Sunday, June 20, 2004

Did Adam Nagourney really coauthor an article in today's New York Times that suggested the Bush campaign is something less than a juggernaut? Yes -- amazing!

Then again, Nagourney did his bit for the Bush campaign on Friday with "Account Recalls Cheney as a Swift and Steady Hand," which, at a moment when Cheney seems like a bitter conspiracy-minded crank, paints him (as the title makes clear) as one of the heroes of 9/11.

Somehow, even the fact that not everyone in the room at the time can actually recall Cheney getting the President's OK before ordering airliners shot down is treated as a mark of his -- and Bush's -- character:

Yet the almost unspoken nature of the conversation that morning signaled the unusual depth of the relationship between Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney....

Well, that's charitable -- it's not clear that Cheney even waited for his (nominal) superior to give the order, so Nagourney splits the difference in the conflicting accounts and says Bush and Cheney had an "almost unspoken" conversation ... whatever the hell that is. By the way, here's Nagourney explaining the mystery:

When it came to making one of the most agonizing decisions any leader could imagine - ordering fighter jets to shoot civilian airliners out of the sky - George W. Bush and Dick Cheney did it together, after the most hurried of conversations in the most trying of moments....

Mr. Bush, in an account the two men [Bush and Cheney] provided to the commission investigating the attacks that was released on Thursday, said that in one of the calls with his vice president he authorized shooting down civilian airplanes that might have been seized by hijackers. But it was Mr. Cheney who, "in about the time it takes a batter to decide to swing," as one person in the room told the commission, issued the shoot-down order as he weighed reports of a hijacked commercial airplane streaking toward Washington....

The commission cited a number of discrepancies in the accounts of officials who were with Mr. Cheney in the bunker, reporting that some people taking notes there had made no record of a call between the president and vice president during the moments Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney recalled it taking place.

Among those who said they had not heard any prior conversation between the president and the vice president on the issue was Joshua Bolten, then the deputy White House chief of staff and the aide who suggested that Mr. Cheney call the president to make certain he knew about the order.

But it wasn't just Bolton and some nonentities who heard no call from Bush, as another Times article on Friday made clear:

Neither Mr. Bolten, nor I. Lewis Libby, Mr. Cheney's chief of staff, nor Lynne V. Cheney, his wife, all of whom were in the bunker, said they recalled a phone call minutes earlier that Mr. Cheney and Mr. Bush said they had had authorizing the drastic action.

But hey, don't worry. It's not that Cheney is really the president in this administration, or it's not that he usurped authority that day -- the call hardly anybody heard really happened ... it was just that it was "almost unspoken." The call was, y'know, telepathic or something.

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