One of the iconic images of 9/11 was President George W. Bush reading to second graders as Chief of Staff Andy Card whispered news of the attacks into his ear–the president’s critics went to town on that picture, pretending to think that the choice of reading material that day–The Pet Goat–reflected the president’s taste, not the second graders’. I never could understand why the picture was such a pretext for mirth. What else was President Bush supposed to do, other than finish the reading and then attend to business?
Well, now the kids are no longer in the second grade, and they have told Time magazine their own perception of that day:
One thing the students would like to tell Bush’s critics – like liberal filmmaker Michael Moore, whose 2004 documentary Fahrenheit 911 disparaged Bush for lingering almost 10 minutes with the students after getting word that two planes had crashed into the World Trade Center – is that they think the President did the right thing. “I think he was trying to keep everybody calm, starting with us,” says Guerrero. Dubrocq agrees: “I think he was trying to protect us.” Booker Principal Gwendolyn Tose-Rigell, who died in 2007, later insisted, “I don’t think anyone could have handled it better. What would it have served if [Bush] had jumped out of his chair and ran out of the room?”
The treatment of President Bush reflected real hatred. There has been a move in recent days to make sure that members of the Bush team get some of the credit for killing bin Laden. But those who don’t share President Obama’s politics have been generally gracious. This is a welcome relief from the pillorying of George Bush.