“Weeks passed. Rumsfeld finally said yes to a meeting on January 29, two days before Bush’s deadline for tribunal proceedings. ‘I remember being astonished,’ said a regular in the detainee gatherings. ‘The president of the United States has directed that something is going to happen by a date certain. Surely it’s going to happen?’ ¶ At the appointed hour on the twenty-ninth, Rice took the head of the long mahogany table in the Situation Room. It was Bush’s seat when he attended, hers when he did not, the chair a little taller than the rest and the presidential seal on the wall behind.
“Steve Hadley, Rice’s deputy, sat opposite, across the room.
“Cheney usually took the seat to her right, but Rice did not see him today.
“Along that side of the table, in black leather swivel chairs, sat Andy Card, John Ashcroft, and George Tenet.
“To Rice’s left were Colin Powell and Air Force General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“Between them, looking sheepish in Rumsfeld’s seat, was his deputy Paul Wolfowitz.
“‘Where is the secretary?’ Rice asked.
“‘He’s unavailable,’ Wolfowitz said.
“Rice picked up her papers.
“‘We’re not going to have this meeting. We’re going to reschedule this for a date in the next week, and the principals will be present,’ she said.
“It took two weeks. Same room, same cast.
“Same question. Same answer.
“Rumsfeld was unavailable.
“Rice marched out and sent a memo, not so much an invitation as a demand. The principals would gather on Wednesday, February 25, 2004. They were running a full month now behind Bush’s deadline. The day arrived.
“The group filed in: Hadley, Card, Ashcroft, Powell, Tenet, Meyers.
“‘Where’s the secretary?’ Rice demanded.
“Wolfowitz looked as though he would rather be in that other place. Or anywhere.
“‘Unavailable,’ Wolfowitz said.
“Tenet stood up, pushing his chair back a little harder than strictly required. There are several doors to the Situation Room, and one was just behind him.
“‘This is bullshit,’ he said. ‘I’m out of here.’
“‘George, do not leave this room,’ Rice commanded.
“‘This is bull-shit,’ Tenet pronounced, more emphatic. He took a few more steps and was gone.
“Something happened to Rice’s face, control melting away . . . ”
—from Barton Gellman’s Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency (2009)