“ … we don’t have a lot of last-minute scrambling. He [Bush] likes to have trust in the process, that he believes he considers every angle—and makes a choice.”
—Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson
“This is a buttoned-down administration, perhaps the most I’ve ever seen.”
—Stephen Hess, Brookings Institution
On the morning of February 7, 2001, Robert Pickett created chaos on the southwest side of the White House grounds. The Indiana man had fired a handgun, and that brought Secret Service agents and Washington police swarming to the scene. Tourists scattered as hostage negotiators arrived. Police negotiators demanded that Pickett put the gun down. When that failed, a Secret Service agent felled him with a single bullet to his leg.
No one but the gunman was harmed in the late morning incident. Vice President Dick Cheney was at his desk, but President Bush was exercising in the White House residence. Some observers later snickered that Bush was away from his post. But for the early-to-bed, early-to-rise president, it was scarcely surprising to find him at a midday workout. Exercise has long been the core of Bush’s disciplined life, and in fact, it was the core of his change in life in 1972. “I was so out of shape,” he remembered in a cover story for Runner’s World, and he later remarked that it was his running regimen that played the key part in helping him to quit drinking and smoking.