Friday, May 13, 2005


Our little runaway

I'm a walkin' in the rain
Tears are fallin' and I feel the pain
Wishin' you were here by me
To end this misery and I wonder
I wa wa wa wonder
Why, why why why why why you ran away
And I wonder where you will stay
My little runaway, a run run run run runaway

—adapted from lyrics by Del Shannon

Yesterday I mentioned the odd sequence of events surrounding the White House terror alert, while Bush was out bike-riding, and happily I wasn't the only one to notice. Last night Jeffrey Brown of the PBS News Hour interviewed two homeland security experts—Daniel Kaniewski, deputy director of the George Washington University Homeland Security Policy Institute, and David Heyman, director of the Homeland Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies—concerning the incident.

For some reason PBS has declined to transcribe this one segment [audio, at 11:38] of last night's program, so I offer my transcription—

Jeffrey Brown: And, David, the other issue that came up was that the President had not been notified. Were you surprised by that?

David Heyman: I was shocked by that. It would seem after 9/11 that the first person who would want to know if there's a problem of a possible terrorist attack is the President. I was also hearing the White House explanation for that—that they were counting on the Secret Service's professionals to do the notification as needed and that they weren't worried about the President's safety.

Those aren't the issues.

If this was a real terrorist attack, who do we want to be in charge? We voted for the President to be in charge, not for the Secret Service, not for others to be ... other people to be in charge. If this had been a terrorist attack, we would want him making the decisions.

Jeffrey Brown: What do you think?

Daniel Kaniewski:1 I take a different view. I actually trust the chain of command, so to speak, that exists in the White House—whether that's the Secret Service or the political leaders that advise the President.2

Clearly they had very specific information. For them not to tell the President, I believe it's because they felt that it wasn't a significant threat, they knew the White House was evacuated, and they didn't see this small plane, again, flying as a significant threat.

So the judgment was made by someone in the White House. But I think that's a legitimate decision that can be made. And again, this would all be different if that plane was viewed as a very significant and imminent threat, which I don't believe anybody today is saying it was.

David Heyman: At the time though that this was taking place, you have literally 60 seconds—perhaps up to 3 minutes—to make a decision about what you're going to be doing, and the President should be notified that the White House is being evacuated, his staff is being evacuated, his wife is safe, who was sitting ... who was in the President's office.

I think we want our President to be in charge and not the Secret Service. And it just seems to me I think the White House is going to come out the next day or so and say "We fouled up on this" and the President's going to say "I want to know." [my transcription]

Brown noted that White House spokesman Scott McClelland has said "The process will be reviewed."

If you're a regular reader of Simply Appalling, you will know there's a recurrent theme—that George Bush is even more irrelevant to government decision-making in any matter that the Powers That Be consider important than was Ronald Reagan, who at least had the excuse of incipient senility. I mean, no one in his right mind would let George Bush run a mid-size corporation, much less the U.S. government. The terror threat response was just one more illustration of the truth of this.

But while I'm on the topic of Bush, I wanted to call your attention to a wonderful little character description that Sidney Blumenthal, whose specialty is Bushology, wrote in The Guardian yesterday—

In his relationship with Bush, Blair apparently misread the outward signs of American culture and interpreted them through British eyes. Bush can be so amiable and informal dressed in blue jeans that his manner can be mistaken for openness and cooperation, when it conceals a particular type of American class superiority and indifference. Bush, after all, seems so friendly compared with the glowering Cheney, who clawed his way upward. It's not easy for someone who's never travelled in America to grasp the evolution of the Bush family from north-east patricians into Texas Tories, and the dissolution of the New England character along the way, especially its sense of responsibility, duty and humility.

Bush's amiability towards Blair merely demonstrates his acceptance of the prime minister into his fraternity, his private club. But even if Blair got Bush exactly right in every nuance, the outcome remains the same. (Gordon Brown and Bush are a car crash waiting to happen. Bush has an instinctive revulsion for serious intellectuals who have little capacity for the locker-room banter that is his mode of condescension.)

Previous post
Bush not told till he finished his bike ride (5/12/05)

Related posts
The veep debate: Where was George? (10/6/04)
Pseudo-fascism? (10/8/04)
Suddenly there was an explosion—Our brave, macho President (10/30/04)
Bush joins the Jacobins (updated) (1/26/05)
George Bush: Cheerleader-in-Chief of Social Security "reform" (2/14/05)
In case you were wondering who is really behind Guantánamo (3/28/05)


1Kaniewski is one of those people who maintains a half-smile while on camera no matter what is being said à la Bill Frist. This identifies him immediately as a strong Republican supporter in my mind. [back]

2Vice President Cheney was in the White House at the time. Probably catching up on some paperwork in the Oval Office. [back]

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