From a comprehensive rundown of Bush’s actions on 9/11:
At approximately 8:48 a.m. on the morning of September 11, 2001, the first pictures of the burning World Trade Center were broadcast on live television. The news anchors, reporters, and viewers had little idea what had happened in lower Manhattan, but there were some people who did know. By that time, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), the National Military Command Center, the Pentagon, the White House, the Secret Service, and Canada’s Strategic Command all knew that three commercial airplanes had been hijacked. They knew that one plane had been flown deliberately into the World Trade Center’s North Tower; a second plane was wildly off course and also heading toward Manhattan; and a third plane had abruptly turned around over Ohio and was flying back toward Washington, DC.
So why, at 9:03 a.m. – fifteen minutes after it was clear the United States was under terrorist attack – did President Bush sit down with a classroom of second-graders and begin a 20-minute pre-planned photo op? No one knows the answer to that question. In fact, no one has even asked Bush about it.
There’s much more, including this:
The threat or threats to Air Force One were announced on September 12, after mounting criticism that Bush was out of sight in Louisiana and Nebraska during most of the day and did not return to Washington until 10 hours after the attacks. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said there was “real and credible information that the White House and Air Force One were targets.” [White House, 9/12/01] On September 13, New York Times columnist William Safire wrote – and Bush’s political strategist Karl Rove confirmed – that there was an “inside” threat that “may have broken the secret codes [showing a knowledge of presidential procedures].” [New York Times, 9/13/01] Had terrorists hacked their way into sensitive White House computers? Was there a mole in the White House?
No. It turned out the entire story was made up.
As I recall, Safire questioned the White House story in one column before recanting with the quote above a day or two later. It seemed clear to me at the time that he’d been taken out to the woodshed by Karl Rove or whoever takes care of that sort of thing. Later, when it became clear that the story was in fact “made up,” I kept waiting for Safire to clarify the matter once and for all, and explain how and why he’d been played by the White House. If he did, I never saw it.