Behind the Presidency: Admire Him or Despise Him, George W. Bush Is Essentially a Figurehead for the Tightly Knit Establishment Oligarchy That Actually Runs the Executive Branch of Our Government

Article excerpt

When a tiny, single-engine Cessna 150 aircraft wafted into restricted Washington, D.C., airspace on May 11, the federal government went to a terrorism threat advisory level of red alert, and the nation's capitol was evacuated. As it happened, the airplane had simply been off course during a trip from Pennsylvania to an air show in North Carolina. But the fallout from the incident revealed volumes about how the executive branch of the federal government is run during a crisis.

Perhaps most revealing of all was the exchange between the White House Press Corps and White House Press Spokesman Scott McClellan the next day. "Scott, yesterday the White House was on red alert, was evacuated," noted a reporter. "The First Lady and Nancy Reagan were taken to a secure location. The vice president was evacuated from the grounds. The Capitol building was evacuated. The continuity of government plan was initiated. And yet, the president wasn't told of yesterday's events until after he finished his bike ride, about 36 minutes after the all-clear had been sent. Is he satisfied with the fact that he wasn't notified about this?" "Yes ... the protocols that we put in place after September 11th were being followed," replied McClellan. "They did not require presidential authority for this situation."

If George Bush is not even informed of a national red alert terrorism emergency when the Capitol is evacuated and his own wife is moved to a bomb shelter, then he is clearly not in charge at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

This is not the first time that Mr. Bush has proven himself to be peripheral in a crisis situation. As captured on videotape at the time, Mr. Bush's initial reaction to being informed of the 9/11 attacks was to sit immobilized for as much as nine minutes while the children's book My Pet Goat was read to a classroom of second graders. Granted, one predictable human response to such a crisis would be a momentarily paralyzing sense of shock. Yet none of the president's staffers saw fit to jog his elbow or otherwise snap him out of his lengthy reverie, which would be the expected course of action if "presidential authority" were really required to deal with an unfolding terrorist attack.

All of this raises a serious question: if George W. Bush is not running the federal government during times of crisis, who is?

Cheney in Charge

According to White House spokesman Scott McClellan, one of the key administration leaders in charge at the Oval Office during the May 11 red alert was Vice President Dick Cheney. According to the 9/11 Commission Report, while a stunned and distracted President Bush was contemplating a pet goat during the 9/11 crisis, Cheney issued a shoot-down order for airplanes in Washington, D.C., airspace and appeared to be in charge. The vice president is clearly the dominant personality in the Bush-Cheney team and is plainly the most important member of an informal committee that runs the executive branch of the U.S. government.

"The inner circles of the U.S. national security community--members of the National Security Council (NSC), a select number of their deputies, and a few close advisors to the president--represent what is probably the most powerful committee in the history of the world, one with more resources, more power, more license to act, and more ability to project force further and swifter than any other convened by king, emperor, or president," wrote David J. Rothkopf of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in the March/April issue of Foreign Policy magazine. That committee, as described by Rothkopf, is headed by a triumvirate composed of Vice President Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (who had been Cheney's superior 30 years prior during the Ford administration), and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The triumvirs, like many of their associates and subordinates, are or have been members of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). …