‘Inside the War Room’: Karen Hughes Discusses White House Reactions on 9/11

Episode 2: Former White House Counselor Karen Hughes on the country’s response to 9/11

Fifty-two minutes. That’s all it took to listen to this “Inside the War Room” podcast featuring former George W. Bush communications director and Counsel to the President Karen Hughes, and those 52 minutes flew by. That’s what happens when the content is of interest, historical, and reveals some insider info that is unknown to most of the general public.

Karen spent a number of years working with Texas Governor Bush. During his campaign for Governor when he was running against the extremely popular Democratic incumbent, Governor Ann Richards (even his own mother said he couldn’t beat Ann Richards), she quipped in her book, Ten Minutes From Normal, that she and George W. had worked side by side since the days when “the motorcade was only one car and he was sometimes the one driving it.”

After his unexpected win over Ms. Richards, Karen went to work for Governor Bush in Austin, a job that ran for six years, and then came the 2000 presidential campaign that landed GWB, and Karen, in the White House. They were barely eight months into that first term when, on September 11, 2001, while she was in D.C. and he was in Florida, terrorism came to our shores and killed almost 3,000 people.

Karen is frank in her discussion as she reveals some of the events that took place on September 11, when the U.S. came under attack from Muslim jihadists. An Army brat, she seemed to have exactly the demeanor needed when nerves were frayed and all were on edge during those days when it was unknown exactly who was behind the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the plane that appeared directed toward D.C. (capitol? White House?) when it crashed into the Pennsylvania countryside. In the immediate hours afterward, she was able to take the reins of communication to help the President and others inform the American people with what information was available.

The New York Times once noted, “The rule of thumb in any White House is that nobody is indispensable except the president but Karen Hughes has come as close to that description as any recent presidential aide.” As for so many at the time, 9/11 was her proving ground.

If you’ve listened to boring podcasts, this is not one of those. Give Karen a listen. She’s interesting … animated, unexpectedly down-to-earth, earnest, and shows a true calling for the job in her role to work alongside President Bush as perhaps his most respected aide and confidante.

Those fifty-two minutes flew by.

As for Karen, if you’ve never read her 2004 New York Times bestseller, Ten Minutes From Normal, you should give it a read if interested in better knowing this unique voice from the Bush #43 White House.

Oh – and Ten Minutes From Normal refers to political campaigns. In the words of Karen:

“Suddenly, after all the chaos of the convention, we’re clickity-clackiting across rural America, seeing the occasional cow, and on the second day, we’re coming into the station in this little Illinois town, and the conductor was very proud to have us on his train and he came over and very proudly announced, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, we’re ten minutes from Normal, ten minutes from normal.’ And at the time, I turned to a friend in the staff car and said, ‘If I ever write a book, that’s the title because that’s exactly how I feel about this whole amazing experience.’ “

“Inside the War Room: Case Studies in Crisis” podcasts provide true stories and new insights with guests who were key players in some of the largest and most complex events of our time.

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