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Office of the Press Secretary

(Crawford, Texas)

Internal Transcript August 22, 2002



Hilton Hotel MAY 2 2 2003

Portland, Oregon
National Commission on
Terrorist Attacks
7:05 P.M. PDT

Q Talking on the airplane, Karen, there was that moment when you were returning
to the White House and things were not the way they normally were. Paint that picture for me.

MS. HUGHES: Well, it was in some ways, as I was explaining to you, nothing matches
the horror, as I did and as many Americans did, that plane fly into that second tower. A lot of
people saw it on television; I did. Nothing matches that horror. But in some ways it was almost
as chilling to drive back into downtown Washington when I did, which looked almost like a
ghost town, and there were men in black — I don't really know if they were military or they were
Secret Service, but they had machine guns drawn. They were holding their machine guns in the
streets of downtown Washington. And that's a sight you expect to see in a foreign capital,
maybe, during a coup, but never expect to see that in our capital, in downtown Washington.

And I had an experience once as a reporter where I was going to a hurricane, and
everyone else was driving away, and that was how I felt as we drove into downtown
Washington. We were driving in, we were the only car driving in. Everyone else was going the
other way, on the outskirts of the city. And as we got closer and closer, no one was there. And it
was almost like the surreal ghost town you would see after devastation, except for there were
police in the streets, again probably eight blocks from the White House — there was a huge
perimeter that they had set up. And they were either military or maybe Secret Service, dressed
all in black, holding machine guns, as we drove up. And I never expected to see something like
that in our Nation's Capital.

Q And when you entered the White House?

MS. HUGHES: Well, actually, when we went into the White House I had a military
sergeant who drove me and picked me up. The Vice President had sent a car out to get me
because they weren't letting, I don't think, civilian traffic back into downtown Washington. So
they sent a driver to pick me up. He brought me in and told me to go in an entrance that is not an

entrance I usually go in. And I walked in and there was no one in sight. And I knew it was a day
that you didn't want to surprise anybody. And so I yelled, hello. And two, again, kind of SWAT
team members came running, running through the hall with, again, guns drawn, and took me to
the location where I met the Vice President.

Q You walked into the White House and it was empty, and you called, hello.

MS. HUGHES: And there was no one there. Of course, it had been evacuated. I was
actually on the phone with my assistant when it was evacuated, and she said, Karen, I've got to
go, they're screaming at us to get out of here. And I said, well, go, and hung up. And so for
minutes after that had no contact with anyone. Air Force One had taken off from Florida. I'd
been talking to my deputy, Dan Bartlett, who was with the President, on his cell phone, and they
had taken off. So I had no contact with them any longer. And they evacuated the White House,
and I knew I needed to get there. I needed to go somewhere. I had a duty, a job to do, but I
wasn't really sure where.

Q Let's talk about the first time you spoke to the President on the telephone from Air
Force One. Do you recall the first conversation? What were his priorities, what was he asking
you for?

MS. HUGHES: I spoke with him — I don't recall the exact time. He wanted me to go out
and brief the country about how the government was functioning. It was a very short
conversation, as I recall. He was getting ready to — I don't even remember exactly where he was.
The first time I tried to call him was earlier in the day. He had had a conversation with the Vice
President where they had agreed that the President would be the first one to go out and speak on
behalf of the government, as was appropriate. But in the meantime, they had diverted his plane
and he was going to Barksdale, Louisiana. And so it was taking forever.

And so I was very frustrated as a communicator, I felt that the public was hearing the
State Department has been evacuated, the White House has been evacuated — it sounded as if the
government was basically shut down. I was seeing and knew that it was functioning very
smoothly, that Secretary Mineta was there ordering the planes down, and the Vice President and
President were in constant communication, that the National Security Advisor was beginning the
process of pulling together the national security team, that the continuity of government plans
and the continuity of operations plans were being implemented. So I was seeing how smoothly
the government was functioning; yet I realized the view the public was getting was quite

And so I tried to call the President because I knew that if I had a chance to talk with him,
that he would probably be fine with me calling a reporter just to get the word out that the
government was functioning well. And that was another one of the most chilling moments of the
day for me. It was when Air Force One was --right after the threat had been received, and they
were apparently doing some defensive maneuvers. Of course, we didn't know that at the time.
And the military operator came back to me and, in a voice that to me sounded very shaken, said,
ma'am, I'm sorry, we can't reach Air Force One. And that was after the Vice President had
communicated to me that there had been a threat against the plane. I later found out that it was

not as credible a threat as we thought at the time. But, of course, at the time it was very

Q What did that mean to you?

MS. HUGHES: Well, it was just a — the Towers had been hit, the Pentagon had been hit,
there were all kinds of reports still at the time about possibly car bombs and other planes, and
then suddenly, the operator said, we can't reach Air Force One. And you just have to wonder
what is happening. In the early hours we still didn't have any idea exactly what was happening.
We knew, as Andy so succinctly put it, that America was under attack.

Q When the President arrived from Offutt Air Force Base, you were among the first
people that he saw. Can you characterize him? We see him come off the helicopter in the
videotape; he is clearly angry. That is the expression that he's wearing. He walks into the Oval,
he sees you— what is the first thing he says?

MS. HUGHES: I don't remember exactly what he said. I walked down, because we had
talked while he was on the plane flying back and be had basically dictated and given me some
thoughts about what he wanted to say in his address to the country. He had felt very strongly,
and I had felt very strongly, that he needed to address the nation that night; that we'd been
through a horrible, horrible experience and that people needed to hear from the President. And
so he had talked with me about what he wanted to say, and I had worked on — one of our
speech writers, Mike Gerson, our chief speechwriter, had worked on some ideas some other
people had contributed some ideas, and then the President talked with me directly about what he
wanted to say. And I sort of pulled that all together.

And I met him on the porch, there outside the Oval Office, as he walked back. And he
had called again from the helicopter, wanting to see the draft of his address to the nation. And so
I walked down there to meet him. And I think I had the same feeling that all Americans did that
I just felt an enormous sense of relief to see our President back at the White House, to see him
walk across that lawn, and to see that familiar picture of the President landing by helicopter on
the South Lawn, walking back into the Oval Office. To me, it was a very reassuring sight.

He was very determined. The way I describe it — people ask me all the time, did he
change. And you don't develop those kind of qualities of leadership in an instant. I say that he
was more so. He's always been very determined and very dedicated and very disciplined. He
was more so. He's always been very energetic; he was more so.

I told you that he, in the days afterward, one morning greeted me by saying, let me tell
you how to do your job today, and he was just totally in command. And that's the way I found
him throughout the week. I really felt that he carried the rest of us through. He was so in
command, he was laser-focused. He was asking questions, he was probing, trying to find out,
trying to assess, very much in charge the morning after September 11th, the September 12th

I remember going in for our morning meeting that I have with him, and I was all worried
about the first time he'd see the press, and there was going to be a Cabinet meeting and we
needed to have a statement. And he stopped me and he said, wait, let's talk about the big picture
first. A faceless enemy has declared war on the United States of America. We're at war, and this
is a different kind of war and we've got to think about how to communicate that to the American

So he just had a very — he very clearly had a sense at every step of exactly what he
wanted to say and exactly what he wanted to communicate, and the importance of
communicating that.

Q Let's go back to the first address from the Oval Office. It is just 12 hours after the
attacks, and he states in his speech that we're going to go after not only these terrorists, but
anyone who harbors terrorists in the world — a huge change. How did that come about so
quickly? Where did that corne from?

MS. HUGHES: Well, Scott, that was a matter of policy that had been worked on. Our
national security team, under Condi Rice's direction, had been working on policy to deal with al
Qaeda. And at some point earlier in the summer, the President had apparently said to them —
and I didn't hear this directly, but at a National Security Council meeting it was relayed to me the
President had basically said to them, I'm tired of hearing threat after threat after threat; I want a
comprehensive strategy, I want to think through a comprehensive way to deal with al Qaeda.
And so as part of the preparations, as part of pulling that altogether, our national security team
had been working on that. And I think that's where that came from, that they had — the feeling
was strongly that clearly we knew that terror had found a home in Afghanistan, where it was
basically, the terror network was basically a parasite operating off the host government in

And so I think both Condi in the policy points and the President felt that it was very
important initially to set that tone for the world, to let people know that it was the beginning of
what he said later, which is you're either with us or against us. You have a choice to make. And
I think he felt that very clearly and very strongly from the early moments.

I mean, one of the things that surprises me, looking back, is how clearly he saw
everything so early that first day. He said, we're at war. He said, we have to rally the world. He
said, you're a terrorist if you harbor a terrorist. He just - he talked about that this was a different
kind of war. As he flew over the Pentagon that night, he said, you're looking at the face of war
in the 21st century, it's a very different kind of war. And as we worked on speeches later, we
looked back, and as I looked at my notes from that day, realized how many of the themes that he
would return to over the next weeks really he instinctively hit on that very first day.

Q Be honest —

MS. HUGHES: Wait a minute - be honest, now, that's a cynic for you. (Laughter.)

Q You didn't hear the rest of the question. What did the President want to change in
the first draft of that first address from the Oval Office? When he saw the speech, what was he
dissatisfied with?

MS. HUGHES: Well, the sentence about harboring terrorists, I had sort of embellished it
a little. I think I had said we won't nurture, encourage, or something, kind of made it — and he
felt that it was too extended, it needed to be more clear, more direct. And I think he marked
through that. There were a couple of things that changed. On the plane, when he was on the
plane, he had talked about whether he wanted to describe this as a war. And he had made the
decision, because one of the initial drafts had talked about this being acts of war against the
United States. And he decided that the primary tone he wanted to strike that night was
reassurance, the time that night we had to show resolve, we had to reassure people, we had to let
them know by talking about what was being done that government was functioning, banks were
opening, that we would be okay. And so he felt his primary mission that night was reassurance.
And he chose deliberately not to use the word, war, that evening. He used it then the next

Q The staff was putting it in the speech, but the President was taking it out?

MS. HUGHES: Well, we actually didn't ever put it actually in. It was submitted early on
and I talked to the President about it on the plane, and he decided he did not want to use that
word that evening. And so it didn't really make it in the draft that went to him.

Q Why not? America was ready to go to war by that time.

MS. HUGHES: Well, again, I think that he felt that his primary role was to reassure the
country that we had been through — you know the headline that would have resulted, "Bush says
we're at war." I think that he felt his primary mission that night was to reassure people and to let
them know that we were going to come through this, that we were — he was very tough -- we're
going to find who did it, we're going to go after anybody who is a terrorist, anybody who harbors
terrorists. He was very resolute and very tough. But he chose not to use that word that night,
and used it the next day. I think he thought maybe people needed some time to absorb what all
had happened.

Q What sort of discussion was there about putting the 23rd Psalm in that speech?

MS. HUGHES: Scott, you asked me about that earlier, and I — it was in the draft that
we showed him. I don't know that he said that to me, that he wanted a scripture in there, or
whether or just instinctively knew that he would have liked to have a scripture in there. He is a
person of faith. We're a country whose citizens rely on their faith for strength. We are one
nation under God, despite what one judge, who the vast majority of people disagree with, has
said. And so I think that he felt that at many moments in our nation's history, when we have
looked to strength and reassurance, we have looked to God. And I think he felt that was an
appropriate tone to set, to quote scripture on this historic night.

Q You know, there's something that the camera doesn't record about the President's
statement to the nation that night, and that is what happened after, when he said, good night, and
God bless America. What happened in the room after that?

MS. HUGHES: He thanked the camera crew. He's a very thoughtful person, he always
thanks people. He thanked the camera crew. He stood up — there's a picture ~ I don't know that
I recall this independently of the picture — there's a picture of us standing at the door, and it's
dark outside and so it must have been right after the statement. And we walked over to a
meeting of the National Security Council, and my recollection is he was eager to get there.

At the first meeting of the National Security Council that afternoon, the CIA Director had
talked about the fact that the method of the attack had been similar to the kind of methods al
Qaeda had used in the past. And the President, of course, had wanted the FBI and the CIA and
basically all hands on deck, for everybody, everyone one in the field to try to get as much
intelligence, as much information as we could. He was very focused on finding out, getting the
information, who did this, gathering all the pieces of information that we had.

So my recollection is he was basically — that was over, and now it was time to go to the
next National Security meeting, and he was thinking ahead to the next step. I don't remember
any reflection about the address.

Q The morning after the attacks, he is using the word, "war." What's changed there

MS. HUGHES: I don't know that it's changed. I think that it, again, was a process of —
it's almost like when you endure a terrible shock, there's some stages you go through to absorb it.
There's horrible sadness, there's grief, there's anger. And I think that there was just an instinctive
sense that the first night was a night to show resolve, to help reassure people. And the next day,
in the morning meeting, he talked to me about preparing the American people for what was
ahead, and what was ahead was a different kind of war against an enemy unlike any we had ever
faced. But he clearly was focused on the fact that that education process needed to begin on
September 12th.

On September 11th I think he felt his role, again, as Commander-in-Chief, as our

President, as our national leader, was to reassure, to help let the American people know we're
going to be okay; and the next day, start the process of educating about what we were up against,
and the new kind of enemy that we were facing.

Q And preparing this country for war.

MS. HUGHES: And preparing the country for war.

Q Did you go on the Pentagon trip that day?

MS. HUGHES: I did.

Q Describe to me what you saw in the President's reaction when he was actually
standing in front of that building.

MS. HUGHES: It was — all those days, when I think back on them, all of our emotions I
think were so raw. It was s,o painful to look at that hole, that gaping hole in the side of the
building. And I remember a couple of the rescuers just in tears, saying, you wouldn't believe
what it was like in there, and a pretty tough experience for the rescue groups who were moved to
tears by the horror of what they were seeing.

At the same time, while we were there, I remember a great inspirational moment when a
group of firemen up on the roof of the Pentagon unfurled the flag down the side. It was an act of
almost defiance and pride in our country. So I just remember it being very horrifying to see the
building, and imagined what it must have been like for the people who were there.

Q Were you also on the trip to the Washington Hospital Burn Center?

MS. HUGHES: I was.

Q That's something that there is not — there was not a lot of coverage of at the time,
for obvious reasons. Paint that picture for me, Karen, of the President and the First Lady in there
with those people, who had been so grievously wounded.

MS. HUGHES: Well, I vividly remember the director, the head doctor there saying to
the President, I wish we had more patients, and thinking that that summed up — he wished there
had been more survivorss in other words, that they didn't feel like they had enough people there
to be taking care of. There was a very poignant moment where a very bandaged, injured man
very slowly raised his hand to salute his Commander-in-Chief. And the President held the
salute, waiting for him to be able to return it. And he's the one who started it, the man who was
injured in his bed.

Of course, there were relatives in the halls. But I think that, by and large, the feelings of
the families there, although their relatives were very grievously injured, was that they were
grateful that they were alive, because they realized so many others had not lived. But it was a
very emotional visit.

Of course, at the end of that visit came one of the moments that I most remember. We
got back to the White House and Andy Card walked out and came and sat in the limousine. And
I was a couple cars back and I noticed and I thought, that's really unusual. And then the
President and Andy got out of the limousine and walked back into the Oval Office, and Condi
and I went and joined them in there. And the Director of the Secret Service, Brian Stafford, was
standing in the doorway of the Oval Office, and he basically said, Mr. President, you need to
leave. There's been another threat against the White House. And the President looked at him
and said, I'm not leaving.

And I think there was a little back-and-forth, but not much. He said again, I'm not
leaving. And a few minutes later he said, and by the way, I'm hungry. I think I'll have a

hamburger. And I remember trying to lighten the moment — he'd been dieting, and I said, why
don't you put some cheese on it, because I figured it was — it was a moment where he was clearly
- he felt he needed to be there, he wanted to be there, and he wasn't going to let a threat drive
him out of there.

Q Terrorists weren't going to be setting the President's schedule anymore.

MS. HUGHES: That's right.

Q Point of fact here. Some people were evacuated from the White House in that
moment. Wasn't there a decision taken that some nonessential —

MS. HUGHES: We made a decision that we would be evacuating all of the nonessential
personnel, yes, because the threat deemed to be serious. Now, the President also asked that there
-be some additional checking, and I think ultimately we did not do a full evacuation. But at that
moment we did decide, based on the information we had that we were going to be evacuating —

Q And the President sat down at his desk?

MS. HUGHES: The President went back to work.

Q Tell me about the National Cathedral. How was — well, let me just get to the end
of the National Cathedral, if I may - Battle Hymn of the Republic, who decided to have that?

MS. HUGHES: Well, we had several people working on the service. We had a couple of
— Tim Gageline (sp) who does a lot of our liaison with the church community, and I think a
couple of other people were working on developing a service. And they brought it to me. And I
remember — the President had talked to me about it first and asked me to talk to Mrs. Bush, so I
had talked to Mrs. Bush about the type of service we wanted. And she said to me, I think music
is very reassuring in times of crisis, so I think we ought to have a lot of music.

And so when they brought me a draft of the service, I looked and I realized I didn't
recognize too many of the hymns. And I said, you know, I think we need some really — hymns
that people know, some reassuring hymns. And I remember thinking about "Oh, God, our help
in ages past, our hope in things to come, our shelter from the stormy blast." And I thought we
needed a shelter from the stormy blast. And so I asked them to go get the words to that hymn,
and I thought we should sing that hymn. And then I thought — at the end, I thought through the
service, at the end of the service, maybe we should sound a note of defiance. And I knew it
would be a note of defiance, and so I went to both the President and Mrs. Bush and asked
whether — how they felt about ending the service with the Battle Hymn of the Republic. And
they both thought that was a good idea, and so we decided to go forward with it.

Q I'm going to leap ahead to New York. The President arrives at Ground Zero, and
he's not supposed to make any remarks, it's not in the plan. How did that change?

MS. HUGHES: Well, first of all, we arrived there, and that's another moment that I'll
never forget. Because no matter how many times you'd seen the pictures on television, I had a
physical reaction when we came around the corner — my hand just went to my mouth, it was just
so horrible. It's just - there's no way to describe what it was like to actually see it, even though
we'd seen it on television. To actually be there — you can smell it from miles away. In the
helicopter we started smelling it. I remember we were so far away that I thought it couldn't
possibly be the burning. And I said, my throats itching and it smells horrible, and I said to Ari,
could that possibly be the smoke. And he said, no, we're too far away. As we got closer and
closer, it got worse and worse — and it was.

So we're standing there looking at the building, and then we went over it. And one of our
advance team members, Nina Bishop, went to — realized that the crowd was — the crowd was all
yelling things, go get 'em, Mr. President; we're with you, Mr. President; God bless America.
You could just tell the crowd was so emotional. These were people who had worked their hearts
out for, at that point, it was three and a half days. They were exhausted. None of them had slept.
They were all desperately hoping that they would find survivors. And it was just this energy and
feeling that Nina Bishop realized that he's got to speak to these people. —

And so she went and looked for a bullhorn, and found one, and I think came to several --
she came to Andy Card and Karl and eventually -- they couldn't find me at the moment, but
eventually found me -- and said, we think the President needs to stand up and say something.
And we all agreed that was a — he should.

And I remember watching him get up there and hold the bullhorn. And people in the
crowd — it was hard to hear, even with the bullhorn. .And one of the crowd was yelling, we can't
hear you, we can't hear you! And he said the famous words that were just totally — I remember
thinking, that is vintage George W. Bush, that's the man I've worked for, for eight years. Such
compassion, such resolve — I can hear you, the world hears you, and the people who knocked
down these buildings are going to hear from all of us soon. And I just remember thinking, in
those three sentences, that described the man I've worked for, for all these years better than
anything I could have ever written, or anybody could have ever written for him. And it was
totally from just his gut.

Q Look back on that scene. Paint the picture for me. It looks on the videotape
rather chaotic around the President. I mean, not the kind of scene you see the President in; not
the kind of scene you see the Secret Service wants to see.

MS. HUGHES: No, it was very — it was very spontaneous. It was not planned. It was
not planned that the President would speak. I mean, one of the things you worry about when you
take the President to a site like that, you don't want to be a distraction. I mean, there was work
going on. They obviously needed a break and they were taking a break, but Nina realized that
these people really wanted to hear the President. They'd been at this grim task, at this horrible
work frantically, they were exhausted, and they needed to hear from the President. And so she,
very insightfully, realized that, and went and found a bullhorn so that he could speak.

Q Moving forward to the Javits Center. There are very few images of those
meetings with the President and the families. Set the scene for me. Tell me what that room
looks like, as the President and the rest of you walk in.

MS. HUGHES: Well, we walked in, and only very few of us went in because, obviously,
we were trying to be very respectful of the families. And we went in and it was a big room, sort
of a plain room — sort of a makeshift room, I think, that had been set up with some drapes in a
big — a concrete floor, in some sort of big hall, almost kind of like a convention center hall. So,
big room, concrete, drapes. And little family groups sort of in huddles around the room. A lot of
them weeping. Just — it felt very heavy and sad, sober, and all of the relatives of firefighters and
police officers who had not been home for — this is Friday, so since Tuesday.

And the President just slowly started going by group and talking with them. And I
remember seeing a veteran advance man who has worked in presidential advance, I think he'd
done it back in the '80s, so for 20 years, walking out of the room with tears streaming down his
face, saying, that's the saddest thing I've ever seen. And I knew he'd seen a lot.

And I was standing in the back of the room with Reverend — Calwell, a friend of the
President's, and he's from Texas. And he said to me, he said that the President is so remarkable
at this, and he's better at this than most pastors I've ever seen. I don't know how he did it. I
couldn't have done it. I had to leave the room several times. It was just the weight of the
emotion in that room was unbearable, almost.

And yet, by the time the President left, the atmosphere had visibly lightened. I think he
was able to bring some measure of comfort to the families. And at the end there were some
smiles and there were some hugs, and he was signing pictures and saying, your loved one won't
believe this when he or she hears that you met me. And of course, what broke my heart was
there were so many — there were a lot of children there and it seemed like a lot of them were
little boys — (inaudible) — it was very hard for me to look at the children in that room.

But, again, by the time — the President was there — I think he was scheduled to be there
30 minutes, and it was almost two hours. By the time he left, there was a noticeable difference.
So I think for a short time, he was able in some way, the fact that he was there and cared, was
able to express the love and -- he was able to sort of hug them on behalf of our country, and
embrace them on behalf of all their fellow Americans who were with them in this horrible time.

Q Did anyone on the staff say, gee, Mr. President, we're running awful late?

MS. HUGHES: I don't think anybody -- (inaudible) --1 think he was clearly doing what
he wanted. As you know, he is famously on time. I can count on one hand probably the times
he's been late since I've — and I've worked for him for a long time. But that was one day where
time didn't really matter. He was trying to help comfort hurting people the best way he could. I
don't know how he did it. I think he had to have been just totally emotionally exhausted.

Q And he was going to see every last person in the room.

MS. HUGHES: Every person in the room. And, again, I think he felt he wanted to
embrace them on behalf of our country, and did so.

And for me — we left there and it was dark. We had stayed so late. We went to see some
workers — I think that was before we left the families — it might have been after. But anyway,
when we left New York that night it was dark. And -- it's still hard for me to talk about this —
the motorcade drove down 42nd Street, and there were thousands of candles, and people were
holding the candles up and shouting, God bless you, Mr. President; God bless America; we're
praying for you. It was just an unbelievable experience to imagine New York City, of all places,
just the outpouring — it was just incredible. It was an incredible moment.

I emailed friends later and said that the day had been full of such horror first, and such
terrible sadness, but in the end, inspiration. To see how strong, how determined Americans
were, and New Yorkers were, to rise above and emerge strengthened from the horror.

Q Let's talk a little bit about the speech to the joint session of Congress. What did
the President need to accomplish in that speech?

MS. HUGHES: I think he needed to define the threat. I remember when we first talked
about the speech he came back from Camp David, after the New York visit — he spent the
weekend meeting with the National Security Council, the war council. And he came back on
Sunday to the White House and had called and asked me to meet him there to talk about — well,
anyway, he had called and asked me to meet him at the White House on Sunday. And we — it
was that Sunday — and he did a little press conference on the lawn, and went upstairs to his
office in the residence. And he began outlining some of what he wanted to say. He talked about
that he wanted to describe the threat, define the enemy we faced.

And like a lot of Americans, when I came to Washington in January of 2001,1 didn't
have much foreign policy experience. I didn't know much about -- I'd read about the Taliban a
little bit, I knew a little bit about the terror network, but I didn't know very much. And so I felt —
and the President knew that we had to make it very real to the American people the type of threat
we faced, the kind of people we were up against. We had to make that very clear. And so you
saw some references in the speech where this was a regime so controlling that they decided how
long people's beards could be, that people couldn't own television sets, even small displays of joy
were prohibited.

So we had to really — we had to rally ~ there was a lot to do in that speech - we had to
rally the world, we had to rally the country, we had to define what we were up against and why
people hated us. We had to prepare the country for what was ahead.

Q Was that the speech in which he wanted to tell you how to do your job that day?

MS. HUGHES: Well, he'd been telling me — one day he told me he wanted to do my job,

Q Let me ask you, Karen, because I want to capture that. Which speech was that
related to when he said, I want to tell you how to do your job today?

MS. HUGHES: I don't know which speech it was, but I remember it was one morning in
the week of September 10th. I walked in again for our daily meeting; he looked up — he was
sitting at his desk writing some notes, and he looked up and said, let me tell you how to do your
job today. And he had something that he wanted to communicate. And it struck me that it
wasn't just me, he was telling all of us how to do our jobs that day. And that's the way he really
led us and carried us through the weeks following September 10th. 1 don't specifically remember
what the subject then was that he told me how to do my job, but it was one of those days.

Q He had specific ideas on how to communicate to the American people and, in fact,
time and again, he thought the language that the communications team was coming up with was
a little too vague, a little too complicated, and he keeps simplifying it.

MS. HUGHES: Right. Right. Well, he clearly, from the very beginning, and I think it's
in the very first night's speech, saw this as a contest between good and evil. And he — it's a
titanic struggle between forces of good and forces of evil. And he saw that in very clear terms.
And he -- 1 always call his communications style eloquent simplicity, because I think it speaks
volumes. It's very simple, but it speaks volumes.

He talked about that first night seeing the worst of human nature, but having to bring out
the best in our country in response to it, in the actions of the rescue workers and heroic police
and firefighters, and the passengers on that flight in Pennsylvania.

So I think that he is an effective communicator because he was able to speak very clearly,
with great moral clarity. And that's one of the things he also accomplished on September 11th in
his first speech. He spoke with great moral clarity to the world. You're either with us or against
us. And he spoke with great moral clarity to the Taliban -- here's what's required of you. And I
think that's a hallmark of his communication style.

Q When the President stood before the joint session of Congress, stood before the
nation, what was at stake in that speech?

MS. HUGHES: Well, I mean, we all realized that it would probably be the most historic
speech of his presidency and of many of our lifetimes. Our nation had — went through a terrible
attack; he had to define what we were up against, he had to rally the country, rally the world.
And he understood the historic importance of the speech. He had talked to me about it first on a
Sunday, and I didn't call our chief speechwriter at home that night because it was a Sunday, and I
view Sundays as family and church days, so I was — I figured, well, I'll just talk to him about it
the next morning.

So the next morning, when I saw the President, he said, have you all started on the
speech, and I said, well, we'll get right on it. And he said, well, I want to see a draft by tonight.
And I said, well, Mr. President, that's going to be difficult, if not impossible. Because our
speechwriters like to take time, particularly with a speech like that to a joint session of Congress,

I think they'd want to take some time in order to develop it. And he looked at me and said, by
7:00 p.m.

And so when I called our chief speechwriter to talk him through the outline the President
had given me the night before, I said, the President wants to see a draft tonight. He said, that's
impossible. I said, I've tried that, it didn't work. (Laughter.) And so, in fact, he said, this is not
really the way to do a speech, that we can't possibly turn out a good product in that short a time.

So they got the draft ~ they did get us a draft that night. And the President and I talked
about it. I've always laughed about this idea of the President being a delegator, because he does
give people assignments, though with a heavy emphasis on holding them accountable for making
sure those gets done. And if you're working on one, you hear from him a lot. And so I talked to
him several times at home Monday night about the speech. And the next morning — he'd asked
me to work on some parts of it, and the next morning he said, how's the speech coming. And I
said, well, I've been working on it. And he said, right, well, that's priority, you'll be working on
it, okay?

And he ran into me in the hall an hour or so later, and he said, how's the speech coming.
And I'd been in a meeting and so I couldn't mislead him, and I said, well, I'm going to be
working on it. And he said, well, right now, right. And I said, well, no, actually, sir, I've got to
go to a message meeting. And he — his eyes twinkling, he got about two inches from my face
and said, and you think a message meeting is as important as my speech to an historic joint
session of Congress. Well, not anymore I didn't. (Laughter.) So I went right — I cancelled the
message meeting and went to work on the speech.

But he, I think, realized the importance of the speech, that not only America, but the
world was going to be watching. And I think he did a marvelous job -- (inaudible) — of leading
the world.

Q As he left to give the speech, I imagine you gave him some advice.

MS. HUGHES: I talked with him probably 30 or 45 minutes before he left, he checked
in with me by phone. I did not go to watch the speech. I decided I wanted to watch it from
home like most of America would. And I talked to him right afterwards --

Q What did he say to you afterwards? Did he think he did well?

MS. HUGHES: I told him I thought he'd done well. I was very proud of him. I thought
he had just done a magnificent job for the country.


Q Back, way back to September 11th, the President makes a statement at the school,
makes a statement at Barksdale. And then a decision is made that another statement needs to be
made, and that was yours. How did that decision come about?

MS. HUGHES: Wei], I think it was actually before the President made a statement at
Barksdale that both the Vice President and President knew that we needed to brief the country on
the activities of the government. And as I told you, I'd been frustrated, Mary Matalin and I - the
Vice President's Counsel and I were frustrated because we felt that the accurate news reporting,
well, the White House has been evacuated, and the State Department has been evacuated — it
was all accurate, but it created a public perception that basically government wasn't functioning,
and that was all the public was hearing, was that buildings had been evacuated, this has
happened, downtown Washington is closed down. And so we had been frustrated that we
needed to communicate what the government was doing.

And the President and Vice President both wanted that to happen. And I don't remember
there being any discussion. I think it was basically — the feeling was that I was viewed as
someone who had been a spokesman for the President for a long time; I'm known as being a
friend and close advisor of his, and I've spoken for him during the campaign and during Florida,
so the country was accustomed to seeing me speak for him. And so they felt that I was the
logical one to go out and update the American people on what the government was doing.

Q And you wanted to do it at the White House.

MS. HUGHES: We wanted to do it at the White House. The Secret Service did not feel
it was safe.

Q They didn't want to bring all the reporters into the White House briefing room.

MS. HUGHES: That's right.

Q What did you think of the reaction that the public had to the statement you made
that day?

MS. HUGHES: What do you mean? I'm not sure what --

Q Well, the President had spoken at the school, he'd spoken at Barksdale, but was
out of sight more than you would have preferred, no doubt. Some people said that when you
came out and spoke to the nation, that they were hoping to see the President, hoping to see the
Vice President.

MS. HUGHES: Well, I felt the President and the Vice President were conducting a
National Security Council meeting. They were trying to identify who had done this and make
sure that we were protected from additional attacks. The President had already spoken twice to
the country. And I think the President and Vice President both felt that it was appropriate for me
to go out and update the country on the activities our government was taking. And at the
moment I actually spoke, both the President and the Vice President were in the midst of a
National Security Council meeting that I left to go update the country. And I think it was far
better for the country that they were in the national security meeting and that I was doing the
briefing, as opposed to one of them not being — participating in those important decisions.

Q You know the President perhaps better than anyone else at the White House.
How has he been changed by this experience? There must be, from these searing days, changes
in the man.

MS. HUGHES: You know, again, it's hard to describe changes in terms of difference. I
say, more so. He is incredibly resolute and determined, as you saw in your interview with him.
He, again, sees this as a titanic struggle between good and evil. He knows this is something that
will define this country for a long period of time. He believes he's been given a mission and that
he has — with every fiber of his being, he is going to act to protect our country and our freedoms.'
And I think he's more determined than I've ever seen him.

You asked me earlier today, was there ever a moment when he sort of s-aid, why me, or —
not one. And it's not that he didn't have the opportunity. I went into him — I was worried about
him. As a friend, I couldn't — I knew the pressures that were on all of us — I couldn't imagine, I
can't imagine, even though I watch it every day, the enormous pressure and burden that is on his
shoulders. And I walked into the Oval Office one day that first week and said, how are you, Mr.
President — just thinking as a friend if he wanted to sort of — be able to let down for a moment.
And he looked at me and he said, I have never been more determined. I've never been more
clear about what I have to do.
And so I think that he is absolutely focused, again, with every fiber of his being,
committed to protecting our freedoms.

Q Perfect. Wonderful.

END 7:55 P.M. PDT