how much time off does bush need?

One of the excuses the Bush administration is giving for its failure to address terrorist threats prior to 9/11 is that they had not been in office very long when the attacks took place. “We were there 233 days” before the attacks, Condoleeza Rice has said. And now, as violence escalates in Iraq, our president takes another vacation. From the Washington Post:

This is Bush’s 33rd visit to his ranch since becoming president. He has spent all or part of 233 days on his Texas ranch since taking office, according to a tally by CBS News. Adding his 78 visits to Camp David and his five visits to Kennebunkport, Maine, Bush has spent all or part of 500 days in office at one of his three retreats, or more than 40 percent of his presidency.

To me, 233 days actually sounds like a pretty long period of time, but then I’m not absent from work 40% of the year so I’m willing to admit that my perspective might be skewed. A president is only in office for four years per term, of course, and 233 days is about one-sixth of that total. How much time do you need to get things rolling? Although they might “only” have been in office 233 days, did the Bush campaign not have some kind of plan for dealing with terrorism somewhere in their platform? Did they walk into the White House and say, “Okay, now what?”

In August of 2001, Bush was on a month-long vacation in Texas, and was apparently relaxed and having fun catching up on his reading, working on his golf game, and celebrating his 55th birthday. Rice has said that in response to the intelligence community’s escalating warnings in summer 2001 indicating a terrorist threat, “The president of the United States had us at battle stations.”

As Dana Milbank and Mike Allen of the Washington Post write, “[I]f top officials were at battle stations, there was no sign of it on the surface.”

And let’s be clear about one thing: “President Bush was warned a month before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that the FBI had information that terrorists might be preparing for a hijacking in the United States and might be targeting a building in Lower Manhattan.”

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2 thoughts on “how much time off does bush need?

  1. You know, I almost feel sorry for him. He’s the guy who was pretty clear that he wanted to work bankers’ hours, and then there’s a war. Mind you, from what you say here, the war hasn’t put much of a dent in his schedule.

  2. Fred Kaplan, at Slate writes,

    In an otherwise dry day of hearings before the 9/11 commission, one brief bit of dialogue set off a sudden flash of clarity on the basic question of how our government let disaster happen.

    The revelation came this morning [April 14], when CIA Director George Tenet was on the stand. Timothy Roemer, a former Democratic congressman, asked him when he first found out about the report from the FBI’s Minnesota field office that Zacarias Moussaoui, an Islamic jihadist, had been taking lessons on how to fly a 747. Tenet replied that he was briefed about the case on Aug. 23 or 24, 2001.

    Roemer then asked Tenet if he mentioned Moussaoui to President Bush at one of their frequent morning briefings. Tenet replied, “I was not in briefings at this time.” Bush, he noted, “was on vacation.” He added that he didn’t see the president at all in August 2001. During the entire month, Bush was at his ranch in Texas. “You never talked with him?” Roemer asked. “No,” Tenet replied. By the way, for much of August, Tenet too was, as he put it, “on leave.”

    And there you have it. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice has made a big point of the fact that Tenet briefed the president nearly every day. Yet at the peak moment of threat, the two didn’t talk at all. At a time when action was needed, and orders for action had to come from the top, the man at the top was resting undisturbed.

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