Common Sense

Staff members and tourists evacuate Capitol Hill buildings Wednesday, May 11, 2005, as a precaution after a light plane violated restricted air space around the U. S. Capitol. (AP Photo/Dennis Cook) AP

This column was written by CBS Evening News anchor and Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer.
It was an extraordinary moment. We had all just breathed a sigh of relief that the nation's capital had not been under attack Wednesday when the White House revealed that no one had told the president about any of it until the danger had passed. The president had been out biking when it happened and, as the White House told it, there was no need to tell him, no need for him to know, since he was in no danger.

Now wait a minute. No need to know his wife had been taken to a bomb shelter, the vice president and congressional leaders were being whisked to secret locations, the Capitol and the White House were being evacuated?

Please. Common sense -- to be sure, a resource that is seldom used in Washington -- tells us that communications equipment failed, or someone just made a bonehead mistake. Not exactly indictable offenses. But this White House is genetically incapable of admitting even a minor mistake, so spinners found themselves arguing the president is so inconsequential in the grand scheme of things that he didn't need to be told until all the smart people around him had fixed the problem.

Call me old-fashioned, but I'd feel better if the president knew. I have no inside information, but my guess is the president agrees. I've known a president or two in my time and I've yet to meet one who thought he was inconsequential, or who appreciated having himself pictured as such, especially by his own people. I sure wouldn't.


By Bob Schieffer
  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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