As inaccurate information swirled about him, former President George W. Bush showed a gritty combativeness on Sept. 11, 2001, according to previously undisclosed documents.
Ari Fleischer, Bush’s press secretary, shared several pages of his handwritten notes from the day America was attacked.
The first note, marked as being written at 8:45 a.m., reads, “Karl (Rove) tells POTUS about first crash while POTUS is online at school.”
In the next note, marked at 9:45, Bush tells Vice President Dick Cheney, “Sounds like we have a minor war going on here. I heard about the Pentagon.”
Moments later, he was firm to congressional leaders.
“We’re at war,” Bush said in a phone call. ‘That’s what we’re paid for boys. We’re going to take care of this,when we find out who did this they are not going to like me as president. Somebody is going to be sorry.”
Fleischer noted at 10:20 that Bush “authorized shoot down if reason,” in the event a hijacked jet was en route to a target.
At 10:32, Bush is informed of a false threat to Air Force One. A report of a bomb at the State Department is also later learned to be false. Five minutes later, he asked White House Chief of Staff Andy Card about Barney, the White House dog.
“He’s nipping at the heels of Osama bin Laden right now,” Card replied.
At 10:37, Bush learned his daughters were safe, shortly before hearing that a plane “has crashed in the vicinity of Camp David.” Rove quickly corrected that location to “50 [miles] outside of Pittsburgh,” Fleischer’s notes said.
At 11 a.m., Bush took U.S. forces to the increased DEFCON 3 state of readiness.
Fleischer’s notes record a combative Bush speaking to Cheney at 12:25 p.m.
“I think it’s important 4 ppl 2 see the gov is functioning because TV shows our nation has been blasted and bombed. Gov is not chaotic. It’s functioning smoothly,” he told Cheney.
“We’re going 2 get the bastards,” Fleischer’s notes show Bush as saying.
“It’s the new war. It’s the faceless coward that (attacks).”
Bush was already looking to get even in a note Fleischer made at 12:40.
“I can’t wait to find out who did it. It’s going to take a while + we’re not going 2 have a little slap on the wrist crap,” he said.
Bush was adamant about getting back to Washington.
“I want 2 go back home ASAP,” he said at 1:25. “I don’t want whoever this is holding me outside of Washington.”
“We need 2 get back to Wash,” Fleischer’s notes record Bush as saying just 90 minutes later. “We don’t need some tinhorn terrorist to scare us off. The Am ppl want 2 know where their dang P is.”
Having decided to return to Washington after stopping at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, Bush spoke to first lady Laura Bush at 4:39.
“I’m coming home. See you at the White House. Love you … go on home,” he said, according to Fleischer’s notes, then adding, “If I’m in the WH and there’s a plane coming my way, all I can say is I hope I read my bible that day.”
At 5:05, Bush, having learned that Cheney has briefed congressional leaders, sets the tone for the days to come.
“We will find these ppl + they will suffer the consequences of taking on this nation,” Bush said. “We will do what it takes. Everyone must understand this will not stand.”
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