Bush may have been target
September 12, 2001 3:02 PM   Subscribe

Bush may have been target I don't mean to be out of line but I am a bit suspicious when Bush flees, then when a number of media folks question his flight from leadership position he states that his office knew of possible threat to White House. Asked, then, what info they had had so early in the events taking plalce, there is no answer given by the White House. To make matters even odder, we learn that the White House might be under threat but Chaney and Rice remained there. Againb, I am totally willing to give Bush the benfit of doubt. But a leader who flees for security. Couldn't have gone to Dick Gebhart's digs? Who would have thought to bomb that place.
posted by Postroad (34 comments total)
Fleeing? *eye roll*

Perhaps you didn't mean to be out of line, but you are. This is not the time to be questioning the President, no matter who it is - in a situation like that, you simply must protect the leader of the country.

And it is only now that they learn the Whitehouse was the target. So questioning why other high-ranking members of government stayed there is flawed - had they known it was a target, Cheney would not have been there either.
posted by SiW at 3:11 PM on September 12, 2001

It's the DUTY of the President to keep himself safe during such incidents. It's S.O.P. You don't send your decision maker out on the front lines to get blown away.
posted by padinka at 3:11 PM on September 12, 2001

Word on the street is that the plane that crashed in PA was "looking" for the President, with an initial destination of the White House.

The men who wrestled that plane to the ground may have just saved us from WWIII yesterday.
posted by glenwood at 3:14 PM on September 12, 2001

I agree, Postroad, that some media (I point to Brian Williams and NBC) gave him too much of a hard time without considering the possibility that more attacks could have been aimed directly at our leader. In hindsight, I think he and whoever else decided to get him to Omaha, Nebraska (instead of right into the heart of the attacks) definitely did the right thing.
posted by msacheson at 3:14 PM on September 12, 2001

During a crisis, the President's job is to stay alive. There's now some evidence that the 4th plane was indeed intended for the White House.

And lest this sound like Republican ass-covering, Clinton said the same thing yesterday. Anyone at that level knows that the Secret Service tries to play things as safe as possible for very good reasons.
posted by adamsc at 3:16 PM on September 12, 2001

The office of the president is more important than the man holding it. At all costs he must remain alive. If that means hiding out, so be it. America's leader must be kept safe, no matter who it is.
posted by owillis at 3:18 PM on September 12, 2001

If a bomb/plane/terrorist is coming directly at you, would you stand there and wait for it to hit?

Air Force One is designed to allow the President to maintain his control whilst still in the air (away from danger). It's like a portable White House. Why would the President of the United States hang around during an attack? Would that be patriotic? Would that be responsible? Sure, Washington, the center of the political world, could be demolished, but there's an entire country left to govern. Furthermore, Bush was already out of the White House... how is that considered fleeing? Because he flew from one secure base to another?
posted by Hankins at 3:18 PM on September 12, 2001

Oh, come on. The #1 priority of Bush's people any day of the week is to protect him at all costs. Yesterday was no different in that regard. The difference was that there was a credible threat that had to be dealt with.

Can you imagine the chaos if we suddenly lost the president of the United States? Call it fleeing if you want to, but a hidden president can do a lot of good. A dead one does no good at all. There was a terrorist attack in Washington DC for sure, and there are strong possibilities that the downed plane in PA was also headed for DC. I think they acted responsibly and appropriately. Quit criticizing the man and focus on the important issues.
posted by Watsonne at 3:19 PM on September 12, 2001

I don't like Bush, and I very rarely take anything he says at face value. However, getting to safety was exactly the right response to a threat which seems to have been real.
posted by fidelity at 3:20 PM on September 12, 2001

The Burning of Washington, 1814
posted by jennak at 3:22 PM on September 12, 2001

Did anyone see Fleischer's press conference earlier? He danced around this a bit saying that they had credible evidence that there were four targets (WTC 1-2, White House and AF1), but then said he had no information about the intended destination of the fourth plane.

Seemingly contradictory.

Anyway, he then seemed to acknowledge that they had reason to believe that Andrews AFB (Bush's ostensible landing place) was a potential target.
posted by Sinner at 3:23 PM on September 12, 2001

I believe this has been hinted at, but I'd like to say from interviews I saw late last night (and common sense), Bush had absolutely no choice in where he went.

The flight plan had already been predetermined from Cold War days (only a nuclear attack). The order of succession was immediately broken up and whisked to different parts of the union.
posted by geoff. at 3:29 PM on September 12, 2001

I'm no fan of Bush, but I can understand the concern about his security yesterday. Hell, I was scared up here in Ottawa.
posted by tranquileye at 3:31 PM on September 12, 2001

"The men who wrestled that plane to the ground may have just saved us from WWIII yesterday."

We don't actually know this happened, although it seems likely. All we really know is some of the passengers said they were going to try to "do something about it," and the plane subsequently crashed in a relatively remote area in Pennslvania.

Before yesterday, if terrorists had seized one 757 and crashed it anywhere, it would have been a major catastrophe. Yesterday's events destroyed the scale.
posted by kirkaracha at 3:33 PM on September 12, 2001

I'd like to point out that Bush did not flee the White House. He was in Florida when the first plane bombed the WTC. He gave a quick speech, got on AF1, and was taken to Louisiana, then to Nebraska. Only then did he go to Washington. When he arrived in Washington yesterday afternoon, it was the first time he'd been there in at least a couple of days.
posted by aaron at 3:39 PM on September 12, 2001

It is unclear to me what they are suggesting when they claim that Airforce 1 was a target. Are they seriously suggesting that the hijackers were going to take the commercial airliner down to Florida, find the president's plane, and chase it around the skies until they could collide with it? Bush wasn't even in the plane during the initial attacks on the WTC, but in a grade school. Even after he was being flown to Louisiana (a destination the terrorists could not have known in advance), that remains a LONG way from where the planes were hijacked. Or are they suggesting some other form of attack, along the lines of a surface to air missile? Or perhaps that other planes, closer to Airforce 1, were considered at risk of having been hijacked to target the President?

I share the feeling that to some degree, at least, this may be damage control to counter the perception of some that neither the President nor any other elected official was quite as "in charge" or forthcoming with information, reassurance, and guidance to the public as we might have hoped. Of course it is of critical importance to protect the President, and in a case of high uncertainty, precautions may quite properly be extreme. But it would be very disturbing, to say the least, to discover that ANYONE was playing free and loose with the facts now to color or rewrite what occurred for their political advantage.
posted by rushmc at 3:43 PM on September 12, 2001

Isn't the base in Nebraska where they hold the "superplane" for the President in case of a nuclear attack? I seem to remember something about that yesterday....

I have no qualms with the President being taken to undisclosed locations around the country, but I do wish he would have been a little more outspoken yesterday and today, to provide the kind of leadership that, say, FDR provided after Pearl Harbor--restoring confidence and calmness to a distressed country. Bush's speech last night was good, and I support him completely (he's not doing a bad job in all this), but I can't help but notice that Mayor Guliani of New York has been a more forceful public figure and leader.
posted by arco at 3:43 PM on September 12, 2001

arco, the cynical view would be that's because Mayor Guilliani has nothing to lose as he is leaving office.

rushmc, I think you make the point better than the starter of the thread, and I do understand the feeling, however I still feel that this was the course of action - keep the President out of the spotlight, move him around, make sure there is no chance he will be harmed. I subscribe to the belief that our media reports way too much information that should be confidential though, so perhaps I'm a little biased.

Re: the targetting of AF1, I agree that it seems odd. Perhaps the plan was the terrorists assumed the President would leave for Washington as soon as the WTC was hit, and then they would intercept? Seems a shaky theory though..
posted by SiW at 3:54 PM on September 12, 2001

I shouldn't have to remind anybody that any information we receive from official sources at this point is suspect. In such times as these, the government is waging an information battle, and history shows that it doesn't take much for our leaders to decide that there's some information that we just can't handle.

I'm not saying that the WH wasn't targeted, just that when an official source shows up after the fact to give out information that justifies a previous action, pay close attention.

Remember when we bombed Iraq for the attempted assassination attempt on Bush I, an accusation that turned out to be bollocks?

posted by Ty Webb at 3:56 PM on September 12, 2001

Just thought I'd comment on this. First of all folks (no pun intended), President Bush is the official spokesman for the US of A. Don't contradict, you know it's true. If he wanted to make a decision at this time that went against the flow of his advisors, he wouldn't be able to make it. Like I said he is the spokesman, all his advisors have their advisors and so on. Then the necessary decision is made en masse by those who are trained in that field, and so that is how the country is run under crisis. What you've just read is only logical, please don't tell me you think otherwise, or deviate too far from this perception.

Anyone care not to flame me.
posted by HoldenCaulfield at 3:58 PM on September 12, 2001

The Bush staffers face an impossible task: maintaining confidentiality and security for the President -- controlling the flow of information -- while staving off the well-primed demands of the media for Full. Instant. Answers. Now. Twenty years ago, no-one would have blinked at what happened, since it wouldn't have been tracked minute by minute. And no-one should blink at it now.

(I do wish that the staffers had been a little less "everybody out" to the press at the morning Cabinet statement. Mainly because it left Bush sitting there like a lemon as questions were thrown at him. Better, surely, for him to have gone off to his meeting and Ari Fleischer to provide the verbal firewall.)

On a tangent, a friend had been wondering yesterday why the DC plane had hit "one of the least critical areas of the Pentagon"...
posted by holgate at 3:58 PM on September 12, 2001

I had no problem with President Bush being taken to safe places in Louisiana and Nebraska yesterday (though I was hoping he would say more in Louisiana to reassure the nation). The guy's carrying the launch codes, and the day was already unstable enough without fear for the president's life.

I have some concerns about the way Bush's team seems to be so preoccupied with the political aspects of this situation -- apparently, he returned earlier than planned yesterday in response to critics of his absence from Washington, and today's talk of a "credible threat to Air Force One" sounds like invented spin to further justify his absence.

Bush can count on the overwhelming support of the country because of this crisis. His continuing support depends on how he deals with it, not whether or not he was in Washington on Sept. 11.
posted by rcade at 4:08 PM on September 12, 2001

Yes, Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska is home to a "superplane" of sorts that can be used as a mobile military command post. There are several other similar planes located strategically. What President Bush did yesterday was completely logical and to be expected. Knowing what we (and WH officials) knew at the time, that there was the possibility of any number of hijacked planes with suicide bombers on them, would YOU have said, "Hey, let's go back to Washington!" No. No way. You (a) stay alive, and (b) talk with your staff & advisors to see what the hell is going on, and (c) at the first available AND SAFE opportunity, go "live" with a national message.

The President was as safe as he possibly could be at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana (en route to Nebraska) and then at Offutt Air Force Base. Once the "all clear" was given, back to DC.
posted by davidmsc at 4:13 PM on September 12, 2001

This is not the time to be questioning the President, no matter who it is

I have to strongly disagree with you here. While this is certainly a time for national unity, I certainly don't feel that it is ever appropriate to give up my right to question (and ask questions about) the actions of the President. Following a leader - any leader - blindly and unquestioningly leads us down a bad road. Free debate is what this country is all about and is, incidently, the reason why a true Declaration of War needs to be made by the Congress, after suitable debate, and not by any one man.

That having been said:
in a situation like that, you simply must protect the leader of the country

I have to agree with this. The duty and charge of the Secret Service is to protect the body of the president at all costs. They did their job, pure and simple.

Of course, the news that he was "down the rabbit hole" was, for me, scarier than anything else that happened all day. It made me strongly wonder what they knew that I didn't....
posted by anastasiav at 4:31 PM on September 12, 2001 [1 favorite]

i think the people behind bush's administration recognize the importance of confidence the american public in the president. the air force one story does seem overcompensating, but doubting the president (his character/integrity, capacity/competence and so on) now does no good, only harm, because what his administration does is heavily heavily effected by the american public's sentiments.

the public is angry and warlike. it is imperative that the president rise above raging sentiments we are all legitimately and unavoidably having right now, so to be the solidarity we can look to in this state (so to minimize social chaos,) and for the administration to not take a cue from our anger and make rash decisions that can touch off international strife.

we have to trust and encourage the president to do that.
posted by elle at 4:34 PM on September 12, 2001

Well, if DC is being bombed by planes, I'm not going to go to Ground Zero, but....

These people starting lying from Day One with the Clinton vandalism story and they've had to scramble to cover their ass on other things since then.

Everything they say will be questioned, as it should.
posted by BarneyFifesBullet at 4:52 PM on September 12, 2001

The White House is not as big as you think. Traveling 500+ mph, they understandibly missed the House and crashed into the nearest 'big' target available. Nobody brought that plane down. The only true heroes are the passengers/crew who stopped the PA plane from crashing into an urban area.(and of course all ems crew...)Really, being hijacked w/ knives!
posted by poodlemouthe at 5:00 PM on September 12, 2001

I realize that many of you did not live through the worst of the Cold War or Viet Nam . . . but the idiotic comment that started this thread displays a lack of understanding of history and context (as somebody else has already mentioned, SOP in crisis situations like this). Some protocols and decisions are discretionary; others are generally done by-the-book.

FWIW, Offutt AFB, Nebraska, was the home (1946 - 1992) of the U.S. Air Force's Strategic Air Command (SAC) and, from 1960, the Joint Strategic Target Planning Staff (JSTPS). SAC was the home of the B-52 Stratofortress program. SAC has been superceded by U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM).

From the STRATCOM fact sheet:

"As the nerve center of the United States Strategic Command, the USSTRATCOM Command Center is prepared to transmit National Command Authority directives to strategic aircraft, submarines and missile forces.

"The USSTRATCOM Command Center is located in the Underground Command Complex. Also located within this complex are the Intelligence Operations Center, Weather Support Center, Force Status Readiness Center and other support offices."

NORAD (North American Aerospace Defence Command), also mentioned in news reports as a possible destination for the President yesterday, is located under Cheyenne Mountain, near Colorado Springs, Colorado (some of you may know it from Hollywood's representation in the 1983 film _War Games_).
posted by Big Dave at 5:03 PM on September 12, 2001

Ok here is my 2 cents worth. One Bush is, as mentioned above, the leader and spokesman for our entire nation. If he says something that offends someone he is saying it as the President not a private citizen. For this reason he has to be very careful of not only what but how he says it. That is why he has all of those advisors and speechwriters.

Second Mayor Guilliani is in charge of leading the response of just the City of New York, not the entire country. He is doing a very good job of keeping the people of New York calm and very motivated, but most of all informed of what is being done to help them. His job is daunting in scope at this time but he does not have to deal with the outside distractions of keeping the entire country and in some areas the entire world from becoming unsettled like the President does.

Lastly, in cases where there is any threat to the life of the President, the Secret Service have supreme jurisdiction and not even the president will try to override there authority if he is smart. They get full cooperation of all branches of the military and all levels of government. To say Bush ran is unfair because at such times he is not fully in charge of the movements of his staff and himself. Besides if you listened to all of the news the secret service moved all ranking members of Congress to safe areas until they were sure that the credible threat period had passed.
posted by whizkid at 5:31 PM on September 12, 2001

Let me just say that I have no problem with Bush going wherever the Secret Service want him to go.

I do have a problem with a weaselacious press secretary coming up with a spiderweb of justifications that he can't back up. What the hell was wrong with "We didn't know what other threats there might be, so we prudently erred on the side of safety"? Are we really to believe that two crews executed perfectly, and one was so confused they didn't know the president was out of town or how to slow down to hit their target? They're asking about this on TV right now: the claim seems to security experts to be more politically driven than accurate, particularly given the timing. This smacks more of making the president seem presidential rather than just being presidential. Let's get him on the White House lawn, immaculately dressed! (No sweat stains on his suit, mind you.) Gotta wave! It's the sort of orchestration that Freepers used to rip apart when done by the Clintons.

I'd rather an off-the-cuff Bush say this, in other words.

Heck, I'd rather hear from Dick Cheney, who was soooo public in the first weeks of the administration and has since seemed to be buried in the basement -- no doubt hard at work, but don't want him upstaging Dubya with his ability to actually hold a conversation about the issues. It's very frustrating calculated stage-management, and I don't want to see any more of it, especially at a time like this.
posted by dhartung at 6:55 PM on September 12, 2001

I have no issues with President Bush getting to safety on Tuesday. He did what I expect any president to do. I do have issues with the information coming from the White House. Personally, I think the WH is lying, and under the circumstances, this is appalling. It makes me wonder what else the WH is lying about.

I mean, could it be possible that the WH knew of the attack, just as it did before Pearl Harbor? Can we trust a man who is only in the building because of one Supreme Court justice who wanted to retire (Justice O'Conner)?

As American's we have to look at why the terrorists hate our country so much and demand more accountability from our government which is obviously not acting in the best interests of the thousands who died on Tuesday.
posted by DragonBoy at 8:56 AM on September 13, 2001

Some VERY direct questions were asked of Ari Fleisher in his briefing today (Thursday) about the "credibility" (quote) of the White House's contentions (unsupported by any other governmental agency) that it was targeted in Tuesday's attacks, so apparently those posting here are not the only ones who smell something fishy. Of course, he refused to address anything to do with the whole issue.

Who IS this guy, anyway? (Before becoming Press Secretary, I mean.) I've not seen a slimier, old-school, say nothing IMPEDIMENT in government in years. Is he ex-CIA, or what?
posted by rushmc at 1:58 PM on September 13, 2001

Heck, I'd rather hear from Dick Cheney, who was soooo public in the first weeks of the administration and has since seemed to be buried in the basement ...

Cheney never even evacuated the White House, staying in a "secure area," according to Ari Fleischer yesterday.
posted by rcade at 2:16 PM on September 13, 2001

Cheney never even evacuated the White House, staying in a "secure area," according to Ari Fleischer yesterday.

I'd like to echo a post in another thread: WHERE IS CHENEY? Has anyone seen him since Tuesday?
posted by rushmc at 5:32 PM on September 13, 2001

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