THE PRESIDENT STUMBLES INTO 9/11
Caustic Logic/They Let it Happen
December 12 2006
One gaping hole in Bush’s account of his long dance with responsibility on 9/11 is how he first learned of the attack in New York and what he thought about it. Numerous people in the motorcade heading to the school before 9:00 were alerted to the first crash, and several eyewitness accounts have Bush informed before or shortly after arriving at the school that an airplane, probably a small private plane, had hit the World Trade Center. Bush himself has admitted to being informed by Andy Card, Carl Rove, and Condoleezza Rice; one report has the president musing in response that maybe the pilot had a heart attack, another that maybe it was bad weather. In all, Alan Wood and Paul Thompson at the Center for Cooperative Research counted six different stories of people informing him of this first plane’s crash. 
But Bush also has a seventh version, and it’s perhaps the most fascinating. On at least two occasions, Bush implied that he first heard of the crash from a TV left on in the hallway he was wandering before entering Miss Daniels’ room. At right around 9:00, a couple of minutes before the second plane hit, Bush said he “saw an airplane hit the tower” on the TV news.  But this is highly unlikely, as no footage of this event was aired until CNN obtained a video copy of the impact from a French camera crew that evening. Perhaps he meant to say he saw “the first plane had hit the tower,” and he was watching the smoking aftermath, which we all saw. But he repeated and clarified the story on January 5th, 2002; “when we walked into the classroom, I had seen this plane fly into the first building. There was a TV set on.” 
To my knowledge, no other government officials have backed this up – apparently the president had wandered off on his own at this point. These incongruous stories are certainly a curious window onto the President’s psychology. Everyone remembers where they were on 9/11, so why are his memories so strange and so obviously untrue?
Either way, the clincher is when he later recalled his thought process upon learning of the first plane to a Florida third grader named Jordan:“I used to fly myself, and I said, "There's one terrible pilot." And I said, "It must have been a horrible accident. But I was whisked off there - I didn't have much time to think about it." 
Let’s check the reasoning behind this conclusion, comparing it to Bush’s own experiences in the previous two months. In late July, Bush himself had been sleeping, dreaming peacefully of Crawford while floating on an aircraft carrier in Italy when he attended the 2001 G8 Summit in Genoa. This accommodation replaced the standard posh hotel on order of the Secret Service after warnings were received of a suicide hijacking threat (the crashing a plane into a building kind) against the collection of world leaders. According to the Los Angeles Times, Italian authorities closed the airspace over the venue and set up anti-aircraft guns, though the Summit continued with no incident. 
About two weeks later, after returning to Washington and then departing for a vacation in Crawford to dream of Genoa, Bush was informed of some kind of hijacking threat in the U.S. This was in his famous August 6th daily CIA briefing, entitled “Bin Laden determined to strike in U.S.,” which Bush later clarified he asked for in response to the Genoa affair. It stated that “FBI information […] indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.”  Traditional hijackings, it should be noted, do not really require any preparations, nor do they involve federal buildings on the ground. If by preparation they meant flight training, and if the building scoping was related to the air threat, the message should have been clear – suicide hijackings to bomb targets on the ground, as had been threatened at Genoa. It's not clear if this was clearly conveyed to the President at the briefing.
So in Bush’s mind, then:
Two-moth old threat of suicide hijacking (where a plane flies into a building)
+ One month old warning of possible “attack” involving a hijacking and/or New York buildings
+ A plane actually flying into a New York building known to attract terrorist attacks
= “Horrible accident… Terrible pilot.”
Is this chain of logic believable, even from George W. Bush? A year later, he still held to his story. He told 60 Minutes in an anniversary interview “I thought it was an accident. I thought it was a pilot error. I thought that some foolish soul had gotten lost and - and made a terrible mistake.”  “I was concerned about it, but there were no alarm bells,” he said elsewhere. And so, his services not required to deal with freak accidents, he calmly entered Miss Daniels’ room and surrendered to the power of story time at about 9:03, just as the second plane hit the WTC’s south tower.
Of course he learned a bare three minutes later that it was indeed terrorism and they were officially two-for-two, yet he failed to act decisively. I'm not terribly concerned with the five-to-seven minute Pet Goat episode, though the Booker Video is gripping. the problem for me is the next 55 minutes. Everybody who's broached the subject agrees that the only way the hijacked planes could have been stopped so late was by shooting them down and only the President could authorize that. By the official account anyway, he did not issue this authorization until about 10:05 or even as late as 10:18 - an hour or more after Andy Card's famous whisper and just as it became clear that the last plane had crashed.
But someone kept all the fighters well away from the targets anyway so Bush's serious dereliction of duty never became an issue. And once those planes completed their work unhindered, as Bush concluded to little Jordan, “when I got all the facts that we were under attack, there would be hell to pay for attacking America.”  And he should know, as the self-appointed collecter of payments on "hell's" behalf.
 An Interesting Day: President Bush's Movements and Actions on 9/11 By Allan Wood, Paul Thompson. Center for Cooperative Research.
 Bush, George W. “President Meets with Displaced Workers in Town Hall Meeting” Orlando, FL. White House Press Release. December 4, 2001.
 Bush, George W. “President Holds Town Hall Forum on Economy in California.” Ontario, Calif. White House Press Release. January 5, 2002.
 See . Orlando.
 “Italy Tells of Threat at Genoa Summit” Los Angeles Times. September 27, 2001.
 [partial] “Transcript: Bin Laden determined to strike in U.S.” CNN. April 10, 2004.
 “Bush Talks about the Moments of 9-11 as they unfolded for him.” CBS News. September 12, 2002.
 See . Orlando.