Thursday, August 25, 2011

President Bush Looks Back: In His Own Words

by contributor Brendan Kownacki

As DC residents settled down from the excitement of an unexpected and uncommon earthquake that shook up the district earlier in the day, some couldn’t help but recall the last time they felt whole buildings rattle…September 11th, 2001.

In a special advanced premiere of the National Geographic Channel’s upcoming special “George W. Bush: The 9/11 Interview”, director Peter Schnall presents an intimate conversation with the former Commander-in-Chief where he lets Bush express in his own words - his thoughts, feelings and perceptions - of the first minutes, hours and days after the infamous attacks. 

President Bush is at times candid and contemplative; he expresses both an authority about the situation and a clear grasp of decisions that seem to clearly still rest in the front of his consciousness. “This changed my presidency” he began, knowing full-well that it was an understatement. 
Bush described the anger and the focus from the moment his Chief of Staff broke the news to him as he read to the classroom of children in Florida. He also describes a frustration, about impaired communications with his advisors as the events of 9/11 unfolded. Without a clear communication path to people like Condoleezza Rice, Bush was focused on getting back to the White House, but his security team stopped him in his tracks. The President’s country swagger showed as he shot back “What the hell are you talking about? I'm the President of the United States.”

Bush’s conviction and dedication to the United States was one thing that could be felt through every anecdote. He looks backward at his own actions and instead of questioning his own methods, he analyzes just how he arrived at his decisions. The former leader of the free world seems decidedly human as he discusses trying to get in touch with his wife and daughters in the wake of the attack and you can’t help but relate as he mentions scooping up his Scottish Terrier Barney when faced with another threat against the White House on the night of September 11th. 

Director Peter Schnall
Director Peter Schnall explains that Bush was not eager to question his own judgment; responding to the oft posed “is there any decision you regret” –Bush responded “I hate that question” But it was that free expression that Schnall was after. The Film has no narrator, and the only voice you ever hear speak is that of the President, this was truly a chance for him to tell the story in his words. “What we were about to do was to give him an opportunity…in a personal way that he had not had before” added Schnall.

As the film closes, President Bush reflects briefly on the death of Osama Bin Laden, an event occurring the evening before the planned two day interview. The filmmakers were worried it would derail their plans, but it became an appropriate place to start for Bush looking backward. “I did not feel happiness…” concluded the President about the death of Bin Laden. Like so much of the experience it would seem that a single emotion was not nearly enough, but for Bush this was about change, this was about a world that had reached a point it could never come back from. Bush was right about the change to his presidency, but he thinks it will take time for the world to realize the true historic importance of that day on the calendar.

“George W. Bush: The 9/11 Interview” premieres August 28, 2011 on the National Geographic Channel