning will have seen the second plane crash into the other tower, and we have, as you can see from a distance there, until we get our cameras on the ground producing material which we can put on the air, a pretty limited view."


Video footage did surface later. But at 9 AM on September 11, 2001 Mr. Bush *could not have seen* the first plane hitting the World Trade Center on TV. Period.

This in itself does not prove Mr. Bush was consciously lying.

It is theoretically possible that Mr. Bush's memory played a trick on him. There might have been a TV in the hallway of the Booker, and it might have been tuned to the News, and Bush might therefore have heard about the WTC crash and seen footage of the building burning and later he might have thought he remembered seeing footage of the plane hitting the building. Theoretically, this might be the case.

However, based on the testimony of Gwen Tose Rigell, Principal of the Booker School, where Bush was that morning, in fact this was *not* the case.

Principal Rigell is quoted by MSNBC reporter Ashleigh Banfield as saying:

"'I actually heard the first plane had hit from the president, and he said that a plane had hit the World Trade Center and that it was a commercial plane,' says Rigell. 'He said but we're going to go on, and in my mind I had created this picture of a plane knocking off some bricks on the corner of the World Trade Center.'" (1) {End quote from Rigell}

Obviously if Principal Rigell's school had had a TV in the hallway tuned to news of the World Trade Center burning, everyone would have flocked around it and Rigell would have seen it too. She would not have formed a false impression "in my mind". She and everyone else in the school would have known the attack was *very* serious.

In that case Principal Rigell would not have told MSNBC, "I actually heard the first plane had hit from the president," and she would not have said, "I had created this picture of a plane knocking off some bricks in the corner of the World Trade Center," meaning it was a minor incident. Instead she would have said, "I watched the gruesome news on TV." (1)

So Bush lied.

The question asked by the little boy afforded Bush the opportunity to lie about what he did at the Booker School, using the child as a disarming prop.

[END Note from Jared Israel]

[BUSH:] But I was whisked off there; I didn't have much time to think about it. And I was sitting in the classroom, and Andy Card, my chief of staff, who is sitting over here, walked in and said, "A second plane has hit the tower. America's under attack."

And Jordan, I wasn't sure what to think at first. You know, I grew up in a -- a period of time where the idea of America being under attack never entered my mind, just like your daddy and mother's mind, probably.

And I started thinking hard, in that very brief period of time, about what it meant to be under attack. I knew that when I got all the facts, if we were under attack, there would be hell to pay for attacking America. (Applause, cheers.)

I tried to get as many facts as I could, Jordan, to make sure I knew, as I was making decisions, there were -- that I knew exactly what I was basing my decisions on. I've got a fabulous team. A president can't possibly be president without a good team. Starts with having a great wife, by the way. (Applause.)

And so I got on the phone from Air Force One asking to find out the facts. You've got to understand, Jordan, during this period of time, there were all kinds of rumors floating around. Some of them were erroneous. Obviously, we -- for example, there was a news report saying that the State Department had been attacked. I needed to know what the facts were. But I knew I needed to act. I knew that if the nation's under attack, the role of the commander-in-chief is to respond forcefully to prevent other attacks from happening. And so I talked to the secretary of Defense, and one of the first acts I did was put our military on alert.

[START note from Jared Israel]

[This is 100% double-talk. First, consider Bush's assertion that "I was whisked off there; I didn't have much time to think about it."

What does he mean, "I was whisked off"? Who whisked him? Is Bush saying he doesn't control his own locomotion? Is he telling us he was *forced* to sit in a classroom laughing and even cheering as kids practiced reading a story about goats - because that is where he went and what he did - instead of conferring with his military command, which is the positive obligation of the Commander in Chief during a national emergency. (4)

According to the MSNBC article on Bush's visit to the Booker, quoted above, Bush wasn't whisked anywhere. Quite the contrary, it was he who informed the school Principal, Ms. Rigell, that despite the crash, he would continue as planned and sit in on the reading class. As noted earlier, the Booker Principal, Ms. Rigell, said, according to MSNBC:

"I actually heard the first plane had hit from the president, and he said that a plane had hit the World Trade Center and that it was a commercial plane,' says Rigell. 'He said but we're going to go on..."(1)
[END Rigell quote]

"We're going to go on" means, "I will be observing the reading class." Note that he was not asking permission nor was he being told what to do. There was no "whisking."

Bush says "I was whisked off" because he wants to create the impression that he was moved around by his overly-efficient staff too quickly to have time to absorb what he had, supposedly, just seen on TV. Of course, if Bush had actually seen TV footage of the World Trade Center crash he would have heard what everyone else watching the TV was hearing after 9AM - that this was a terrorist attack. The biggest terrorist attack in U.S. history.

And while we're noting, note also that Bush claims he *first* learned of the attack just before he went into the classroom. But according to the article on MSNBC:

 “'The limousine stops and the president comes out,' says [Booker School Principal] Rigell. 'He walks towards me. I’m standing here in a lineup; there are about five people. He walks over and says he has to make a phone call, and he’ll be right back.'
   [MSNBC comments:] "That phone call was to National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice. It was the first inkling the president would get about what was to unfold."
- http://www.msnbc.com/news/801474.asp

So if Bush first heard about the World Trade Center crash from the TV, what was he talking to Condoleezza about? And if he spoke to Condollezza Rice, why didn't she tell him that the FAA knew it was a *hijacked plane* that hit the World Trade Center?

Let us return to Bush's claim that he was "whisked" into the reading class at the Booker. He describes a similar inability to control his movements in recounting his supposed response after Andrew Card came into the classroom and whispered something in his ear. This was about 9:06.

We are told that Card whispered that the second World Trade Center tower had been hit and "America is under attack," but of course we don't know that that is what Card really said. We only know that he whispered something.

Anyway, Bush told the meeting in Florida that he had the following reaction: "I started thinking hard, in that very brief period of time, about what it meant to be under attack. I knew that when I got all the facts, if we were under attack, there would be hell to pay for attacking America."

Now really, what is this man saying? "I started thinking hard...about what it meant to be under attack"? This guy is the Commander in Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces and planes are flying into buildings and he is having an existential moment? Why doesn't he get up and get out of there and do his job? And if indeed Card did tell him that a second *hijacked* plane - because the Federal Aviation Administration knew these planes were hijacked (3) - had hit the World Trade Center, how could he doubt that "America is under attack"?

In this quote Bush is attempting to accomplish three somewhat contradictory things.

One thing is to picture himself as only having learned the full truth at 9:06, when Andrew Card whispered something in his ear. The goal here is to explain away his *failure to do his job* before 9:06.

Second, he is also trying to get us to sympathize with him - make us feel that he was, like most of us, stunned by the news. So how can we blame him if, like us, he didn't immediately know what to do? That's why his script writers gave him the following lines: "The idea of America being under attack never entered my mind, just like your daddy and mother's mind, probably..."

Previously Bush said that he saw a TV News report on the first plane hitting the World Trade Center. And yet the possibility that "America was under attack" never crossed his mind? Is he comatose?

Then comes the line, "I started thinking hard, in that very brief period of time, about what it meant to be under attack." So, never having conceived the possibility of his country being attacked, he was stunned, just like Jordan's mother and daddy who, he suggests, are also as dumb as a post.

The problem with Bush's "You-Were-Stunned, I-Was Stunned" line of defense is that the Secret Service had open lines to the FAA starting at around 8:45 AM, according to Vice President Cheney. (2)

Now, the FAA knew that Flight 11 had been hijacked at 8:20, or so they say. And it was Flight 11 that hit the World Trade Center. One would assume that the FAA imparted this information to the Secret Service when they took the emergency measure of setting up open lines. Therefore the Secret Service knew that "America is under attack" around 8:45, well before Mr. Bush and his staff, including the Secret Service, arrived at the Booker School. And this was about 21 minutes before Andrew Card whispered whatever he whispered in Mr. Bush's ear.

And while the Secret Service does not talk to Jordan's "daddy and mother", presumably they do talk to President Bush.

Bush is also trying to accomplish a third thing here, which is to give people the impression that he's tough and competent, that he quickly recovered, rolled up his sleeves and did his job. The idea is, we Americans may be remarkably obtuse, but once we get riled, we get mean.

So he says that he remained frozen with shock for only a "very brief period of time" - and then he vowed revenge ("there would be hell to pay") and got down to the hard work of gathering those all-important but elusive facts because, "the role of the commander-in-chief is to respond forcefully to prevent other attacks from happening." And therefore he "got on the phone from Air Force One asking to find out the facts." In order, you understand, to prevent other attacks from happening.

Here Bush fails to mention one thing: he couldn't have been "on the phone from Air Force One" until around 10:00 AM Eastern time because that's approximately when Air Force One taxied down the runway to depart Sarasota-Brandenton Int'l Airport.

Which was almost an hour after Andrew Card whispered whatever he whispered in Bush's ear.

Which was also almost an hour after the FAA took the very extreme measure of closing the air corridor between Cleveland and New York. (3)

And which was an hour and 15 minutes after the Secret Service went on emergency open lines with the Federal Aviation Administration (according to VP Cheney). (2)

Not to mention that it was one hour and 40 minutes after the FAA says they knew Flight 11 had been hijacked out of Boston. (3)

And by that time the other attacks had happened.

Hail to the Chief!

Is "Coverup" one word? Or does it have a hyphen, you know, as in "Cover-up"?]

[END Note from Jared Israel.]


For the unabridged text of Bush's December 'Town Hall' meeting in Florida, please go to

Further Reading

'Articles on 9-11' lists Emperor's Clothes articles on what happened on 9-11 and why. Can be read at

1) The quotes from Principal Rigell were published in the MSNBC article, "Sarasota, Fla.: Small school, big lessons," by Ashleigh Banfield. The article can be read at http://www.msnbc.com/news/801474.asp
Jared Israel's analysis of the article, entitled "
MSNBC's Attempt to Cover-up for Mr. Bush Backfires," can be read at

2) "Guilty for 9-11 Section 3: Bush in the Open" includes the excerpt from Cheney's appearance on MEET THE PRESS, where he spoke of the Secret Service having open lines with the Federal Aviation Administration at around 8:45 in the morning on 9-11. It can be read at

3) Newsday 23 September 2001, 'Air Attack on Pentagon Indicates Weaknesses' by Sylvia Adcock, Brian Donovan and Craig Gordon
For what the FAA says it knew when, go to either url below and scroll down the page a bit. http://emperors-clothes.com/9-11backups/nd923.htm#faa840norad
Or read the original at:

4) There is a video of Bush's visit to the Booker School. It shows that even after Andrew Card whispered in his ear, Bush laughed and even cheered the kids having a reading lesson.

Instructions for accessing the video and downloading it are at http://emperors-clothes.com/indict/bvl.htm
*PLEASE* read the instructions!

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