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August 15, 2007

More Karl Post Mortem: Beyond My Pet Goat

Bush-911-Booker-Elementary

(click for full size)

Although I had seen this photo before, the fact it showed up in Monday's NYT "Goodbye Karl" slideshow caused me to take a closer "visual forensic" look.  The photo, as you can tell from the clock and the TV screen, was taken at 9:25 am on the morning of 9/11/2001 at Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida.

Although everyone in the world, it seems, is familiar with the "My Pet Goat" photos, I think this one — though far lesser known — is as much, if not even more scandalous.

Given the detailed timelines available from that morning, we know well how George Bush spent 10 very long minutes reading a story to a group of second graders.  He entered the classroom room at 9:03, and he was informed at 9:06 by Andy Card that a second plane had crashed into the World Trade Towers, but he didn't finish up with the kids until 9:16.

What is much less familiar, however, is how Bush spent the next fifteen or twenty minutes.  After taking another minute or two to speak with the teacher and principal after the reading exercise, Bush and company made their way into this adjoining classroom.  Once there, Bush spoke with Condi Rice (check), then Dick Cheney (double check), then New York Governor Pataki (check again).  What is most remarkable — both about the photo, and Dubya's subsequent decision making — however, are those pages in front of him.

According to his original pre-"attack on America" schedule, Bush was slated to give a speech to the  Booker Elementary student body at approximately 9:30. So, thirty-nine minutes after the first crash (which Bush was aware of by approximately 8:55); and nineteen minutes after hearing about the second crash; and with the fate of America supposedly hanging in the balance, what do you suppose Bush had in front of him and was working on?

Yep, it's the speech he ended up writing, then delivering, four minutes later to 200 elementary school students, along with some teachers and a handful of reporters.

If Bush's actions confirm his incompetent, pre-formulated, performance-by-rote, what, in addition, might the craft and composition of the photo indicate?  In this moment of extreme crisis; 13 minutes before Flight 77 would slam into the Pentagon; with the atmosphere rife with speculation that numerous highjacks were in progress, can anybody say there wasn't still time for posing?

Only White House photographer Eric Draper could tell us for sure, but with the President centered in the shot, now seemingly down to business (because the kids must be served — again); the American flag neatly framed under Dan Bartlett's arm; Bartlett, at that very moment, happening to point out the replay of the WTC attack (as if to say, we're on it!); Deborah Loewer, director of the White House Situation Room, doing her situationing perfectly situated behind the boss; and with the two suits to the left standing at attention and ready for action, I'd say this scene is strangely burdened by the sense of what it is supposed to look like.

And then, fast forward to the present, and here the picture is again, this time innocuously inserted in the New York Times "farewell Karl" slideshow.  But with no one the wiser, it serves to function as historical propaganda, as an apparent counterpoint to "My Pet Goat" — rather than what it really evidences, which is more of the same.

Oh yes, then there's Karl himself.  Funny how he's at the back again — with his arms folded when everybody else is now busy in "first responder" mode, using their appendages to point or write or conference.  But then, arm folding in the middle of an action scene is also taking action, isn't it?

I mean, isn't that what directors do?

(Image: Eric Draper/White House.  September 11, 2001.  Sarasota, Florida.  whitehouse.gov)

  • stevelaudig

    James Buchanan did marginally better. but he had an internal enemy.

  • demit

    Like Robert Redford’s character in “The Candidate”, Bush spent this time and the subsequent afternoon—as he was being sequestered away from the country in Air Force One, asking those who could, and would, tell him specifically—”What do I do now?”

  • Mona

    This lack of urgency is one of the disturbing details of that day. I was in Egypt when Sadat was shot and one of my co-workers was a driver for the presidency and had free tickets. In fact, that was the only year he decided to go to the event. In telling me what happened what struck him at the moment of the shooting was magnitude; that the entire military could be armed and ready to shoot them all. I always question why nothing more was done to protect the president at that moment. Thank you Michael for putting this up; how’s the unpacking going?

  • Asta

    Why would Deborah Loewer, director of the White House Situation Room, accompany the President on a visit to an elementary school? I think the answer is pretty obvious.

  • http://arthistorian.wordpress.com/ SonjaDrimmer

    Actually, what I find most damning about this photo is that the president– the man who goes to great lengths to clear brush and don an air force suit in order to appear the consummate action figure– is the only one who appears inactive. In spite of the photo’s angle, he seems small and cowering, like a child at his father’s desk. Not because of the dimensions of the desk itself, but because of his posture and facial expression while seated there. Meanwhile, all the supporting characters are standing, engaged in activity.

  • croatoan

    “Immediately following the first attack, I implemented our government’s emergency response plans.”
    – President George W. Bush, September 11, 2001

  • http://evilpoet-lostinthought.blogspot.com/ EvilPoet

    Doesn’t the almighty Commander Guy wear reading glasses? If so, where did they go? Why wasn’t he wearing them?

  • irisking

    Wasn’t the very first look on Bush’s face when told the news, not “We’re on IT”, but simply “We’re ON!”? That’s what I remember commenting on at the time – just a fleeting expression going across his face, as if their excuse for big action had happened – but much more than they needed or “imagined”.

  • Justin Smith

    See that colorful rug in the background? It’s the “Ground Zero for Dummies” map enlarged specially for the president. Meanwhile, on the phone, Condi reminds POTUS that the WTC is in Manhatten.

  • Gahso

    Bush’s actions on that day are damning. Not because he’s inept. Because he’s Implicit!!!!
    The script was laid out, it just wasn’t believable. Like someone who’s aware of their own surprise party but has to fake it when the moment comes – it’s always a little stiff and awkward. Everybody, even an incompitent idiot would have been hyper-aware of the events on the TV screen (unless you knew it was coming and were told to play it cool or lay low). The only reason to give a speech in front of a group of schoolchildren would be if it were written into the plan. Maybe the plan was to wait for the Pentagon attack before making the next move. His staying throught the Pet Goat, then giving a school speech is otherwise INEXPLICABLE.
    Asta’s comment is extremely understated: “Why would Deborah Loewer, director of the White House Situation Room, accompany the President on a visit to an elementary school? I think the answer is pretty obvious.” INDEED !!
    Until 9/11 is fully understood as a FALSE FLAG operation, there will always be a long list of unexplainable details. As soon as it IS understood as such, it’s all very very clear. My blood boils on this topic. Who’s with me??

  • http://loganantill.typepad.com/palaver/ Logan Antill

    He does like childlike. He looks ready to tumble some blocks.

  • http://loganantill.typepad.com/palaver/ Logan Antill

    I’m with you Gahso. What’s sad is that our government hasn’t felt the need to follow up 9/11 with another attack to keep us in line. All it took was one to guarantee our cooperation with whatever duplicity Bush had planned for the next 7 years. How easily we are convinced and controlled.

  • Steve

    That day we witnessed the first deaths in the Iraq war, little did we know.
    Little do we know now. We so stupid. The truth will eventually come out.
    Good post.

  • margaret

    Well, now; the situation room lady probably is the eqivalent of the black box, red telephone, the “suitcase” that follows the Pres everywhere…so maybe, her being in Fla is not so nefarious, after all. I’m no fan of this Pres, as those who read the Bag know, but talking on the phone and giving “orders” is a form of action-taking, so let’s give him a little benefit of the doubt. I’ll admit, his face is clueless. And, do we knew, for certain, what he was reading and writing, and doijg with those papers? Why did he call Condi, first? Why not Rumsfeld? Then, the Veep?
    His remaining in the classroom while the “action” was happening in NY remains a curious thing; the expression on his face, when told of the attack, the dumbness of it, and the dumbness in this picture reveal his total ineptitude. I find it very troubling, the figure of Rove, so emotionally distanced from the image on the TV. The finger pointer is obviously posing for the camera. It is a very disturbing picture.

  • The BAG

    Fascinating comment, Asta. I picked up the info about Deborah Loewer from the caption in the NYT slide show. Is it an attribution after the fact? Otherwise, how — as you suggest — could the Administration have known there would be a “situation?” (unless the WH always travels with such a functionary).
    Re: the relocation, Mona, thanks for asking. Though I’m still struggling/juggling after frying both my phone and my computer (and suffering the loss of my ex-pat and urban existance), I’m starting to get my energy back. As I mentioned before, the month I spent in New York was very important relative to Our Own Media (see left sidebar). In the coming months, expect to see a lot more original content and collaboration with photojournalists. Possibly as early as tomorrow, in fact, I’ll be sharing with you Alan Chin’s latest images from New Orleans.
    –Michael

  • Harley

    How about a little scenario? Suppose you are the leader of the free world, with or without codpiece. You learn your country is attacked while you are surrounded by 7-year-olds. You are one of the adults in the room, but you can’t figure out what to do for 11 minutes. When you finally get to a vacant classroom which has been set aside for just such an emergency, you sit at a table and make some calls. Your back is to the only TV in the room because you don’t want to see what is going on. EVERYONE else in the room is watching the TV (except guy in white, who is probably listening in). But you are full frontal for the camera. Sound fishy? You bet!
    The phone looks like a secure phone carried around with POTUS. Note the key and all the extra buttons, probably a scrambler. Also note the card standing upright just in front of his hand so you cannot see whether he’s taking notes or not. Of course, he could be writing a note to Karl to see if the bathroom is clear for him.

  • PTate in FR

    What I love about this picture is that it is so directionless. Two men in black, briefcase under their arms, stand at attention on the left. Two other men in black, one pointing at a TV set, on the right. Two women, one in black, one in white, one close, one far, face one another, their bodies off balance. And in the middle, GWB, at a kiddie table, in his own little bubble.
    Looking at this picture, one wonders why anyone trusted Bushco after 9/11.

  • http://www.groupnewsblog.net Hubris Sonic

    wow, thats quite a picture.
    and dont mind the 9/11 folks michael they can ferret out any blogpost about 9/11 from 5 miles away. its flocking behavior

  • knerd

    Anyone have any idea what the propped up white rectangle is in front of Bush?
    A “presidential action” script? A photo of Barney?
    What?

  • http://www.groupnewsblog.net Hubris Sonic

    its probably a picture of who is talking to at the time. so he doesnt forget. ;)

  • Steve

    knerd’s comment made me drop this picture into photoshop.
    I would bet that the white rectangle in front of him is a list of contacts that is put out when the phone is set up for potus. The notes in front of him were unreadable, but the one on his left has lines scratched out in a way that is curious. Several of the lines are crossed out, not with a single line, but with enough coverage to blacken the line. This could be nothing, and I’m not going to speculate – but in my experience people who delete hand writing like that are nuts and/or are over attempting to hide something they wrote. Might be why he likes Shappies so much, good coverage and they don’t emboss the paper the way a ball point pen does.
    Also … that’s ‘Bag star’, Bush temp-mommie, (then) future SC nominee – Hariet Myers holding the potus bag beneath the flag.
    The chalk board reads ‘After school care’.

  • Steve

    Excuse me, above should read ‘Sharpies’ not Shappies.
    : )

  • Apple

    To me, GWB’s expression suggests he’s receiving orders – not giving them. I find this to be a very disturbing photo.

  • PaminBB

    Interesting picture, I don’t remember seeing it. What’s that on Bartlett’s lapel? This was before all the silly wearing of label flags started, so what is it?
    The people in the foreground do appear posed. It looks as though the woman in white mucst be obstructing Bartlett and/or Rove’s view of the TV.

  • jtfromBC

    Yes it is an interesting picture, Bartlett’s pin appears round and colorless. Most are watching CNN rerun # 10-15-? of the tower fireball which assists the cameraman to animate his photograph. Imagine the present state of world affairs if Bush had to remain in that designated ‘After school care’ (thanks Steve) room until a responsible adult arrived rather than allowing him out unsupervised, to go berserk in global neighbourhoods.

  • jtfromBC

    Yes it is an interesting picture, Bartlett’s pin appears round and colorless. Most are watching CNN rerun # 10-15-? of the tower fireball which assists the cameraman to animate his photograph. Imagine the present state of world affairs if Bush had to remain in that designated ‘After school care’ (thanks Steve) room until a responsible adult arrived rather than allowing him out unsupervised, to go berserk in global neighbourhoods.

  • JC

    Wow. Just wow. After reading the psychopathic delusions of a supposed “psychologist” and the comments which follow….. I’m just floored at the depths of insanity exhibited by (and I know this is going out on a limb here) American citizens? I suppose the CIA is watching each of you, wire tapping your phone lines, and infringing on your civil liberties, daily. My God, do you people actually have lives? Jobs? Interact with normal people? Do you all spend every waking hour of your lives wringing your hands, pacing the floor whist chain smoking Marlboros….. wearing tinfoil hats and mumbling to yourselves about how the evil genius W and the BushitlerCo neocon VRWC henchmen staged 9/11 so we could get all of Iraq’s oil? Wow. The apparent fact that all of this discourse was generated by a photograph is astonishing. And you all must live in cities with NFL football teams, because the commentary is classic “monday morning quarterbacking.” It’s certainly obvious that all of you could of done a much better job than President Bush, had you been the one reading about the pet goat. Too bad you all weren’t there to show America “TRUE LEADERSHIP.”
    Please seek mental health assistance, but from a real doctor, not the likes of a Michael Shaw. By the way, just where did “Dr.” Shaw get his degree…. from an ad on the back of a comic book?

  • Asta

    Dear JC, for starters, we are not Marlboro chain smokers, we’re too smart to buy into that toxic pitfall.
    May I ask you a question? Does your moniker, JC, stand for Jesus Christ? Just asking.
    If so, please remember that Jesus wasn’t as judgmental as you. He was of the forgiving kind.

  • readytoblowagasket

    BushitlerCo. That was actually funny.

  • Kitt

    Is that damned attorney with the awful eyeliner in the background? What the hell is her name? Bush put her up for Supreme court judgeship, Harriet….Harriet Myers!

  • Steve

    JC, ah, so is your comment ‘Tuesday-morning-quarterbacking’?
    I suppose the CIA is watching each of you, wire tapping your phone lines, and infringing on your civil liberties, daily.
    Stop that, please. If they are wasting time on us it’s no wonder why our country is in such a tail spin. You don’t scare me with jargon like that. That worked years ago, not anymore. Your comment appears to be the most delusional here. Besides, it seems like the CIA has been screwed by the Republican/Bush administration as much as any other American(US) people.
    fwiw, most Bag commenters have jobs related to photography, graphic arts, & publishing (+). This is our work. I’ve learned a lot here (thanks Dr. Shaw) that has not been political. Not that I have the authority, but … I welcome you to contribute to all posts, not just the ones that offend your political beliefs.
    Peace to you JC.

  • DUDACKATTACK!!!

    “My God, do you people actually have lives? Jobs? Interact with normal people? Do you all spend every waking hour of your lives wringing your hands, pacing the floor whist chain smoking Marlboros….. wearing tinfoil hats and mumbling to yourselves about how the evil genius W and the BushitlerCo neocon VRWC henchmen staged 9/11 so we could get all of Iraq’s oil?
    Life? Yes.
    Job? Yes.
    Interact? Yes.
    Pacing / Wringing? No.
    Chain smoking Marlboros? No. Camel Lights.
    Tinfoil Hat? No. Mine says Titleist.
    9/11 Conspiracy / Iraq Oil? Definitely not. A conspiracy can only succeed when it is handled competently. Who in that photo above is capable of that?

  • jtfromBC

    Greeting to my neighbor JC, I’m a
    Retired Dir – Psychiatric Facility
    Canadian 5th generation
    had civil liberties infringed by CIA
    live in the country
    wear a Tilly hat in the summer
    wear a toque in the winter EH !
    mumble about stupidity not evil genius
    the evil doers song hasn’t caught on here
    volunteer, coach soccer, etc etc all very boring
    JC you don’t appear to present any psychological problems from your comments, none I can find in the DSM IV there might be something in the DSM V due in 2012, until then enjoy many happy happy days and please do drop in occasionally so we can see how your doing.
    cheers, jt
    PS “BushitlerCo.” That was actually funny said rtbag, I found it unique as well, is it orginal ?

  • Kitt

    I don’t need no stinkin’ hat! tinfoil itches. And when I smoke, Pall Mall studs.

  • Tuffy

    My spontaneous reaction to this photograph was exactly the same seeing it now as it was the first time I saw it: Contrived.
    “…burdened by the sense of what it is supposed to look like.” That sums it up succinctly.
    I recall a period of time when we saw a number of photos such as this released by the White House, always so eery, artificially candid, and obviously posed. Always the uncanny air of illustrations created for some sort of grade school level social studies publication. Does the White House still produce these sorts of posed candids, or did the practice go by the wayside in the same manner of the White House’s early attempts at the writing of actual speeches for the president?

  • Asta

    The warped perspective of this photograph fascinates me. The lines in the ceiling tiles are straight, the grid is right, yet Bush in the foreground appears smaller than Rove and Card standing behind him. It’s an Alice in Wonderland feeling to me — everything is just all wrong.
    Like the Fun House at a carnival, it’s all about mirrors and illusions and scaring people.

  • Legalpad

    The giveaway to the Booker Elementary story is that the Secret Service did NOT ACT IMMEDIATELY at 8:46 a.m. to remove bush from the area. For all they knew, another “hijacked airliner” was bearing down on the school building as the seconds ticked, given that his location was publicly known. The ONLY rationale for the inaction was knowledge that he was not a target. Hence, inside job. As with so many things about 9/11, it’s what didn’t happen that carries the key significance. It’s hard to imagine that anyone is still fooled by this hoax.

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