Bush’s Vacation Time:
Michael Moore: With everything going wrong, he did what any of us would do. He went on vacation. In his first eight months in office before September 11th, George W. Bush was on vacation, according to The Washington Post, 42 percent of the time.
George W. Bush: If I hit every shot good, people would say I wasn’t working.
Michael Moore: It was not surprising that Mr. Bush needed some time off. Being president is a lot of work.
Newscaster (August 8, 2001): What about these folks that say you’re loafing here in Texas, that you’re taking too long of a vacation?
George W. Bush: They don’t understand the definition of work, then. I’m getting a lot done. Secondly, you don’t have to be in Washington to work. It’s amazing what can happen with telephones and faxes.
Newsperson: What are you doing the rest of the day?
George W. Bush: Karen Hughes is coming over. We’re working on some things. And she’ll be over here. We’re working on a few things, a few matters. I’m working on some initiatives. You’ll see. I mean, there’ll be some decisions that I will have made while I’m here, and we’ll be announcing them as time goes on.
Michael Moore: The first time I met him, he had some good advice for me. “Governor Bush, it’s Michael Moore.”
George W. Bush: Behave yourself, will you? Go find real work.
Michael Moore: And work was something he knew a lot about.
George W. Bush: Anybody want some grits?
Michael Moore: Relaxing at Camp David. Yachting off Kennebunkport.
George W. Bush: How you doing?
Michael Moore: Or being a cowboy on the ranch in Texas.
George W. Bush (August 25, 2001): I love the nature. I love to get in the pickup truck with my dogs. “Oh, hi.”
Michael Moore: George Bush spent the rest of August at the ranch where life was less complicated.
George W. Bush: Armadillos love to dig the soil looking for bugs. And so I went out there the other day, and there was Barney, buried in this hole, chasing an armadillo.
Michael Moore: It was a summer to remember. And when it was over, he left Texas for his second-favorite place. On September 10th, he joined his brother in Florida, where they looked at files, and met important Floridians. He went to sleep that night in a bed made with fine French linens.
Fahrenheit 9/11 states, “In his first eight months in office before September 11th, George W. Bush was on vacation, according to the Washington Post, forty-two percent of the time.”
Shortly before 9/11, the Post calculated that Bush had spent 42 percent of his presidency at vacation spots or en route, including all or part of 54 days at his ranch. That calculation, however, includes weekends, which Moore failed to mention.
Tom McNamee, “Just the facts on ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’ Chicago Sun-Times, June 28, 2004. See also: Mike Allen, “White House On the Range. Bush Retreats to Ranch for ‘Working Vacation’,” Washington Post, August 7, 2001 Many of those days are weekends, and the Camp David stays have included working visits with foreign leaders. Since the Eisenhower administration, Presidents have usually spent many weekends at Camp David, which is fully equipped for Presidential work. Once the Camp David time is excluded, Bush’s “vacation” time drops to 13 percent.
Much of that 13 percent was spent on Bush’s ranch in Texas. Reader Scott Marquardt looked into a random week of Bush’s August 2001 “vacation.” Using public documents from http://www.whitehouse.gov, here is what he found:
Monday, August 20
Spoke concerning the budget while visiting a high school in Independence, Missouri.
Spoke at the annual Veteran’s of Foreign Wars convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Signed six bills into law.
Announced his nominees for Chief Financial Officer of the Department of Agriculture, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Financial Management, member of the Federal Housing Finance Board, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disabled Employment Policy, U.S. Representative to the General Assembly of the U.N., and Assistant Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development for the Bureau of Humanitarian Response.
Spoke with workers at the Harley Davidson factory.
Dined with Kansas Governor Bill Graves, discussing politics.
Tuesday, August 21
Took press questions at a Target store in Kansas City, Missouri.
Spoke with Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien on the matter of free trade and tariffs on Canadian lumber.
Wednesday, August 22
Met with Karen Hughes, Condi Rice, and Josh Bolten, and other staff (more than one meeting).
Conferenced with Mexico’s president for about 20 minutes on the phone. They discussed Argentina’s economy and the International Monetary fund’s role in bringing sustainability to the region. They also talked about immigration and Fox’s planned trip to Washington.
Communicated with Margaret LaMontagne, who was heading up a series of immigration policy meetings.
Released the Mid-Session Review, a summary of the economic outlook for the next decade, as well as of the contemporary economy and budget.
Announced nomination and appointment intentions for Ambassador to Vietnam, two for the Commission on Fine Arts, six to serve on the Commission on the Future of the United States Aerospace Industry, three for the Advisory Committee to the Pension Benefits Guaranty Corporation, one to the Board of Directors of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and one to the National Endowments for the Arts.
Issued a Presidential Determination ordering a military drawdown for Tunisia.
Issued a statement regarding the retirement of Jesse Helms.
Thursday, August 23
Briefly spoke with the press.
Visited Crawford Elementary School, fielded questions from students.
Friday, August 24
Officials arrived from Washington at 10:00 AM. Shortly thereafter, at a press conference, Bush announced that General Richard B. Myers will be the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and General Pete Pac will serve as Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. He also announced 14 other appointments, and his intentions for the budget. At 11:30 AM these officials, as well as National Security Council experts, the Secretary of Defense, and others, met with Bush to continue the strategic review process for military transformation (previous meetings have been held at the Pentagon and the White House). The meeting ended at 5:15.
Met with Andy Card and Karen Hughes, talking about communications issues.
Issued a proclamation honoring Women’s Equality Day.
Saturday, August 25
Awoke at 5:45 AM, read daily briefs.
Had an hour-long CIA and national security briefing at 7:45
Gave his weekly radio address on the topic of The Budget.
Having shown a clip from August 25 with Bush explaining how he likes to work on the ranch, Moore announces “George Bush spent the rest of the August at the ranch.” Not so, as Scott Marquardt found by looking at Bush’s activity for the very next day.
Sunday, August 26
Speaks at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
Speaks at the U.S. Steel Group Steelworkers Picnic at Mon Valley Works, southeast of Pittsburgh. He also visits some employees still working, not at the picnic.
Marquandt looked up Bush’s activities for the next three days:
Declared a major disaster area in Ohio and orders federal aid. This affects Brown, Butler, Clermont and Hamilton counties.
Sent a report on progress toward a “solution of the Cyprus question” to the Speaker of the House and the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.
Announced his intention to nominate Kathleen Burton Clarke to be Director of the Bureau of Land Management (Department of the Interior).
Spoke at the American Legion’s 83rd annual convention in San Antonio, discussing defense priorities. Decommissioned the Air Force One jet that flew 444 missions, from the Nixon administration to Bush’s retirement ceremony for the plane in Waco, Texas.
Attended the dedication ceremony of the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park in San Antonio.
Announced appointment of 13 members of the Presidential Task Force to Improve Health Care Delivery for Our Nations Veterans.
It is true in a sense that the Presidency is a “24/7” job. But this does not mean that the President should be working every minute. A literal “24/7” job would mean that the President should be criticized for “sleeping on the job 33 percent of the time” if he slept for eight hours a day. […]
Moore wraps up the vacation segment: “It was a summer to remember. And when it was over, he left Texas for his second favorite place.” The movie then shows Bush in Florida. Actually, he went back to Washington, where he gave a speech on August 31.
Moore then says that Bush responded to all this by going on vacation. He cites a Washington Post story (available here: http://www.dke.org/haginranch.html) that had noted that Bush spent 42 percent of his first seven months in office “at vacation spots or en route.” Moore does not explain that this figure counts “full or partial days” as vacation days—so that, as one online critic put it, if President Bush “got up at six in the morning at Camp David, had a cup of java, then flew to the White House, that was counted as a day at Camp David” (http://www.scoopy.com/fahrenheit911.htm). Moore also does not note that the Post article also says that, “Many of those days are weekends, and the Camp David stays have included working visits with foreign leaders.” If you exclude weekends from the Post’s calculation, Bush spent just 13 percent of his days “on vacation.” And of course these weren’t truly vacation days, either—in fact, one of the pictures Moore shows to back up his claim that Bush was loafing around (“relaxing at Camp David,” as Moore puts it) is a picture of Bush meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Moore also shows Bush in a polo shirt answering a question about what he’s doing that day, saying, “Uh, Karen Hughes is coming over we’re workin’ on some things—and uh, she’ll be over here. We’re workin’ on some things. I’m working on some initiatives—we’re uh—you’ll see. I mean I’ve got—there’ll be decisions that I’m going to make while I’m here and we’ll be announcing them as time goes on.” The viewer is supposed to get the impression that Bush is struggling to sound productive during a time when he is just goofing off. But Moore undoes his own design here by noting with a caption on the screen that this Q&A took place on August 8, 2001. This was one day before Bush announced his new policy governing funding of embryonic stem cell research, a major policy initiative, on which Bush and the White House staff had been working for weeks in Texas and Washington. Bush announced the policy, from Crawford, Texas on August 9, in his first nationally-televised primetime address (http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/08/20010809-2.html), and he had in fact been hard at work on the speech with Karen Hughes and others in Texas the day before. (To Moore’s way of thinking, these all count as vacation days.)
Here is a sample of what Bush did on one particular week of his “vacation” in August of 2001, drawn from White House documents available online and collated by Scott Marquardt for Dave Kopel (http://www.davekopel.com/Terror/Fiftysix-Deceits-in-Fahrenheit-911.htm):
Monday, August 20
– Spoke concerning the budget while visiting a high school in Independence, Missouri.
– Spoke at the annual Veteran’s of Foreign Wars convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
– Signed six bills into law.
– Announced his nominees for Chief Financial Officer of the Department of Agriculture, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Financial Management, member of the Federal Housing Finance Board, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disabled Employment Policy, U.S. Representative to the General Assembly of the U.N., and Assistant Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development for the Bureau of Humanitarian Response.
– Spoke with workers at the Harley Davidson factory.
– Dined with Kansas Governor Bill Graves, discussing politics.
Tuesday, August 21
– Took press questions at a Target store in Kansas City, Missouri.
– Spoke with Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien on the matter of free trade and tariffs on Canadian lumber.
Wednesday, August 22
– Met with Karen Hughes, Condi Rice, and Josh Bolten, and other staff (more than one meeting).
– Conferenced with Mexico’s president for about 20 minutes on the phone. They discussed Argentina’s economy and the International Monetary Fund’s role in bringing sustainability to the region. They also talked about immigration and Fox’s planned trip to Washington.
– Communicated with Margaret LaMontagne, who was heading up a series of immigration policy meetings.
– Released the Mid-Session Review, a summary of the economic outlook for the next decade, as well as of the contemporary economy and budget.
– Announced nomination and appointment intentions for Ambassador to Vietnam, two for the Commission on Fine Arts, six to serve on the Commission on the Future of the United States Aerospace Industry, three for the Advisory Committee to the Pension Benefits Guaranty Corporation, one to the Board of Directors of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and one to the National Endowments for the Arts.
– Issued a Presidential Determination ordering a military drawdown for Tunisia.
– Issued a statement regarding the retirement of Jesse Helms.
Thursday, August 23
– Briefly speaks with the press.
– Visited Crawford Elementary School, fielded questions from students.
Friday, August 24
– Officials arrive from Washington at 10:00 a.m. Briefly after this at a press conference, Bush announced that General Richard B. Myers will be the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and General Pete Pac will serve as Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. He also announced 14 other appointments, and his intentions for the budget. At 11:30 a.m. these officials, as well as National Security Council experts, the Secretary of Defense, and others, met with Bush to continue the strategic review process for military transformation (previous meetings have been held at the Pentagon and the White House). The meeting ended at 5:15.
– Met with Andy Card and Karen Hughes, talking about communications issues.
– Issued a proclamation honoring Women’s Equality Day.
Saturday, August 25
– Awoke at 5:45 a.m., read daily briefs.
– Had an hour-long CIA and national security briefing at 7:45.
– Gave his weekly radio address on the topic of The Budget.
Sunday, August 26
– Speaks at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
– Speaks at the U.S. Steel Group Steelworkers Picnic at Mon Valley Works, southeast of Pittsburgh. He also visits some employees still working, not at the picnic.
Some vacation. But rather than tell us any of this, Moore then shows various images of Bush on vacation, talking about his dogs and the like, which of course can only leave us with the impression that if Michael Moore himself were followed around by cameras and asked questions constantly for months and years on end, the only thing he would ever talk about would be serious issues of the day.
Finally, we are told, Bush went to Florida on September 10 (though Moore suggests, falsely, that he went there straight after an extended vacation in Texas).
From paratrooper, caught by JimK (Discuss @ Moorewatch):
Here’s the first actual lie I found in the movie transcript. Not only is it factually untrue, but it’s also wrong in spirit. The Presidency travels with the President. He had daily security briefings ( except Sunday). His staff was with him, along with a bunch of reporters. He did work most days, and TRAVELED away from the ranch.
He did not stay at the ranch for the rest of August. He was in and out.
FROM THE MOVIE:
George Bush spent the rest of August at the ranch where life was less complicated.
This is said to give the impression that Bush wasn’t working for a whole month, and never traveled away from the ranch.
From the Official White House Press Briefing for August travel arrangements;
While in Texas, he will have a working vacation there. I was going to do this at the end of the briefing. Let me give you some information now. But the President will travel for approximately two days a week each week during his visit to Texas. The upcoming week, he will travel one day to build a house in nearby Waco, Texas, to participate in a Habitat for Humanity event.
The following week, the President will travel to Colorado and New Mexico. The week following that, the President will travel roughly three days to Wisconsin and other locations TBD. He’ll also travel to Pennsylvania that week.
The following week, the President will have an event in nearby San Antonio, and you can also anticipate travel over Labor Day weekend to some unnamed cities as of this point.
Now, before you a##hats say “Is that the best you can do?”
I must say , yes.
That’s the best I can do with the first 4 minutes of the movie.
Now………….to minute 5.
Here’s some further information:
August 1, 2001: Nominated six US Attorneys, two judges for affirmation by Congress.
Placed phone calls to PM Blair and Ahern to discuss matters between
Britain and Northern Ireland.
President announces an agreement on the Patients Bill of Right
President addresses National Urban League Conference
August 2, 2001: President meets with House and Senate education leaders.
August 3, 2001: Placed six more nominations for US Attorneys.
President speaks to press at meeting to discuss his first six months in
office and the agenda for the future.
President attends a ceremony in East Room honoring Lance Armstrong
August 4, 2001: President‘s Radio Address
August 7, 2001: Press conference in Waco, TX with pool of reporters
August 8, 2001: President helps build a home with Habitat For Humanity, then addresses
the group on faith-based and community initiatives.
August 9, 2001: Addressed the nation on stem-cell research
August 10, 2001: Announces nomination of two US Ambassadors
August 11, 2001: President‘s Radio Address
August 13, 2001: Presidential Ceremony to sign the Agriculture Supplemental Bill
President holds two press conferences with traveling White House pool.
The rest of the month had just as much, if not more, activity. I will omit it here to save space,
but you can find complete information at the following pages:
White House, —News releases for August 2001
White House Press Briefing, August 1, 2001
White House Press Briefing, August 3, 2001
White House Press Briefing, August 9, 2001
White House Press Briefing, August 22, 2001
White House Press Briefing, August 31, 2001
The President was in Texas from August 7-13 and 21-25. The rest of the month was spent traveling to New Mexico, Colorado, Wisconsin, Missouri and then back to Washington at the end of the month.
A review of the White House news archive for August 2001 shows this month to be anything but a —vacation“. It is naïve to think that the President spent an entire month doing nothing, as Michael Moore implies.
It’s obvious that these “vacation days” include weekends. (You can do the math: 250/x=42/100; x=595 days=1.63 years). Okay, 42% is a lot of vacation, but weekends account for 29% of our time. I’m sure that a lot of this “vacation” time is just Bush going to Camp David for the weekend. Can we really fault the President for going to Camp David on weekends? If you take out weekends, you get 42%-29%, or 13% of the time that Bush was on vacation.
Okay, this is still a lot, although 13% looks a lot better than 42%. Over a year, 13% is about 6.76 weeks of the year–which is still much more than most of us. But we know that Bush’s vacations are generally working vacations. For example, he has hosted visits from leaders like Putin, Fox, and many others there. This hardly seems like a real vacation.
A film that bases itself on a big lie and a big misrepresentation can only sustain itself by a dizzying succession of smaller falsehoods, beefed up by wilder and (if possible) yet more-contradictory claims. President Bush is accused of taking too many lazy vacations. (What is that about, by the way? Isn’t he supposed to be an unceasing planner for future aggressive wars?) But the shot of him “relaxing at Camp David” shows him side by side with Tony Blair. I say “shows,” even though this photograph is on-screen so briefly that if you sneeze or blink, you won’t recognize the other figure. A meeting with the prime minister of the United Kingdom, or at least with this prime minister, is not a goof-off.
Reviewers Who Fell For the Deceptions:
Moore reminds us that in the summer of 2001, Bush’s presidency seemed destined to fail. The President took a record number of vacations, and we now know that in August, he ignored a memo entitled “Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in U.S.”
The New York Times, which is not near as liberal as many people think, largely agreed with Moore, writing, “Central assertions of fact in ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’ are supported by the public record.” For instance, Moore’s contention that Bush spent 42 percent of his first eight months as president on vacation came from The Washington Post, which is also not as liberal as many think.
Moore paints with the big brush of satire, beginning his film with an account of the Florida election, then showing Bush going on vacation for 42% of the eight months before September 11. Very wisely he does not show the attack itself, but blackens the screen, then to continue building up his side of why the war in Iraq happened.
The film then goes on to detail the months leading up to the 9/11 attacks and chronicles Bush’s vacations, including embarrassing responses that Bush himself gave to the press trying to justify his time off. This is not just Moore’s opinion, the record shows that President Bush was listed “on vacation” over forty percent of the time during his first eight months in office.
The catalogue of offences that Moore emphasizes in the film are almost too numerous to mention. Here are some of the more frustration-inducing tidbits: […]
3. For the first several months of being President, Bush was on vacation an amazing 42% of the time.
From Rex Reed: [Warning: that link goes to the Democratic Underground]
(In his first eight months in office, he was on vacation 42 percent of the time.) Meanwhile the current occupants of the White House, bolstered by an irresponsible press that has never bothered to ask the right questions, have courted public support by hammering home the kind of fear and born-again religious ideology that keep people subservient and paralyzed. Mr. Moore is saying that in the lineup of fear factors, terrorists and sinners may have replaced Communists and beatniks, but if you keep the people frightened enough, the bully always wins.
Fahrenheit 9/11 brings up many fascinating and inflammatory ideas about George W. Bush, his family, and the way he handled events leading up to and after 9/11. Throughout the film, Moore provides his insights based on interviews, official documents, and news reports. In his first nine months in office, Bush spent 42 percent of his time on vacation and suffered from declining approval ratings.
The Supreme Court seconds that emotion, and Bush proceeds to spend 42% of his first eight months in office on vacation, a cinematic longeur that’s enlivened by the sight of Paul Wolfowitz prepping for a TV appearance by running a comb first through his mouth, then through his hair.
It may be a bit of a cheap stunt to play the Go-Go’s “Vacation” in the background while showing shots of Bush golfing, playing with the first dog and generally loafing when he is supposed to be ruling the country, but it is an entertaining cheap stunt. Moore is a savvy showman, he knows that sometimes you have to find the humor in a situation to keep the audience entertained. However, no amount of editing will change the sentiments and the statements made by W and his cronies.
Moore uses the events of 9/11 effectively and leads up to that day’s horror by following Bush through his first months of office where, we learn, he had been on vacation a total of 42% of the time – fishing, golfing and playing cowboy. His clueless response to a reporter’s question about his lack of presidential work, during his respites, is both amusing and extremely disheartening. This piece lays the groundwork of Michel Moore’s attempt to show just how unprepared and unqualified George W. Bush was to lead his country when the planes struck their targets.
He immediately focused on the first eight months of the Bush administration and provides the viewer with a gripping fact.George W Bush spent 42% of his first eight months in office on vacation.An appetizer that certainly inaugurates a host of revealing scenarios that potray the blatant guile and cunning of the man that Moore wants us to see.
Very few of the issues raised here – that the Bush family and the family of Osama bin Laden have had close business ties going back decades, or that the president sat idly by and read My Pet Goat with a class of Florida elementary school students for a full seven minutes after being informed the nation was under attack on September 11, or that Bush spent 42% of the first eight months of his presidency on vacation – are new, or of earth-shattering proportions. What is new, and why viewing Moore’s film will be such a powerful, wrenching experience for so many people, is the situation of sitting in a darkened theatre and watching as a steady tapestry of craven presidentiality unfurls for two hours.
[Moore reminds us of the documented fact that Bush was on vacation 42 percent of the time during his first eight months in office].
Some of the disparagement seems personal because Moore presents information with his trademark deadpan humor. But is it an attack to point out that the President spent 42% of his first eight months in office on vacation? Or is it useful information for voters?
Bonus Moore Deception:
Something that’s not in the movie itself, but is in the Fahrenheit 9/11 tv commercials:
By the way, the clip of Bush making a comment about terrorism, and then hitting a golf ball, is also taken out of context, at least partially:
Tuesday night on FNC’s Special Report with Brit Hume, Brian Wilson noted how “the viewer is left with the misleading impression Mr. Bush is talking about al-Qaeda terrorists.” But Wilson disclosed that “a check of the raw tape reveals the President is talking about an attack against Israel, carried out by a Palestinian suicide bomber.”
“Cyberalert,” Media Research Center, July 1, 2004, item. 3.
Interestingly, as detailed in Bill Clinton’s autobiography My Life, in November 1995. when President Clinton learned that Israel’s Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin had been shot, Clinton went out to the White House lawn and hit golf balls while he waited to learn if Rabin would live. That Clinton played golf after learning of a terrible crime in Israel obviously does not mean that he did not care about the crime. If a television station had recorded some footage of Clinton hitting golf balls that awful night, it would have easy for a hyper-partisan film-maker to use the footage against Clinton unfairly.
FNC Reveals How Moore Distorted Scene with Bush at Golf Course
The TV ads for Michael Moore’s “documentary” Fahrenheit 9/11 feature a mocking clip of President Bush on a golf course. Bush declares, “I call upon all nations to do everything they can to stop these terrorists killers,” and then Moore jumps to Bush adding, as he prepares to swing at a golf ball, “now watch this drive.” Tuesday night on FNC’s Special Report with Brit Hume, Brian Wilson noted how “the viewer is left with the misleading impression Mr. Bush is talking about al-Qaeda terrorists.” But Wilson disclosed that “a check of the raw tape reveals the President is talking about an attack against Israel, carried out by a Palestinian suicide bomber.”
Indeed, Wilson played another part of what Bush said in the remarks to reporters made on August 4, 2002: “For the sake of the Israelis who are under attack, we must stop the terror.”
:: E X I T L I N K S ::
My Full Collection of F9/11 Deceptions Will Be Stored Here
The Best F9/11 Debunkings can be found at:
Bonus Moore Debunking Article:
WorldThreats.com Response to Michael Moore… by Ryan Mauro
About those “fine French linens”:
The Day Before Everything Changed, President Bush Touched Locals’ Lives
by Tom Bayles
The Sarasota Herald-Tribune
September 10, 2002
The president strolled into the dining room just before 7 p.m., after a flight aboard Air Force One, and waiter Moo-Moo Yorsangchai was there to make sure he got whatever he needed.
“He had fun that day,” Yorsangchai recalled of George W. Bush’s arrival in Sarasota on Sept. 10. “He was calling us by name. He was laughing.”
“That name, Moo-Moo,” the president said. “I’ll never forget that.” “I’ll never forget your name, either,” Yorsangchai replied.
Yorsangchai, a waiter at the Colony Beach & Tennis Resort, is one of a handful of Southwest Florida residents who met with the president in the final hours leading up to the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
The waiters, resort managers, teachers, GOP leaders and law enforcement officers paint a picture of a president at ease, one who was looking forward to meeting children at Emma E. Booker Elementary and touting a literacy program the morning of the attacks.
The memory of lightheartedness, and the buzz of anticipation and excitement, is in stark contrast to the images most people saw of the president in Sarasota the morning of the attacks and aboard Air Force One later in the day.
The Sarasota visit was to be largely unremarkable. In between his arrival and the school visit, Bush would dine with top Sarasota-Manatee Republicans, many of whom were glad to see him return to the state that was the stage for so many problems in the 2000 election.
Instead, those in contact with Bush in the hours and minutes leading up to and during the attacks became part of history, witnessing a president just before his defining moment. Some witnessed that moment as it happened, as Bush learned of the attacks at Booker.
He made his first address to the nation from there. Local authorities who had assisted the Secret Service in protecting VIPs before had to deal with the reality of getting the president to safety. And the Colony, where the Bush team had been staying, was used by the Bush administration as an information center during the disaster.
“They had evacuated all the government buildings,” said Katherine Klauber Moulton, manager of the upscale resort. At one point, as the attacks unfolded, a Secret Service agent told her: “This is the temporary White House.”
Hours before, everything was different.
“There was this light spirit,” Moulton recalled of the night of Sept. 10. “There was lighthearted conversations, easy communication and stories going back and forth. It was very comfortable.”
The buildup for the president’s arrival began about a week before. Tramm Hudson, chairman of the Republican Party of Sarasota County, was on the 16th tee at the Longboat Key Club when his cell phone rang.
On the other end was Ron Ciaravella, owner of Dolphin Aviation, who told Hudson he had just sold 40,000 gallons of jet fuel to the Secret Service.
The president was coming the next Monday.
Hudson got in touch with the governor’s office, which told him that as far as presidential visits go, this one would be quiet and uneventful. The big event was a visit to Booker, but not much else. Hudson was told to tell no one.
Across Sarasota Bay, at Booker Elementary, Principal Gwendolyn Tose- Rigell watched as Secret Service agents “gently took over” her campus the morning of Sept. 6.
Tose-Rigell had been called by White House officials five weeks earlier and told that Bush might come to Sarasota to talk to students about reading.
The principal was interviewed by White House staffers, then by an official at the Florida Department of Education.
Tose-Rigell, too, was sworn to secrecy. She was told “a couple of people” in an advance team would show up.
“Instead of a couple of people, it was an entourage,” she said. “The kids were saying, ‘Who are all those men in black?'”
The 150 parents, students and teachers invited to the Sept. 11 event had to attend a meeting at the school with Bush staff two days before it. They were told where to stand, what to do and what not to do.
Workers rearranged the school’s library to better accommodate lighting for television cameras. A White House stage artist, not teachers or students, designed the childish decorations that were eventually put on the wall behind the president.
At the Colony, the Secret Service was getting everything secured for when the president arrived on Sept. 10. That included snipers and surface-to-air missiles on the roof and the Coast Guard patrolling just offshore.
Everything was going perfectly.
Soup and steak
On Sept. 10, Bush swooped into Jacksonville for a brief stop, then headed to Sarasota.
Moulton and her stepmother got the president’s room ready.
They vacuumed and cleaned the mirrors twice, and made the bed with some of the family’s fine French linens. They tucked in the corners, smoothed out the sheets, then did it again until the bed — and room — was flawless.
The Secret Service then did one last run-through. They left it messy, by presidential visit standards, so Moulton made the room flawless one more time.
A little over a half-hour later, the president pulled up to the Colony in his armored, black limousine.
Moulton raced downstairs.
“Welcome, Mr. President,” she said. “We are very pleased to have you.”
Bush greeted everybody there, including a few staffers pushed into a side room. His mood was great.
At 6:30 p.m., Bush got on an elevator operated by maintenance man Kenny Kufahl, who flubbed the controls.
“He said, ‘Son, relax a minute,'” Kufahl recalled Bush saying.
“You’re making my men nervous,” the president jokingly said, “and that makes me nervous. We’ll get through this OK.”
Downstairs, top Republicans awaited to dine with the president: Gov. Jeb Bush, the president’s brother; former Gov. Bob Martinez; state Republican Party Chairman Al Cardenas; and state Sens. John McKay of Bradenton and Lisa Carlton of Sarasota, among others.
At the dinner table, the group talked about everything, from sports to Katherine Harris, who was out of the country. Somebody joked that the president should make her an ambassador so Hudson could run for Congress instead.
“It was like sitting at the table with a bunch of your frat brothers talking about baseball,” Hudson said.
The president had chili con queso, Texas tortilla soup and a New York strip steak, cooked medium and served with pinto beans. He drank a few non-alcoholic beers. All of the food was prepared under the watchful eyes of Secret Service agents stationed in the kitchen. One guy even drank the water before Bush did.
The dinner tab was $1,172.72.
Before heading upstairs to sleep on the fine linens, Bush signed a few menus for his guests, including one for Moo-Moo Yorsangchai.
The next morning, Bush went for a jog around a golf course at the Longboat Key Club. Agents in golf carts followed as he ran with a Bloomberg News reporter. Four and a half miles in 42 minutes.
At 8 a.m., Manatee County Sheriff Charlie Wells, Sarasota County Sheriff Bill Balkwill, then-Sarasota Police Chief Gordon Jolly and Manatee County sheriff’s Col. Ken Pearson met at the Colony for a brief chat with the president before they joined his motorcade to the elementary school.
“He is totally unsuspecting about what is to happen,” Wells said. “Here’s a guy just ready to take on the day. It looked like, to me, he’s saying, ‘Glad to see you, but I’m ready to get on to the school and meet the kids.'”
The motorcade arrived at Booker shortly before 9 a.m. School buses were lined up in front of the school to form a barricade. Agents on horseback patrolled the campus on Martin Luther King Jr. Way. Snipers were on the roof. All the phone lines were tapped, and one was linked directly to the White House.
“It was the safest place in the world,” teacher Sandra Kay Daniels said. “If you blew your nose and it wasn’t time for you to blow your nose, they knew it.”
Tose-Rigell had been instructed to greet Bush at his limo and introduce him to the crowd. But on arrival, Bush was instead whisked into a side room to take a telephone call from National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice.
After, the president told Tose-Rigell that a plane hit the World Trade Center, but that his visit would continue while his staff gathered more details.
Just after 9 a.m., Bush entered Daniels’ second-grade classroom. She began a lesson as the Secret Service agents lying in the trusses above her room listened along with the president and the children.
Suddenly, a Marine responsible for carrying Bush’s phone marched up to Balkwill, who was standing in a nearby side room.
“Can you get me to a television?” the Marine asked while listening to someone talk to him in his ear piece. “We’re not sure what’s going on, but we need to see a television.”
Three Secret Service agents, a SWAT member, the Marine and Balkwill turned on the television in a nearby front office as United Airlines Flight 175 out of Boston crashed into the south tower.
“We’re out of here,” the Marine told Balkwill. “Can you get everyone ready?”
Meanwhile, Bush’s chief of staff, Andrew Card, walked up to Bush as he was listening to the class and whispered in his ear. The president let Daniels finish her lesson, then returned to the side room and got back on the phone with Rice.
The president told Tose-Rigell what had happened: “He said what we thought was a commercial plane (accident) was actually a terrorist attack.”
At 9:30 a.m., Bush stepped up to the podium in Booker’s library and delivered the news of a terrorist attack on the country.
Seconds later, the president was whisked away.
Said Tose-Rigell: “It was like a blink, and poof, he was gone.”
George W. Bush awoke that morning before dawn in a bed whose last famous occupant had been Al Gore. Blinking into consciousness, the president of the United States was alone in a massive, luxury penthouse suite at the Colony Beach & Tennis Resort on the island of Longboat Key, Fla.
To his left was a wall of windows overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, where a pair of heavily armed boats patrolled the murky surf. To his right was Sarasota Bay and, beyond it, the city of Sarasota, where he was scheduled to give an unremarkable speech on education reform.
Swaddled in the finest Frette linens and matching duvet, the president was stretched out on the same king-sized bed where Mr. Gore had slept nearly five years earlier, on the eve of his vice-presidential debate with Jack Kemp in nearby St. Petersburg.
As was his custom, Mr. Bush had gone to bed early after enjoying a relaxed Tex-Mex dinner with his brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and a dozen other Republican officeholders, party leaders and aides.
Moore somehow finds it worthwhile to mention that President Bush slept in a bed made with fine French linens. But Al Gore slept in the same bed years before and Sammon says that Bush slept in Frette linens. According to wikipedia, the Frette company was establised in France but moved to Italy in 1865.
Frette is an Italian textile company known for its luxury linens. It was established in 1860 in Grenoble, France but relocated to Concorezzo, Italy in 1865. It is currently headquartered in Monza, Italy.
In 1999, the decendants of the company’s founders ceded the company to an Italian fashion group. In 2005, San Francisco-based private equity firm JH Partners made an investment in Frette.
The company sells products to both individuals and hospitality clientele. It has 9 retail locations in the United States, 25 in Asia, and many more around the world.