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C-SPAN Video Conference with Andrew Card April 21, 2011

Posted by acusumano in : Assignments , trackback

Former White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card defended the much-maligned presidency of George W. Bush in a video conference on April 7.

Card, who served under Bush for more than five years, joined students participating from the George Mason University Video Studio along with Steve Scully, the political editor for the C-SPAN networks, and students from the University of Denver to discuss his relationship with the controversial 43rd president, on both professional and personal levels.

“History will be kinder than current [attitudes],” Card said regarding Bush’s “misunderstood” time in office. “The president had to face unprecedented challenges,” including the terrorist attacks on September 11. It was Card who was faced with the unfortunate task of informing Bush of those tragic events while the president was with a classroom of second graders.

“The president had heard about a plane crash in New York,” Card recalled. Bush and his staffers initially thought it had to be an accident, with Card’s theory being that the pilot had a heart attack. But when Card was informed that the second tower of the World Trade Center had also been hit, he had to make a judgment call.

“It was very rare for me to walk into a room after the president had gone in,” Card said. The chief of staff is faced with the guideline of “Does the president need to know?” It was clear that the answer was yes in this case, so Card quickly approached Bush and whispered about the second crash, adding an “editorial comment” of “America is under attack.” He then leaned away so that Bush could not ask questions, but staffers got in contact with the FBI so that Bush could immediately talk to them once he was out of the classroom.

“I tried very hard on September 11th not to allow the emotion of the challenge get in the way of the responsibility that I had to help the president do his job,” Card said. He tried to remain “cool, calm and collective and objective” and feels the president did the same, although he was clearly emotionally affected by the tragedy. Card says that Bush’s mind likely went to the oath he took on Inauguration Day just eight months earlier.

Card also suggested that Bush was the most successful president ever in terms of saving lives (including his AIDS and malaria work in Africa) and spreading democracy. “I think history will be kinder to him when they come to recognize how difficult the challenges that he had to face were.”

The distance learning course, which is produced by C-SPAN, is a unique opportunity for students to interview guests via video conference. The course airs on C-SPAN3 on Fridays at 5 p.m. and also streams online (http://www.c-span.org/Distance_Learning/). The interview with Card can be viewed here.

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