WASHINGTON: The White House communications staff spent last Tuesday
juggling its obligation to inform the country with its duty to protect
it, all the while preparing remarks for President Bush and struggling to
get him back to Washington, DC.
Press secretary Ari Fleischer and deputy director of communications Dan
Bartlett began the day alongside the President at an elementary school
in Sarasota, FL; director of communications Karen Hughes was at the
But Bartlett was on the phone with Hughes by 9:15am, moments after the
President was told that two planes had crashed into the World Trade
The duo quickly crafted remarks for Bush to deliver 15 minutes later in
the school's media center.
Shortly after those remarks were made, a credible threat was phoned into
the White House, naming it and Air Force One as the next targets. Bush -
along with Bartlett, Fleischer, and a small pool of reporters - were
rushed aboard the plane and flown to Barksdale Air Force Base in
The White House was largely evacuated, though Hughes remained in the
Situation Room alongside VP Cheney and others.
Air Force One touched down shortly after noon at Barksdale, and the
President recorded another statement - believed to have been composed by
Bartlett and Hughes - in the air by phone.
As the public's clamoring for information grew louder, Fleischer held
the first of two short press briefings on board Air Force One at
After making a statement regarding Bush's Barksdale comments, Fleischer
answered fewer than a dozen questions, wrapping up the briefing in five
The primary briefing of the day, however, came from Hughes at 3:45pm,
who met reporters at FBI headquarters and offered a comprehensive
overview of government activity. She left without fielding questions,
which elicited harsh criticism from the press.
After a short stay in Nebraska, the President, Bartlett, and Fleischer
were back in the air for the final time, now destined for Washington,
DC. As Fleischer gave the day's second and final briefing at 5:30pm -
speaking to the press for six minutes - Hughes and speechwriter Michael
Gershon sat in the White House, composing the remarks Bush would deliver
to the nation that evening.