Bush’s 420 Seconds, Nixon’s 18 ½ Minutes, Obama’s 7 ½ Hours

February 17, 2013
By

President Obama never even called

People can have many different perspectives when measuring time. If you’re watching a great ballgame, hours seem like minutes. If you’re holding your breath, seconds can seem like hours. If you’re a political figure even the briefest of moments can come under intense scrutiny. That is especially true of our presidents. It’s just that some chief executives come under much closer examination than others.

On the morning of September 11, 2001 President George W. Bush was visiting an elementary school class in Sarasota, Florida. While Bush and the class shared a reading of “The Pet Goat” he was informed by Chief of Staff, Andrew Card that a second plane had hit the World Trade Center. President Bush remained seated for the roughly 420 seconds it took to complete the book. That decision caused him to become the object of considerable scorn and ridicule.

On September 29, 1973, President Richard Nixon’s secretary, Rose Mary Woods, was transcribing a White House audio tape previously recorded June 20, 1972. During the process she made “a terrible mistake” that resulted in 18 ½ minutes of conversation being fully erased. Given the budding Watergate story, and possibility this erasure could have contained damning evidence against Nixon, Ms. Woods’ explanation was met with great skepticism. The questionable “gap” raised suspicions and commanded national attention. It helped light the fuse to what became an explosive scandal, ending with the one and only resignation of a U.S. president.

On September 11, 2012 the American consulate in Benghazi was attacked. In subsequent fighting United States Ambassador, Chris Stevens, and fellow countrymen Sean Smith, Glen Doherty, Tyrone Woods were murdered. Recent congressional testimony from top cabinet officials and President Obama’s Chief of Staff have shed little light on our Commander in Chief’s specific whereabouts or actions during 7 ½ hours of the 8 hour assault. We’ve learned he attended a previously arranged, 30 minute meeting, with Defense Secretary Panetta and Joint Chief’s Chair, General Dempsey. That half hour was the extent of their contact with the president. He did not so much as call them, even as the strike raged on. White House Chief, Jack Lew’s sworn statements shed no additional light on just what Obama was doing during those awful 8 hours. What we do know, however, is during approximately 450 minutes of a national security, life and death crisis, President Obama’s activities remain a complete mystery.

There’s no evidence President Bush’s very public extra 420 seconds in a Florida classroom changed an already tragic day for the worse or cost more American lives. Very soon after the attacks Bush made clear statements and began taking decisive, effective actions against the terrorists, yet derision over those few moments continued. President Nixon’s missing 18½ minutes of tape caused no great loss in U.S. lives or treasure. There was a bungled political break-in followed by a botched coverup….but the whole senseless affair forced the historic resignation of Richard Nixon.

By comparison, unaccounted for are the: 27,000 seconds/450 minutes/7 ½ hours of President Obama’s movements during a deadly, preplanned, terrorist onslaught. There are no unflattering images of say, Obama sleeping. There are no intrepid reporters (i.e. Woodward/Bernstein) investigating what the Commander in Chief was doing and when he was doing it. There are no late night comedians using this inexplicable “gap” as fodder for searing monologues.

Four, brave men slaughtered under President Obama’s detached watch, and he remains immune to anything like the political consequences suffered by predecessors Bush and Nixon. Hard to believe? Not really. Some U.S. chief executives, dead Americans not withstanding, come under much less scrutiny than others.

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