Advance Draft of Bush's
Astounding 9/11 Anniversary Speech
August 20, 2002
By Bernard Weiner
The following, alleged to be a draft of a speech George W. Bush wrote himself, to be delivered on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, recently came into our hands from a usually reliable White House source, the person known to us as "Shallow Throat." Previously, this GOP mole slipped other papers and insights our way. (See "The 'Shallow Throat' Documents: A Pre-9/11 Bush&Co. Scenario," published here in February.)
We can't attest to this document's validity, and we have no idea if the speech actually will be delivered. But the reputed draft certainly leads to interesting speculations. See what you make of it.
Good evening. I have asked for this broadcast time because on this first anniversary of 9/11, I wanted to join you in grieving for our massive losses. Let us all bow our heads in silence, in honor of those who have fallen. [ 20 seconds of silence. ] Thank you.
First off, I want you to know that nobody wrote this speech but me. Another speech was handed to me yesterday -- you know, for me to go over it a few times before it went on the teleprompter here -- and I started to rehearse it. But the second time I went through it, something grabbed me by the heart and told me to throw it away and to write my own. I prayed and meditated about what I really wanted to express. So here goes:
All my life, I've been told what to say, what to do, how to do and say it, and I was handsomely rewarded for all that. For being basically someone else's creation -- essentially a puppet, beholden to others.
I did that as governor of Texas and I've done it for the first two years of my presidency. But no more. Tonight, I want everyone to hear me loud and clear. I'm no longer anyone's puppet, or patsy. I'm my own man, with my own ideas. And those in my administration who don't like what I'm doing, or saying here, can go... find employment elsewhere.
Historians and politicians always talk about a President's "legacy" -- that is, what enduring values and programs a President leaves for his fellow Americans. I was on my way to an embarrassing legacy, that of a President who would be remembered first for obtaining the office in a strange manner, and once in residence in the White House for fostering a culture of corporate greed, destruction of our glorious environment, and for behaving like an arrogant bully in the global arena, starting wars and alienating a good share of the world.
That is not how this President wants to be remembered.
I have done some low, despicable things in my short time on earth -- from putting substances into my system I shouldn't have to selling my soul for ill-gotten gains -- but I'm finally willing to accept responsibility for my actions (unlike so many other friends and colleagues), and to try to attone for the worst aspects of my life by doing good.
I realize that powerful forces in this country will try to discredit my new stand -- they'll say I've had a "nervous breakdown," or that I've been brainwashed by terrorists, or that I've sold out to pinkos, or that everything I'm saying now is purely for electoral gain -- but, with your help and support and faith in me, I know I'll be able to make my way through.
Whatever comes -- be it political garbage heaped on my head by those calling me a "traitor" to my class or to the conservative cause, or, God help me, an assasin's bullet -- I move forward with my head held high, my heart pure, my mind calm. Because, finally, in the bosom of Jesus -- not just saying that I'm "born again," but knowing it deep in my soul -- I now understand why I was set upon this earth: not to help myself to the spoils provided me by my family and connections, but to help others, around the globe and right here in our own, great country.
Last year, after 9/11, I thought I had discovered my reason for being: to lead the fight against the new scourge of mankind, terrorism. But over the months, it became evident to me that though the target is the correct one -- we can't have folks going around blowing up innocent civilians -- the way we were going about it was, as we say in West Texas, back asswards, and counter-productive to boot.
Let's go back to 9/11 and I'll try to explain. When we came into office -- and I won't even go into how an unelected candidate was installed into the White House -- the outgoing administration passed on to us all sorts of intelligence about Muslim fanatics associated with Osama bin Laden, and gave us suggestions for how to cope with this new reality.
We ignored those warnings partially because we were busy with the transition to power and partly because we thought anything Clinton said or did automatically was suspect. But also because, during the first eight months of our Administration, our program was in tatters in the Congress (even before Jeffords defected from the GOP); we knew that the best way to get our agenda through was somehow to frighten the public to demand a firm hand at the top. And so we did not listen, did not want to listen, to all the warnings last summer coming almost daily from our friends and allies abroad, about an imminent al-Qaeda air attack on American icon targets.
We were busy getting our post-attack plans ready -- both here in this country, in terms of how we could bend and alter the Constitution in the name of "national security" and "homeland defense," and abroad, realizing that we were the only superpower left on the globe and could get away with almost anything because there was nobody out there to stop us. And so we turned the other way when we knew that a terror attack of massive proportions was coming toward us. More than 3000 good folks died one year ago today because of our conscious choice not to act on our pre-knowledge. As long as I live, I can never forgive myself for that act of political cowardice.
I know that by admitting this, I leave myself wide open for impeachment, but if I go down, I'm going to take a whole lot of people with me, also involved in the 9/11 coverup. But, who knows, some of those people also may go down for other reasons: the Vice President because of his Halliburton irregularities and his refusal to turn over to Congress the relevant energy-policy documents; the Attorney General, for his leadership in carving away the protections of the Constitution and for moving toward a neo-fascist police state; Don Rumsfeld, Gayle Norton, Tom White, Larry Thompson, Harvey Pitt, and all the others. (And even me for financial shenanigans when I was at Harken Oil.)
But at least I -- secure in my soul -- am willing to tell the truth about what happened, and why, and face the consequences. The others, after all the dodging and running, will have to speak for themselves.
It's the nature of the Presidency that it forces you to take a good look at yourself in the national mirror. I didn't like what I was seeing. Given my history, it's not surprising that I more or less just turned over the government to giant corporations; they helped write their own regulatory laws, they got what they wanted with regard to deregulation, corporate accounting, profit-taking, tax-law, relaxation of pollution controls, trade, etc. etc. They scratched our backs with campaign donations, we scratched theirs so they could run rampant in their corporate pursuit of profits. I guess I should have known that some of them would carry things to extremes.
I felt like a total hyprocite, forced by political pressure -- when the markets tanked and all those seniors' retirement plans got wiped out, when nobody trusted the financial statements of large corporations -- to denounce the warped, unethical and probably illegal practices that made so many of my friends and supporters rich at the expense of ordinary Americans. How could Dick Cheney and I talk about the need for accounting reforms, and denounce greedy corporate executives, when we ourselves participated in many of the very same practices? That was a big one when I stared at myself in the mirror.
Please don't get me wrong. I continue to believe fiercely in the capitalist ethic of letting the market determine a good share of social policy. Initiative should be rewarded. But when the system is rigged against the have-nots and the have-littles in favor of those who already have lots, then something must be done to even the playing field, to set and enforce some rules so that not just the wealthy benefit.
In foreign affairs, we in the U.S. simply must change the way we look at others, and the policies that cause so many problems in the world. This is one planet, and we humans no longer have the luxury of behaving as if we are separate creatures from others around the globe. What we Americans do in Iraq and the Middle East, for example, will affect the entire world's economy for decades -- not to mention what might happen if nuclear or biological weapons are employed anywhere, by anyone.
So, tonight, I am halting all planning for an attack on Iraq and requesting a review of all U.S. policy around the globe, to be on my desk within 14 days. I realize, for example, that until a just Israeli/Palestinian peace is reached, there will be no stability in that region, or elsewhere, and so I will become personally involved in helping develop that peace, for the sake of generations to come of Israeli and Palestinian children, who may one day become friends and partners instead of constant antagonists.
We simply must alter the chemistry of the soil in which so much terrorism grows; we must provide hope to these young, would-be suicide-bombers that their world will change for the better, with peace and justice and jobs in a viable country of their own. To do nothing to alter that soil is to do untold damage to the vital national interests of the United States, and of our friends and allies.
I am also requesting a thorough review of all federal environmental policy, to develop programs that will help preserve and improve air and water quality, reduce greenhouse emissions in the light of global warming, punish polluters, give tax incentives for developing alternative fuels, require higher gas-mileage for new cars, and so on.
I also vow to fight for repeal of the large tax breaks given to the wealthy 10 years out. We took that action when there was a huge anticipated surplus (estimating a decade out when we had no idea what the economy would look like then, or even a year from passage of the bill); now, we're hurting and it's time to revise our thinking, so that the little guy and the middle-class don't get the shaft in terms of taxation, and so that we have monies to fund some of the all-important governmental programs without dipping into Medicare and Social Security trust funds, as we are now doing.
I have to take a deep breath here. I've been thinking so much in the past few days that it almost overwhelms me. I don't have details to lay out here. They will come. But I did want to make sure that everyone understands my new frame of mind, my new priorities, my new plans in broad outline.
As I suggested earlier, I expect a huge storm of opposition to my new positions from some inside my Administration and in the Congress, especially from many of my fellow Republicans on the far right. But I'm hoping that once they get a sense of the broad, overwhelming support for these positions from ordinary Americans, Democrat and Republican alike, they will come to see the wisdom of making the necessary changes for the good of our country.
If you choose to permit me to serve out my term, I vow to all my fellow Americans that I will work tirelessly on everyones' behalf, not just for those who supported me with money or who felt they were ideological or religious kin. I will be happy to work with Congress, including the Democrat leaders, in helping to truly alter the tone in Washington, and to move this country back to civility and closer to the center, where all of us can benefit.
God bless you all. God bless America. Thank you.
Bernard Weiner, a poet and playwright, was the San Francisco Chronicle's theater critic; holder of a Ph.D. in government & international relations, he has taught at various universities, and has written for The Nation, Village Voice, The Progressive, and widely on the internet.