This matter of minutes
August 31, 2004
In the battle of the idle minutes that morning of Sept. 11, President Bush sat around, "doing nothing," for a far shorter time than Democractic rival John Kerry did, as it turns out.
Columnist Diana West, in a piece last week in the Rocky Mountain News, explored possibly the most inane insult ever of a sitting president, counted of course in minute detail by filmmaker Michael Moore in his mockumentary "Fahrenheit 911."
OK, Bush kept reading a book to young children in a Florida classroom for seven minutes after learning of airliners striking the World Trade Center. What was he supposed to do - wring his hands, get in the way of the professionals, hit his head against the nearest wall - we're not quite sure.
But as West pointed out, Kerry by his own admission on "Larry King Live," the senator "sat stunned, unable to think for more than 30 minutes in the Capitol until he and others were whisked out of the building to safety."
How did Michael miss that one? Or this: West notes that historian William Manchester chronicled Franklin D. Roosevelt's reaction to Peal Harbor this way: "the president did nothing for 18 minutes."
Eighteen minutes. Thirty minutes. Seven minutes. Puts a little different perspective on this particular indictment, doesn't it?
Besides more Kerry talk that goes completely against his action, the point is this: The presidency is a deliberative office. There is no shortage of skilled people to take the immediate action called for in time of such crisis. That's not the president's job.
This fact shouldn't require pointing out. But we Americans understood this better back in 1941. FDR's "inaction" didn't even merit a mention in his re-election campaign. It was irrelevant. Still is.