Michael Moore: As the attack took place, Mr. Bush was on his way to an elementary school in Florida. When informed of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center, where terrorists had struck just eight years prior, Mr. Bush decided to go ahead with his photo opportunity.
Teacher: Good morning, boys and girls.
Students: Good morning.
Teacher: Read this word the fast way. Get ready.
Teacher: Yes, “mad.” Get ready.
George Bush: Yeah!
Teacher: Okay, get ready to read the words on this page without making a mistake.
Michael Moore: When the second plane hit the tower, his chief of staff entered the classroom and told Mr. Bush, “The nation is under attack.” Not knowing what to do, with no one telling him what to do, and no Secret Service rushing in to take him to safety, Mr. Bush just sat there and continued to read My Pet Goat with the children.
Michael Moore: Nearly seven minutes passed with nobody doing anything.
Michael Moore: As Bush sat in that Florida classroom, was he wondering if maybe he should have shown up to work more often? Should he have held at least one meeting since taking office to discuss the threat of terrorism with his head of counterterrorism? Or maybe Mr. Bush wondered why he had cut terrorism funding from the FBI. Or perhaps he just should have read the security briefing that was given to him on August 6th, 2001, which said that Osama bin Laden was planning to attack America by hijacking airplanes. But maybe he wasn’t worried about the terrorist threat, because the title of the report was too vague.
Condoleeza Rice, National Security Advisor: I believe the title was, “Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States.”
Michael Moore: A report like that might make some men jump but, as in days past, George W. just went fishing.
As the minutes went by, George Bush continued to sit in the classroom. Was he thinking, “I’ve been hanging out with the wrong crowd. Which one of them screwed me? Was it the guy my daddy’s friends delivered a lot of weapons to?
1983: Donald Rumsfeld, Saddam Hussein
Michael Moore: Was it that group of religious fundamentalists who visited my state when I was governor? Or was it the Saudis? Damn, it was them. I think I better blame it on this guy.
“Moore then tells us that Bush was told of the attacks as he was starting an event with schoolchildren in Florida, and that he stayed in the classroom after being told of the second plane striking the World Trade Center. He does not explicitly criticize Bush for doing this, but he certainly wants to leave us with the impression that a more serious person would have gotten up and run out of the room. Moore says, “Not knowing what to do, with no one telling him what to do, and no Secret Service rushing in to take him to safety, Mr. Bush just sat there and continued to read My Pet Goat with the children.” He does not tell us what Bush should have done, and he does not tell us, for instance, that “Gwendolyn Tose’-Rigell, the principal of Emma E. Booker Elementary School [where Bush was], praised Bush’s action: ‘I don’t think anyone could have handled it better.… What would it have served if he had jumped out of his chair and ran out of the room?’… She said the video doesn’t convey all that was going on in the classroom, but Bush’s presence had a calming effect and ‘helped us get through a very difficult day’” (http://www.naplesnews.com/npdn/florida/article/0,2071,NPDN_14910_2985640,00.html). The Vice Chairman of the 9/11 Commission—Lee Hamilton, a Democrat—also praised Bush for what he did that morning, saying, “Bush made the right decision in remaining calm, in not rushing out of the classroom” (http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,124079,00.html).
Moore then speculates on what Bush must have been thinking at the school, suggesting maybe Bush wished he had “shown up to work more often” (a rehashing of the misrepresentation of Bush’s “vacations”) and implying that the administration had paid no attention to terrorism in the preceding months—a charge shown to be thoroughly false by the 9/11 Commission Report (see http://www.9-11commission.gov/report/911Report.pdf, pp. 203-209, a section which ends by suggesting that Bush was prepared to invade Afghanistan to get Bin Laden even had there not been an attack on September 11th).
“Or maybe Bush was wondering why he had cut terrorism funding from the FBI,” Moore says. But as the 9/11 Commission Report also shows, the Bush Administration actually increased funding for counterterrorism in the FBI in its first year in office (before September 11th). Indeed they asked Congress for, and received, “the largest proposed percentage increase in the FBI’s counterterrorism program since fiscal year 1997” (http://www.9-11commission.gov/report/911Report.pdf, p. 209). These amounts, of course, only increased further after the September 11th attacks.
But Moore is undaunted by these facts, and continues reading the President’s mind. “Or perhaps,” Moore says, “he should’ve just read the security briefing that was given to him on August 6, 2001, which said that Osama bin Laden was planning to attack America by hijacking airplanes.” Moore offers no evidence to suggest that Bush did not read this briefing, and in fact it is clear from the 9/11 Commission Report (http://www.9-11commission.gov/report/911Report.pdf, page 260) that the president did read it. The briefing was not nearly as clear or unequivocal as Moore suggests, however. It was a historical survey of Bin Laden’s activities and of various past threats which had not materialized, and it said:
We have not been able to corroborate some of the more sensational threat reporting, such as that from a [deleted text] service in 1998 saying that Bin Ladin wanted to hijack a U.S. aircraft to gain the release of ‘Blind Shaykh’ ‘Umar ‘Abd al-Rahman and other U.S.-held extremists. Nevertheless, FBI information since that time 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. (http://www.9-11commission.gov/report/911Report.pdf, pp. 261-2)
The briefing also assured the president that “approximately 70 full field investigations” from the FBI were looking into these matters. The commission found that the briefing was too generous in describing these investigations (http://www.9-11commission.gov/report/911Report.pdf, p. 535), but not that the president’s reaction to the briefing was insufficient.
Moore then says “A report like that might make some men jump. But, as in days past, George W just went fishing.” Actually, as the 9/11 Commission Report makes clear, the Bush Administration had already been at work on plans to disrupt and destroy Al Qaeda, including a plan first circulated on June 7, 2001, whose goal, says the report,
was to “eliminate the al Qida network of terrorist groups as a threat to the United States and to friendly governments.” It called for a multiyear effort involving diplomacy, covert action, economic measures, law enforcement, public diplomacy, and if necessary military efforts. The State Department was to work with other governments to end all al Qaeda sanctuaries, and also to work with the Treasury Department to disrupt terrorist financing. The CIA was to develop an expanded covert action program including significant additional funding and aid to anti-Taliban groups. The draft also tasked OMB with ensuring that sufficient funds to support this program were found in U.S. budgets from fiscal years 2002 to 2006. (http://www.9-11commission.gov/report/911Report.pdf , pp. 204-5)
Still reading Bush’s mind at the Florida school, Moore says, “As the minutes went by, George Bush continued to sit in the classroom, was he thinking, ‘I’ve been hanging out with the wrong crowd. Which one of them screwed me? Was it the guy my Daddy’s friends delivered a lot of weapons to? [Footage of Donald Rumsfeld meeting Saddam Hussein in 1984, as part of the Reagan Administration’s effort to weaken the Iranian mullahs.] Was it that group of religious fundamentalists who visited my state when I was governor? [Footage of a Taliban delegation visiting Texas in 1998.] Or was it the Saudis? [Footage of Saudis.] Damn! It was them! I think I better blame it on this guy’ [Footage of Saddam Hussein].” This approach epitomizes Moore’s technique throughout. He shows random unconnected images and suggests that some dark but undescribed conspiracy connects them. He also suggests here that Bush “blamed” Iraq for September 11th, which is not true.”
Fahrenheit mocks President Bush for continuing to read the book My Pet Goat to a classroom of elementary school children after he was told about the September 11 attacks. Actually, as reported in The New Yorker, the book was Reading Mastery 2, which contains an exercise called “The Pet Goat.” The title of the book is not very important in itself, but the invented title of My Pet Goat makes it easier to ridicule Bush.
What Moore did not tell you:
Gwendolyn Tose’-Rigell, the principal of Emma E. Booker Elementary School, praised Bush’s action: “I don’t think anyone could have handled it better.” “What would it have served if he had jumped out of his chair and ran out of the room?”…
She said the video doesn’t convey all that was going on in the classroom, but Bush’s presence had a calming effect and “helped us get through a very difficult day.”
“Sarasota principal defends Bush from ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’ portrayal,” Associated Press, June 24, 2004. Also, since the President knew he was on camera, it was reasonable to expect that if he had suddenly sped out of the room, his hasty movement would have been replayed incessantly on television; leaving the room quickly might have exacerbated the national mood of panic, even if Bush had excused himself calmly.
Moore does not offer any suggestion about what the President should have done during those seven minutes, rather than staying calm for the sake of the classroom and of the public. Nor does Moore point to any way that the September 11 events might have turned out better in even the slightest way if the President had acted differently. I agree with Lee Hamilton, the Vice-Chair of the September11 Commission and a former Democratic Representative from Indiana: “Bush made the right decision in remaining calm, in not rushing out of the classroom.”
Moreover, as detailed by the Washington Times, Ari Fleischer was in the back of the classroom, holding up a legal pad with the words, “DON’T SAY ANYTHING YET.” The Secret Service may well have been cautious about moving Bush, not only because of hijackings, but also because on the morning of September 11, a Middle Eastern man had tried to gain personal access to the President by falsely claiming that he was a journalist with a scheduled interview, and by asking for a Secret Service agent by name […]
Castigating the allegedly lazy President, Moore says, “Or perhaps he just should have read the security briefing that was given to him on August 6, 2001 that said that Osama bin Laden was planning to attack America by hijacking airplanes.”
Moore supplies no evidence for his assertion that President Bush did not read the August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Brief. Moore’s assertion appears to be a complete fabrication.
Moore smirks that perhaps President Bush did not read the Briefing because its title was so vague. Moore then cuts to Condoleezza Rice announcing the title of the Briefing: “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” Here, Moore seems to be playing off Condoleezza Rice’s testimony of the September 11 Commission that the contents of the memo were vague.
However, no-one (except Moore) has ever claimed that Bush did not read the Briefing, or that he did not read it because the title was vague. Rather, Condoleezza Rice had told the press conference that the information in the Briefing was “very vague.” National Security Advisor Holds Press Briefing, The White House, May 16, 2002.
The content of the Briefing supports Rice’s characterization, and refutes Moore’s assertion that the Briefing “said that Osama bin Laden was planning to attack America by hijacking airplanes.” The actual Briefing was highly equivocal:
We have not been able to corroborate some of the more sensational threat reporting, such as that from a [deleted text] service in 1998 saying that Bin Laden wanted to hijack a U.S. aircraft to gain the release of “Blind Shaykh” ‘Umar’ Abd aI-Rahman and other U.S.-held extremists.
Nevertheless, FBI information since that time 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.
(Some readers have wondered how this short segment qualifies as three deceits: 1. that Bush did not read the memo, 2. that the memo’s title was offered as an excuse for not reading the memo, 3. omitting that the memo was equivocal, and that the hijacking warning was something that the FBI said it was “unable to corroborate.”)
Moore’s assertion here is much more than just the seven minutes (actually, is was closer to five) Here is a site with a frame by frame of the video showing a 5 minute timeline: But 7 sound more ominous.
Moore provides a voice over in the film during the roughly 3 ½ minutes of the video shown in the film. In the film , Moore omits several parts of the story and replaces them with this: […]
Rather than argue over whether it was five minutes or seven minutes, I’d rather look at what Moore actually says in the film:
“When the second plane hit the tower, his Chief of Staff entered the classroom and told Mr. Bush the nation is under attack.”
So far, so good.
“Not knowing what to do, with no one telling him what to do, and no Secret Service rushing in to take him to safety, Mr. Bush just sat there and continued to read ‘My Pet Goat’ with the children”
Now, Moore is guessing at best here. In Bush’s own words about “not knowing what to do”:
Bush told Larry King:
“Well, I had just been told by (White House Chief of Staff) Andrew Card that America was under attack. And I was collecting my thoughts, I think what’s important is how I reacted when I realized America was under attack. It didn’t take me long to figure out we were at war.”
This contradicts Moore’s assertion that Bush “didn’t know what to do”, but there’s a larger point to be made here. Despite the President taking a few minutes to “collect his thoughts” there were many other things happening at the same time which were not captured by the school room video.
“no Secret Service rushing in to take him to safety,”
What Moore doesn’t tell you, is that the Secret Service had already dealt with some “strange circumstances” that morning concerning the security of the President.;
From the Longboat observer:
At about 6 a.m. Sept. 11, Longboat Key Fire Marshall Carroll Mooneyhan was at the front desk of the Colony Beach & Tennis Resort as Bush prepared for his morning jog. From that vantage point, Mooneyhan overheard a strange exchange between a Colony receptionist and security guard.
A van occupied by men of Middle Eastern descent had pulled up to the Colony stating they had a “poolside” interview with the president, Mooneyhan said. The self-proclaimed reporters then asked for a Secret Service agent by name. Guards from security relayed the request to the receptionist, who had not heard of either the agent or plans for an interview, Mooneyhan said.
The receptionist gave the phone over to a nearby Secret Service agent, who said the same thing — no one knew of an agent by that name or of any poolside interview.
The agent told the occupants of the van to contact the president’s public relations office in Washington, D. C., and turned them away from the premises, Mooneyhan said.
In light of the attacks, Mooneyhan wonders if what he witnessed is related to the events of Sept. 11.
So does the FBI.
“That’s very strange,” said an unnamed agent with the Sarasota field office of the FBI, who directed agents to look into the matter.
Earlier, the FBI questioned a Longboat Key man who also had a strange run-in with a van occupied by men of Middle Eastern descent.
At 8:50 a.m. the man stood on the Sarasota bayfront waiting to watch the presidential motorcade pass. A dilapidated van passed him with two men of Middle Eastern descent “screaming out the windows, ‘Down with Bush’ and raising their fists in the air.”
The Longboat Key resident later reported the incident to police, who turned the matter over to FBI agents who questioned him.
The Secret Service was already at a state of unusally heightened alert because of this earlier incident. Given the circumstances,the Secret Service wouldn’t have rushed IN to secure Bush’s safety, rather, given the experiences of the morning, they would have rushed OUTSIDE to secure the area.
Without this part of the story, Moore is able to paint a picture of confusion on Bush’s part, rather than an instance of policy within the Secret Service which the President ( any president, that is) will NEVER discuss. He would simply rather say “I was collecting my thoughts” than explain how his security detail works.
This explaination goes a long way to explain the short time (five minutes) in which Bush remained in his chair.
Let me take a second to interject a few admittedly “nitpicky” items here. I have seen the video, and at no point does Bush appear to “read “ the book. As for the title, Moore got that wrong too. It’s actually Siegfried Engelmann’s story from the book called Reading Mastery page 153 , lesson 60 actually titled The Pet Goat. (It’s not a story book at all, rather, a reading textbook)
Okay, back to the real story. How could Bush possibly know what the Secret Service was doing at the time since he was clearly seated in a chair with his back to the door? Well……..According to the Washington times report, Ari Fleischer was in the room holding a handmade sign with big block letters:
UPDATED** The Washington post link. Hat tip to LD.
The president noticed someone moving at the back of the room. It was White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, maneuvering to catch his attention without alerting the press. Mr. Fleischer was holding up a legal pad. Big block letters were scrawled on the cardboard backing: DON’T SAY ANYTHING YET.
Given these two simple explainations, the secret service’s action and Fleischer’s sign telling Bush to wait, one can easily see how Bush would take the available time to try to collect his thought for a few moments. How long is a few moments? Well, if you’re an average reader, and didn’t click on any of the links, you just spent about 7 minutes and 15 seconds reading this article so far. ( I timed it 3 times and averaged, okay?)
Moore also contends:
“Nearly seven minutes passed with nobody doing anything.”
Apparently “nobody doing nothing” excludes the Secret Service and Ari Fleischer
“As Bush sat in that Florida classroom, was he wondering if maybe he should have shown up to work more often?”
This is what is known in comedy as a “callback”, as in you refer to an earlier joke from your set. Moore is referring to the 42% vacation joke from the beginning of the movie. This exaggeration has been thoroughly debunked to the point that no one defends this number anymore. The whitehouse site provides the President’s schedule during this time and nobody can make the numbers add up to 42% , no matter how hard they try.
“Should he have held at least one meeting since taking office to discuss the threat of terrorism with his head of counter terrorism?”
This is a bit misleading in that Bush’s cabinet did meet with Richard Clarke, who BTW, was the President’s guy for “cyber-terrorism”, he was the terrorism guy under Clinton. In fact, they had a meeting just a few days before 9-11 so, the issue was fresh on the table, not forgotten like Moore contends.
And then this:
“Or maybe Mr. Bush was wondering why he had cut terrorism funding from the FBI.”
actually, the “cuts” I believe Moore is referring to weren’t before 9-11, and they weren’t cuts.
The document, dated Oct. 12, 2001, shows that the FBI requested $1.5 billion in additional funds to enhance its counterterrorism efforts with the creation of 2,024 positions. But the White House Office of Management and Budget cut that request to $531 million
You see, he actually increased the FBI budget by 531 million, but they requested 1.5 Billion. In some folks book, that’s a cut. ( for an every day average guy, Moore sure is up on all of the Washingtonian-esque slang)
Read the article here, Washington Post
Click that link to get the whole story and note the title.
“Or perhaps he just should have read the security briefing that was given to him on August 6, 2001 that said that Osama bin Laden was planning to attack America by hijacking airplanes. Or maybe he wasn’t worried about the terrorist threat because the title of the report was too vague.””
Let’s look at that breifing:
The title isn’t vauge, it’s simply obvious. Everyone knew BinLaden wanted to strike the U.S. . What information is contained in the breifing is the motivation for the possible highjacking of an airliner by BinLaden, and it sure as hell doesn’t say “TO CRASH IT INTO A BUILDING”!!!! Moore tries to lead the audience into two conclusions,
1) The PDB told Bush that this would happen and 2) Bush is a dummy for not predicting this because he didn’t “understand” the title. He is wrong on both counts. By not providing a look at the document, the viewer is asked to take Moore’s word for what it says. The wise viewer doesn’t take anything that Moore says at face value.
Yes, the US Intel community got caught with its pants down, and Bush did sit in that classroom for five minutes, but Moore paints this picture in a very skewed way. Armed with the facts, I doubt any thinking person would portray the events quite the same way. It’s just a shame that so few people will actully read this. The “seven minutes” issue would otherwise be dead in the water.
From the film:
“Or perhaps he just should have read the security briefing that was given to him on August 6, 2001 that said that Osama bin Laden was planning to attack America by hijacking airplanes. (shot of Bush at a meeting, date-stamped August 6, 2001) Or maybe he wasn’t worried about the terrorist threat because the title of the report was too vague.”
It turns out that the Bush administration claims that the contents of the memo- not the title- were vague:
“Now, on August 6th, the President received a presidential daily briefing which was not a warning briefing, but an analytic report. This analytic report, which did not have warning information in it of the kind that said, they are talking about an attack against so forth or so on, it was an analytic report that talked about UBL’s methods of operation, talked about what he had done historically, in 1997, in 1998. It mentioned hijacking, but hijacking in the traditional sense, and in a sense, said that the most important and most likely thing was that they would take over an airliner, holding passengers and demand the release of one of their operatives. And the blind sheikh was mentioned by name as — even though he’s not an operative of al Qaeda, but as somebody who might be bargained in this way. I want to reiterate, it was not a warning. There was no specific time, place or method mentioned. What you have seen in the run-up that I’ve talked about is that the FAA was reacting to the same kind of generalized information about a potential hijacking as a method that al Qaeda might employ, but no specific information saying that they were planning such an attack at a particular time.
Moore is correct when he notes that the Aug. 6th memo talks about an impending attack on the United States. At the time, however most evidence suggested an overseas attack, not one in America:
There is one other FAA IC in this period, issued on August 16th, where the FAA issued an IC on disguised weapons. They were concerned about some reports that the terrorists had made breakthroughs in cell phones, key chains and pens as weapons. There are a number of other ICs that were also issued; we don’t think they were germane to this, but I’m sure you can get the full record of all of the ICs that were released from Transportation. I want to reiterate that during this time, the overwhelming bulk of the evidence was that this was an attack that was likely to take place overseas. The State Department, the Defense Department were on very high states of alert. The embassies were — have very clear protocols on how to button up; so does the military. That was done. But at home, while there was much less reporting or chatter at home, people were thinking about the U.S. and the FBI was involved in a number of investigations of potential al Qaeda personnel operating in the United States.”
Remember: that back in August of 2001, hijacking meant holding hostages on a plane and demanding ransom. It didn’t mean crashing a plane into buildings.
Fahrenheit 9/11 on Terrorism
Watching Michael Moore tackle the issue of the White House’s response to terrorism, you can’t help but feel an upwelling of déjà vu. Fahrenheit 9/11 explains that the Bush administration prior to 9/11 was unconcerned with the threat of terrorism, pointing to President Bush’s lack of meetings with appropriate counter-terrorism officials, and memos about bin Laden being determined to strike in the U.S. Where have we heard this before? That’s right, those were the controversies that arose – and were put to rest – by the 9/11 Commission. The 9/11 Commission informed us that before the attacks the Bush terrorism plan was the Clinton terrorism plan. Bush, for instance, retained Clinton’s counter-terrorism coordinator, Richard A. Clarke, a featured personality in Fahrenheit 9/11. In his book, Against All Enemies, Clarke details his policy proposals to combat the threat of al Qaeda. Among them, more funding to the CIA for intelligence-gathering and covert ops, a freer hand for the FBI, better cooperation among intelligence agencies, and the bombing of al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan.
We must ask how Michael Moore might have reacted to these recommendations. What if Bush suddenly declared in the spring of 2001 that he was approving a substantial increase in funding to the FBI, which would simultaneously enjoy intrusive new latitude in matters of domestic surveillance? What if this were matched by equivalent increases to the CIA for dispatching spies abroad? What if a newly-elected President Bush had declared, out of the blue, that he believed there was lurking in the shadows of the Middle East a radical Islamic mass movement that considered it its divine duty to kill Americans. Not only that, he believed they were at that very moment planning an assault on the American homeland on a scale unprecedented in our history. And as a result, he was ordering a massive bombing campaign on their training camps in war-torn Afghanistan to pre-empt them?
Michael Moore would have howled in outrage. No matter, that era is over now. But suddenly, there comes a new broadside from Moore: through his preoccupation with terrorism, President Bush has foisted a culture of fear on the United States to consolidate his power and silence critics! The idea that an unhinged Bush has – with the aid of John Ashcroft – ushered in a new age of American repression has bobbed among the farther reaches of the left for some time. This movie cinematizes it with an entire section devoted to exposing the “war on terror” as a White House plot to manipulate the minds of millions of Americans. When Moore speaks of censorship stalking the land, he must be referring to the sort that prevents truth-telling movies like Fahrenheit 9/11 from making $103 million in four weeks. It’s no secret that some people have it in for Bush to such a degree that they will stand on both sides of an issue – even one like terrorism – in order to stick it to him.
The only part of Moore’s narration that hasn’t been mentioned yet is the sentence: “Was it that group of religious fundamentalists who visited my state when I was governor?”
In 1997 George W. Bush was indeed Governor of Texas, and Bill Clinton (a Democrat) was President of the United States. Note that Moore does not state that Bush had anything to do with the Taliban meeting, because Bush indeed had nothing to do with it. He only states that Bush was governor at the time (a fact), thereby implying that he had something to do with the meeting (a lie). The Taliban’s entry into the United States was requested by the Unocal corporation and cleared by Clinton’s State Department.
Of course, that’s before Sept. 11th, where the film’s fun begins. Bush enters a school as Moore’s narration tells us he got the information about the first plane hitting the World Trade Center. What occurs now is not really a criticism of Bush, instead, it’s an indirect criticism of how he reacted to the news. After the second plane hit the second World Trade Center tower, Bush looked on, and we really question what he’s thinking, so Moore uses the moment to offer rhetorical suppositions.
One supposition is that Bush didn’t take the time to read an August 6th Presidential Daily Briefing (PDB) on the threat of Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda in hijacking a plane as a threat of planned terrorism. Moore is one of the first to speculate that the President hadn’t read this briefing. The briefing, which is online and can be read by anyone, contains a few points that make it very equivocal:
1. There is nothing about the nature the terrorist attack, other than that Bin Laden may be planning one.
2. Likewise, there is nothing about the location or date of the planned attack.
3. At the bottom it mentions that there may be plans for a plane hijacking. This briefing, however, implies that the plane will be hijacked off-shores and held for the ransom of U.S.-held extremists – reflected by what Condoleeza Rice told the 9/11 commission her impression was – and does not anywhere imply anything about using the planes to attack buildings. This plane hijacking report was something the FBI was “unable to corroborate”, and probably not very useful to the President, or well, anyone, at the time.
4. In notes at the bottom of the PDB it says that there was surveillance of several New York Federal buildings, possibly “other types of attacks”, at one point the briefing suggests explosives. Post-9/11 hindsight lets us know they were on the right track. Thinking pre-9/11 this note is essentially useless, since any rational person would’ve read this PDB and concluded that the 70 FBI investigations were plenty for the time being, and that this should mean a simple “step up” of surveillance.
Moore makes much of the report, as if Bush’s inaction could’ve prevented 9/11, but you can read it for yourself and come to your own conclusion as to what a president, only one month prior to the attacks, would’ve been able to do to supplement what was already being done by the FBI in 70 on-going Bin Laden related investigations. […]
Either way, as the viewer, I’m left with the stark impression that Bush could’ve given any reaction – he could’ve stormed out, he could’ve sat there longer, he could’ve walked out calmly – all of these scenes would’ve likely made it into Fahrenheit 9/11, with negative connotations tied to it. The reason I’m left with that impression is because Moore doesn’t tell us what the President should be doing, he just uses the moment to bring about a point of criticism.
Michael Moore will falsify even the smallest detail in order to heighten his mockery of George Bush. On the fatal morning of September 11th, 2001 George Bush was at a scheduled photo-op at the Emma E. Booker Elementary School promoting his school-reform program. The cameras were rolling as the President of the United States sat silently as students read aloud passages from a book titled Reading Mastery 2. Among this book’s offerings is a story titled The Pet Goat. Michael Moore knew all of this, and yet he made a point of telling his Fahrenheit audience that George Bush was reading a book titled My Pet Goat because he thought this false detail would make the president look more ridiculous.
Moore does his best to make Mr. Bush appear confused and indecisive by presenting a time-lapse montage of the president continuing to sit with the students after being told by Andy Card that a second jet had struck a building in New York City. Moore knows that his audience cannot erase from memory all that they later learned about the 9/11 attacks; they cannot return to that first moment when this news was new. So the audience, with its vast fund of memories, sits in the dark watching a man who has only just received the first bare-bones report of a jet crash in a far-away city and asks “Why is he just sitting there?” Moore encourages his audience to believe that Mr. Bush is not leaping to his feet because he is an idiot. Moore would never suggest that our president did our nation a favor by not jumping up like a startled rabbit and inclining the nation toward panic. This moment was, after all, a photo opportunity and the visual media were capturing every detail. It had become an opportunity to communicate to the world that the President of the United States would not be taken captive by the mood of panic that the terrorists were striving to create. Power politics before the cameras is pure theater and sometimes there is genius in calm reserve.
In any case, the Secret Service was in no hurry to move the president from his secure position. Word came in that a Middle Eastern man had tried to gain physical access to the president that morning by falsely claiming to be a journalist with a scheduled interview. Off camera, things were happening at a furious pace. The intelligence network was trying to form a comprehensive picture of the attack; all aircraft were being called down out of the sky. In the back of the classroom Ari Fleischer, out of sight of the media, held up a legal pad on which he had written the words “DON’T SAY ANYTHING YET.”
George Bush can be clearly seen in Moore’s lingering close up of the president as he looks up and nods in acknowledgement. Events were unfolding; information was pouring in but there was still no clear picture of the source or extent of the threat; air traffic was going into lockdown and the local first responders were rising to the challenge locally. The president was not about to start making statements that might make matters more confusing. As Lee Hamilton, former Democratic Representative and vice-chairman of the September 11 Commission later observed: “Bush made the right decision in remaining calm, in not rushing out of the classroom.” The principal of the school, who was an eyewitness, told the Associated Press, “I don’t think anyone could have handled it better.”
Michael Moore knew all this before he sat down to patch together his constricted vision of George Bush’s morning at the school, but he chose to conceal this information because he has no respect for his ticket buyers. Moore himself was incapable of offering any suggestions about what the president might have done in those few minutes that would have changed events for the better. Moore is a cunning film editor but a shallow thinker; he cuts and pastes together film montages in the hope that his cinematic trickery will somehow transcend the limits of his intelligence. So far, the mental low-watts on the Left have kept his hope alive.
The New York Times did its best to promote Moore’s efforts to mislead the American public. The Sunday, June 20, 2004 New York Times showcased an article about Fahrenheit 9/11 which included this:
“Besides, it may turn out that the most talked-about moments in the film are the least impeachable. Mr. Moore makes extensive use of obscure footage from the White House and network-news archives, including long scenes that capture President Bush at his least articulate. For the White House, the most devastating segment of ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’ may be the video of a befuddled-looking President Bush staying put for nearly seven minutes at a Florida elementary school on the morning of Sept. 11, continuing to read a copy of ‘My Pet Goat’ to schoolchildren even after an aide has told him that a second plane has struck the twin towers. Mr. Bush’s slow, hesitant reaction to the disastrous news has never been a secret. But seeing the actual footage, with the minutes ticking by, may prove more damaging to the White House than all the statistics in the world.”
This is from the left-leaning newspaper that calls itself “the newspaper of record,” by which they mean the one that historians will refer back to. But this article was written long after the event described and long after the Times should have gathered the facts that I have explained above. And yet, here is the Times presenting to the public exactly the constricted and context-depleted vision of those few minutes that Michael Moore wants to promote. The Times even refers to “a copy of ‘My Pet Goat’” a book that doesn’t exist; it’s a Michael Moore invention; so are the “seven minutes” which were actually five minutes. By relying on Moore for its “facts” the Times has, in effect, made Michael Moore a New York Times reporter of record. Paging Jason Blair!
The Times even included an unflattering picture of the president; my newspaper clipping archive reveals that it’s the same unflattering photo that they used to decorate another article showcasing Fahrenheit 9/11 that ran in the Sunday, May 23rd, 2004 New York Times.
In that article Frank Rich recycled Michael Moore’s context-depleted vision: “Instead of recycling images of the planes hitting the World Trade Center on 9/11 once again, Mr. Moore can revel in extended close-ups of the president continuing to read ‘My Pet Goat’ to elementary school students in Florida for nearly seven long minutes after learning of the attack.”
Once again, there were no “seven long minutes;” watching a static shot of some guy sitting in a chair can seem longer, much longer, to folks who are sitting in a darkened theater waiting to be entertained. If Frank Rich had paid attention he would have known that at no time did the president read aloud to the children; they read aloud to him. Michael Moore did everything he could to increase the tedium of those minutes so that they would seem like years. People who think that they are getting insightful analyses from the New York Times are deluding themselves.
Reviewers who Fell for the Deceptions:
Although Moore’s narration ranges from outrage to sarcasm, the most devastating passage in the film speaks for itself. That’s when Bush, who was reading My Pet Goat to a classroom of Florida children, is notified of the second attack on the World Trade Center, and yet lingers with the kids for almost seven minutes before finally leaving the room. His inexplicable paralysis wasn’t underlined in news reports at the time, and only Moore thought to contact the teacher in that schoolroom — who, as it turned out, had made her own video of the visit. The expression on Bush’s face as he sits there is odd indeed.
Three segments redeem Fahrenheit 9/11, allowing it to claim to be more than just a list of anti-Bush charges. The first is the videotaped footage of Bush in Florida’s Booker Elementary School, reading “My Pet Goat” for seven minutes after the second plane crashed into the World Trade Center. His face is a mask of bewilderment and indecision. It’s clear that he has no idea what to do next, and he is waiting for one of his advisors to make a suggestion. It’s not the portrait of a man any sane American would want in command.
What follows may be the most extraordinary footage in a movie full of arresting images. By the time the presidential caravan rolls into the school, the first plane has struck. Mr. Bush goes ahead in. As he is sitting in the classroom, an aide comes in and whispers in his ear the news of the second plane. The aide leaves. The President sits there, as if waiting for someone to tell him what to do. Nobody does. He picks up a children’s book called My Pet Goat. The minutes tick away. And in voiceover, the director begins to take us on a tour of the ties that bind the fortunes of the Bush family to the House of Saud.
The most celebrated find of this movie is a video of the President shot by an elementary school teacher at a Florida class he was visiting when the twin towers were hit. We see an aide inform Bush of the second plane’s impact. For a full seven minutes (mercifully edited down), the President continues to sit there with odd, distant, puzzled looks on his face while the children read the book My Pet Goat. He seems to be waiting for somebody to tell him what to do. The effect is quietly frightening.
From here, he takes us to the Florida elementary school, where George W. Bush was reading “My Pet Goat” to children and sat for long minutes after being told that the country was under attack, doing nothing.
Meanwhile, Bush is in an elementary school classroom reading “My Pet Goat”, something that he continues to do for minutes after he becomes aware of the attacks. This is only part of the silliness that we see from Bush over the course of the movie.
Perhaps the most damaging footage shows Bush on September 11, sitting in a Florida classroom for a full seven minutes after he had been told that the second tower had been struck, and that it was clear the horrific events in New York were a terrorist attack, not a tragic accident. Moore lets this moment go on and on: The president of the United States, stone-faced in front of dozens of schoolchildren, doing absolutely nothing, as our nation comes under attack.
For my money, the key scene in “Fahrenheit 9/11″ — the moment on which Michael Moore’s blistering yet frustratingly blunt object of a movie hinges – is when President Bush first hears that a second plane has hit the World Trade Center and that the United States is under attack. He was at a photo op in Florida, remember, reading “My Pet Goat” to a schoolroom full of children, and his expression of pole-axed confusion is by now a matter of public iconography.
But Moore got his hands on all the footage, and he time-lapses us through the entire seven minutes that the president sat in that classroom and, knowing terrorists were using passenger planes as missiles on innocent Americans, stared like a stuffed deer into space. We’ve recently learned that this was around the time Vice President Dick Cheney was ordering fighter planes to shoot down the hijacked jets and our government’s emergency-response mechanisms were convulsing with chaos. You look at Bush, whose circuitry seems quite simply to have overloaded, and think, “This is the leader of the free world?”
In Fahrenheit 9/11, Michael Moore’s potent and infuriating fight-the-power documentary, the most memorable indictment comes early on. It’s the moment you’ve heard about, but probably never seen, of President George W. Bush sitting in a Florida grade school and reading the book ”My Pet Goat” for a full seven minutes after he’s been told that the second plane has hit the World Trade Center. The power of the footage transcends virtually any issue of left, right, or center. Bush wears a look of pale suppressed horror, yet an executive decision seems beyond him. He’s portrayed as a man who can and will not act, a President — a President! — who greets this most calamitous of events by waiting for others to tell him what to do. On the soundtrack, Moore guilt-trips Bush by speculating, mischievously, as to his thoughts. Moore’s voice is pitiless in its didactic sarcasm, yet he gets at something essential about the inner Dubya. Watching the footage, you don’t doubt that Bush’s anguish was genuine, yet you also can’t help but wonder if it reflected his ultimate slacker nightmare: that the job was now going to be exponentially harder than he’d bargained for.
But these examples of bias and an anti-war agenda are often met with the indefensible, such as the video showing Bush reading My Pet Goat to a classroom of elementary schoolchildren in Florida as nearly 3,000 Americans lay dying in the rubble from the worst terrorist attack our nation has ever suffered. And yet Bush continued to read even after being informed of the second plane strike for nearly seven minuets. The camera lingers on his puzzled face and Moore explains, “with no one there to tell him what to do, he just sat there.” It’s blunt, but no conservative Bush-cheerleader can defend that.
Some of the footage is obviously meant as a corrective to public perceptions. For example, many people hold onto an image of the President leaping into action on the morning of 9/11, launching the war on terrorism that he is now making the centerpiece of his re-election campaign. But Moore includes video of the President sitting in a Florida elementary school classroom where the children are reading “My Pet Goat” for a good seven minutes after being informed by his chief of staff of the attack on the second tower. “What was he thinking,” Moore wonders in a voiceover as the camera closes in on Bush’s glazed eyes. Why isn’t he acting like the commander-in-chief is the question that crosses our minds.
Perhaps the most disturbing of all is footage showing the president on the morning of Sept. 11, continuing with a photo op involving a Florida elementary school class reading “My Pet Goat” for nearly seven minutes after having been told that a second plane had hit the World Trade Center.
It’s an unflattering picture of irresolution and even paralysis, one that informs Moore’s thesis — of a president in over his head — and pervades the entire film.
There are many unforgettable scenes in “Fahrenheit 9/11.” The most effective, mind-changing sequence in the film is the seven minutes right after Bush is told that terrorists have hit the Twin Towers.
He has just read to Florida second graders from the book “My Pet Goat.” A local TV news crew recorded these first seven minutes of the age of terrorism. Bush does not call the FBI, the CIA or the FAA. He does not find a secure phone or race to the airport. He doesn’t even call Dick Cheney. He does nothing. He is a mummy, a statue, as the world changes and a new era dawns. The president just sits there, like a baffled, catatonic zombie.
Hemmingway defined courage as “grace under pressure.” Bush is displaying its opposite — panic under pressure. Seeing Bush as a befuddled frat boy, unable to act or think for seven crucial minutes, will make voters think twice. These were the minutes when jets should have scrambled, when the FAA and the CIA needed to be linked up. But Bush was a zero instead of a hero.
Attacking Iraq in response to 9/11? Cutting taxes in a time of war? Pretending that the world was behind us? Ignoring the PDB? I could go on–we all could. The Bush Administration is either crooked or incompetent, and both mean the same thing: kick the bums out.
A filmmaker shouldn’t have to be the one to point out that for seven minutes after the second plane hit the World Trade Center and it was clear that this nation was under attack, President Bush, who has since sold himself to the American people as a strong and decisive leader, sat in a classroom looking befuddled and thumbing through “My Pet Goat”—for seven silent minutes. Moore speculates what might have been going on inside Bush’s head: “Was he wondering if maybe he should have shown up for work more often? [Moore reminds us of the documented fact that Bush was on vacation 42 percent of the time during his first eight months in office]. Should he have held at least one meeting since taking office to discuss the threat of terrorism? [It’s a matter of record that Bush held no such meetings]. Or maybe Mr. Bush was wondering why he cut terrorism funding from the FBI [a highlighted memo flashes across the screen, showing the cuts]. Or perhaps he should have just read the security briefing on August 6, 2001, which said that Osama Bin Laden was planning to attack inside the United States.”
Moore begins with a little riff on how W. and Jeb stole the Florida election in 2000, continues with a riff on how the day before the attacks, the Bush administration cut anti-terrorist funding, then proceeds with how the Bush family was in bed with the Saudis […]
Is Moore wrong about any of this? I don’t think so. But he’s not the originator of it, either, and the way that he presents it actually makes it seem less credible. He’s not a thinker, he’s a muckraker; he’s not so much a filmmaker as someone who compiles video collages with the help of a dedicated–and gifted–crew of people who find damning clips.
He follows this up with the footage of Bush sitting reading for school kids when he is told that a second plane has hit the Trade centre in New York, so what does this strong and decisive leader do? Moore asks the questions as bush sits there mesmerised. “Was he wondering if maybe he should have shown up for work more often? Moore refers to the documented fact Bush was on vacation 46% of the time during his first 8 months in office. Or maybe Mr. Bush was wondering why he cut terrorism funding from the FBI, or that he should have read the security briefing from August 6th that Bin Laden was planning to attack?
At the time, George Bush was visiting an elementary school in Florida and the film shows his reaction when he was told of the attack on America. Perhaps unfairly, there is a suggestion that Mr Bush chose to take a ‘photo-opportunity’. Maybe he was in shock — the fact that he’d cut terrorism funding from the FBI showed that he could never have contemplated such a tragedy, although a security briefing given to him on August 6, 2001, had warned of a plan by Osama bin Laden to attack America by hijacking airplanes.
:: 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:
Getting Bush’s Goat
A primer on priorities
By Gene Weingarten
President Bush has been taking some heat for having failed to respond instantly to the 2001 terrorist attacks. The movie “Fahrenheit 9/11″ points out how Bush just sat in that second-grade classroom in Florida for seven minutes after he learned America was under attack. He was helping the children read “The Pet Goat.”
I, for one, think this criticism of the president is terribly unfair. It’s as unfair as criticizing “Fahrenheit 9/11″ just because the director looks like one of those 750-pound rural dimwits in bib overalls who are occasionally photographed being removed from their houses by a crane as neighbors stand by and tsk.
My point is, we ought to be fair. Maybe, just maybe, our president had a compelling reason to remain in that classroom for those seven minutes on September 11, a reason heretofore overlooked by the so-called “responsible” press.
Shockingly, this journalist is the first to obtain a copy of, and to review, “The Pet Goat.”
The Pet Goat
A McGraw-Hill publication
Reviewed by: Gene Weingarten
In this uplifting allegory of prejudice redeemed, a girl gets a pet goat. The girl is never given a name — she remains always “a girl,” imparting a universality to her plight, and a timelessness to the tale. She is anygirl, and her goat is anygoat, and what befalls them could befall any of us who happen to live in an area where pet livestock is allowed, such as certain portions of Fauquier County.
The goat is an undisciplined pet, with a most extraordinary digestive system. To quote: “The goat ate things. He ate cans and he ate canes. He ate pans and he ate panes. He even ate capes and caps.”
The author of this tale, which is contained on pages 155 and 156 of a reading workbook, is never identified. This is tragic because one cannot help but admire the author’s skillful minimalism; as in the short stories of Ernest Hemingway or Eudora Welty, the reader is provided tantalizingly sparse detail and is invited to draw revealing conclusions. What are we to make of a household with “canes” and “capes”? Is this the home of a magician?
The magic, we soon see, is in the hands of the storyteller.
It turns out this household also contains a “dad” who is “mad.” The dad orders the girl to get rid of the remarkable pane-eating goat, but she pleads with him to let her try to cure the animal of its dietary excesses. And she does. With this restoration of order, one might expect the story to end, but here is where the author’s narrative mastery comes in. Here may well be where the president elected to set a spell, spellbound.
A robber arrives to steal the dad’s red car! But the goat butts the robber and saves the day. The delighted dad is no longer mad. Now he is glad. He declares that the goat may henceforth eat whatever he wishes. And so: “The girl smiled. Her goat smiled. Her dad smiled. But the car robber did not smile. He said, ‘I am sore.’ The End.”
(The eclectic reader will find unmistakable parallels between “The Pet Goat” and the national bestseller Walter the Farting Dog, published shortly thereafter. Walter is an unpopular pet whose flatulence foils a home robbery and restores the love of his family. Cynics might charge plagiarism; I am content to call it homage.)
In the end, “The Pet Goat” is the story of an authority figure — the dad — who learns to exercise his powers with restraint. When the security of his home is threatened by the goat’s appetite for mass destruction, the dad’s initial impulse is small-minded and simplistic. He focuses on one evildoer — the goat itself — to the exclusion of anything else. He thinks he knows goats, and they’re trouble. Other voices — specifically, the girl’s — raise less drastic possibilities: Possibly the goat can be reasoned with, or coerced, into altering its behavior. Possibly the goat is not the threat the dad thinks it is. Possibly the family is even complicit, for having trained the goat poorly. Possibly the goat is really . . . a scapegoat.
The dad proves a wise enough leader to heed this advice. In so doing, he avoids a costly overreaction, since, in the end, taking any action against the goat would have let the car robber get away scot-free. The car robber is the real enemy, and because the dad was so smart, the car robber was captured.
It should come as no surprise that the president chose to stick around for the end to this riveting story. Only the petty or small-minded could fault him for it. After all, there is much to learn from literature.