I was amazed to hear a portion of the conference in which John Kerry said, "Had I been reading to children and had my top aide whispered in my ear, 'America is under attack,' I would have told those kids very politely and nicely that the President of the United States had something that he needed to attend to -- and I would have attended to it." ... incredible!
My first reaction was momentary shock coupled with instantaneous anger and a profound curiosity in just what exactly would have possessed Kerry to say such a thing.
9/11 affected every American, some more profoundly than others. I'm sure we all needed a few moments to take in what was happening. Those of us who watched how the President responded (the cameras were running non-stop on the President) had the unique opportunity to witness the full range of emotions as the horrible reality sunk in with the one man on whom all eyes would be focused.
No one wanted to get that news, which had to be whispered so as not to alarm the young children, least of all the President and especially because he was in a room full of children and media. Imagine yourself as President of the United States of America. You wake up to a beautiful September morning - just a day like any other day - and you are excited, and maybe nervous, because today there are going to be cameras on you for several hours (more so than your typical day, at least). Add to that the presence of children, who are known for their predictable unpredictability. You are holding this event because you are pushing your education plan. You care an awful lot about children, you have two beautiful daughters of your own. The morning seems to be off to a good start: everything is running on time and as scheduled, the children are well-behaved, you are having a pretty good time reading with the children when you hear pagers and cell phones start buzzing. There is a slight murmur from the press and your advisor walks over to tell you that a small plane has accidentally crashed into the World Trade Center Towers. This is a bit unsettling, but nothing to be too alarmed about; after all, accidents do happen... but the location is a bit troubling. You continue your event with the children and some time later you see the cell phones and pagers start going crazy. Within moments your advisor walks over to you and says the unthinkable: A second plane has hit the other tower. America is under attack.
You are the President and you just learned that America is under attack. You look over and see every camera in the room on you. It may as well be every eye in the world. For years to come this footage will be viewed and reviewed, studied and criticized. You get the worst possible news at the worst possible time. You can't curse, you can't stand up and run out of the room, there are live cameras on you and any wrong move could create a national panic. You have a responsibility to the children in the room as well as hundreds of millions of worried Americans who are looking to you to deal with a very serious situation.
Our President took 7 minutes to let this all sink in. He knew if he acted too hurriedly he would be percieved as he already is, by some, a rash, unthinking cowboy. If he took to long he would be perceived as an ineffective coward. The look on Bush's face is as fresh in my mind today as it was on 9/11. Somewhere between the look of anger and annoyance when you could tell he wanted to be anywhere but in a room full of reading school children and press, but knew he should let the children finish so he could leave and be fully debriefed.
I think every American who watched the President that morning, that day, saw the President as a man like any other. They saw in him the same emotions that were coursing through every American that terrible morning. They saw the President beginning to change before their very eyes. Our President was forged in the fires of 9/11. He became our national leader in the days that followed. Democrats, Republicans, Firemen, Police, Teachers, Soldiers, and everyone in-between saw President Bush as a great leader. His approval ratings were among the highest ever recorded. I know we have all seen a steady decline in his numbers as Americans moved more and more to put 9/11 behind them forever, but for months Bush was our President, and all but the furthest reaches of the political left felt that way.
Speaking of the furthest reaches of the political left, Kerry somehow thinks that reminding Americans of how they felt about Bush and how Bush handled 9/11 can somehow help Kerry. Kerry thinks bringing up 9/11 can help him! Kerry thinks attacking Bush's response in the minutes that followed Bush's first learning of the attacks can somehow help him. The gall it takes to be a Monday Morning Quarterback about the leading during the worst attacks in American History... After thinking about it I became nearly outraged.
This isn't, as some think, a political weapon aimed at Bush... This was a miscalculation by Kerry. Comments like this will surely backfire, so why would the Kerry team have him say it? Unless, of course, they want to bring attention to Kerry's stupid remarks and away from, say, oh, I don't know... Swiftvets for truth and Wintersoldier.com.
I think this was a brilliant strategy. If the criticism catches on with the American people, which is a bet it won't, then Kerry has hurt Bush on what should be seen as the beginning of the shining moment in his Presidency. If the criticism backfires, which I think it will, then Kerry will take a lot of heat for his ridiculous I would have told those kids very politely and nicely that the President of the United States had something that he needed to attend to -- and I would have attended to it
comment. Compared to the Swift Vet's allegations, the Kerry criticism is a tempest in a teapot... but sometimes we must start smaller controlled fires to keep larger fires from getting out of control.
I think it is possible that this comment was a calculated decision. Maybe I am way out there on this one, but that Kerry came out and said this on the day that the swiftvets started running commercials against him seems quite the coincidence. The hope could be that the conservative press would have to split their attention between two stories, one an easy, credible story which has a lot of red meat on it, and the other a slightly incredible story from a group of soldiers who are making some SERIOUS allegations, (allegations which I have been following for months now).
I guess it is up to everyone to decide for them self... but as far as I know I am the first to have come out with this particular take on yesterday's events.