Bush in the Economist

Last week’s economist has a ferocious review of the Bush years.

HE LEAVES the White House as one of the least popular and most divisive presidents in American history. At home, his approval rating has been stuck in the 20s for months; abroad, George Bush has presided over the most catastrophic collapse in America’s reputation since the second world war. The American economy is in deep recession, brought on by a crisis that forced Mr Bush to preside over huge and unpopular bail-outs.

Well worth the read. Keep it around in case you ever start to think maybe he wasn’t so bad…

Great Leaders

Hands up who, in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006, when the president said “Absolutely, we’re winning” thought the mainstream media was distorting the news to make it appear that the president was misleading the public?


No? Me neither.

“Absolutely, we’re winning,” the president said during an October 2006 news conference. “We’re winning.” His confident remarks came during one of the lowest points of the war, at a time when anyone with a TV screen knew that the war was going badly. On Feb. 5, 2005, as he was moving up from his first-term role as Rice’s deputy to become national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley had offered a private, confidential assessment of the problems of Bush’s Iraq-dominated first term. “I give us a B-minus for policy development,” he said, “and a D-minus for policy execution.” The president later told me that he knew that the Iraq “strategy wasn’t working.” So how could the United States be winning a war with a failing strategy?

Maybe you had some doubts about whether Iraq was involved in 9/11? You wouldn’t have been the only one.

Vice President Cheney was urging Secretary of State Colin Powell to consider seriously the possibility that Iraq might be connected to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Powell found the case worse than ridiculous and scornfully concluded that Cheney had what Powell termed a “fever.” (In private, Powell used to call the Pentagon policy shop run by Undersecretary of Defense Douglas J. Feith, who shared Cheney’s burning interest in supposed ties between al-Qaeda and Iraq, a “Gestapo office.”)

Everyone has doubts though, right?

During a December 2003 interview with Bush, I read him a quote from his closest ally, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, about the experience of receiving letters from family members of slain soldiers who had written that they hated him. “And don’t believe anyone who tells you when they receive letters like that, they don’t suffer any doubt,” Blair had said.

“Yeah,” Bush replied. “I haven’t suffered doubt.”

“Is that right?” I asked. “Not at all?”

“No,” he said.

Bob Woodward has published a list of 10 leadership tips for Obama illustrated with episodes from the Bush presidency.  It’s fascinating reading.

In 2004-06, the CIA was reporting that Iraq was getting more violent and less stable. By mid-2006, Bush’s own NSC deputy for Iraq, Meghan O’Sullivan, had a blunt assessment of conditions in Baghdad: “It’s hell, Mr. President.” But the Pentagon remained optimistic and reported that a strategy of drawing down U.S. troops and turning security over to the Iraqis would end in “self-reliance” in 2009.

A Wise Man said

Today, we affirm a new commitment to live out our nation’s promise through civility, courage, compassion and character.

America, at its best, matches a commitment to principle with a concern for civility. A civil society demands from each of us good will and respect, fair dealing and forgiveness.

Some seem to believe that our politics can afford to be petty because, in a time of peace, the stakes of our debates appear small.

But the stakes for America are never small. If our country does not lead the cause of freedom, it will not be led. If we do not turn the hearts of children toward knowledge and character, we will lose their gifts and undermine their idealism. If we permit our economy to drift and decline, the vulnerable will suffer most.

We must live up to the calling we share. Civility is not a tactic or a sentiment. It is the determined choice of trust over cynicism, of community over chaos. And this commitment, if we keep it, is a way to shared accomplishment.

An Unlikely Hero

I have read the story many times (but never in this much detail) and it still amazes me. Who’d’ve thought that, one day, we’d think of John Ashcroft as a hero of the people?

Gonzales, in an attempt to persuade Ashcroft to sign the certification, simply misled Ashcroft. Gonzales told Ashcroft he had met earlier that day with congressional leaders who, he claimed, supported the continuation of the program without Department of Justice approval, and were determined to find a legislative remedy that would address the legal concerns of Comey and others. Several of the legislative leaders who had been at that meeting with Gonzales and Vice President Cheney say that Gonzales’s account of what transpired was simply not true.

In response to Gonzales’s and Card’s gambits, Ashcroft, according to Comey, “stunned me … lifted his head off the pillow,” and then told Gonzales and Card, “I’m not the attorney general.” Mustering all the energy he had left, he pointed toward Comey and resolutely said, “There is the attorney general.”

Even in the face of Ashcroft’s refusal to certify the program as being within the law, President Bush initially reauthorized the surveillance program on his own.

In this telling, the who thing was ordered by Bush.

That evening, the FBI logged a call from the president of the United States. No one had the nerve to refuse him. The phone rang at Ashcroft’s bedside. Bush told his ailing cabinet chief that Alberto Gonzales and Andy Card were on their way.

Apparently, Gonzales’s strategy is to claim that he was just following orders. This was Bush gets away using executive priviledge or – more likely – a free pardon from the incoming pres and Gonzales gets charged with a lesser crime.

My Fellow Americans

My fellow Americans,

By the end of today, American, Australian and British forces will have launched a large scale invasion of Iraq – a country in the Middle East about which you know very little.

We have tried, over the last weeks and months, to convince you that there is a gathering danger – we never said ‘imminent’ – and that Saddam Hussein will launch an attack using Weapons of Mass Destruction but the reality is that we have very little evidence of that. We do have photos of two suspicious looking Winnebegos that some of our experts tell us could be used to launch weather balloons (but that’s exactly what Saddam would want us to believe if he were trying to conceal chemical weapons!)

You’ll note that we never actually said ‘nuclear weapons’ and if some of my staff have mentioned ‘mushroom clouds’, it’s not their fault if the more gullible among you connected that with our claim that Saddam has nuclear weapons because, clearly, she was thinking of something else.

It’s also not Tony Blair’s fault if, when he said that Saddam could launch a chemical attack with 45 minutes, people would somehow associate that with the whole Weapons of Mass Destruction claim. How was he to know that the press would put it on the front page without noting that he was talking about battlefield weapons?

No, the truth is that the WMD claim is just the ‘bureaucratic reason’ for the invasion. We have been planning this thing for years – despite our recent protestations to the contrary – and the 9/11 attacks, although unrelated to Saddam or to Iraq gave us just the pretext we needed.

We are pretty confident that we’ll find a WWII era shell or two and we’ll claim that that’s what we were talking about all the time and, if we don’t find one of those, we’ll claim that he probably moved them all to Syria. Heh! Heh!

With any luck – and a bit of help from Fox News – 63% of you will become convinced that we did actually find WMDs after all! As for the remainder, we’ll claim that everyone believed Saddam had WMDs – even the French. After all, you won’t remember the distinction between ‘we need to let the inspectors finish the job’ and ‘we are sure he has nuclear weapons’. And he certainly did have chemical weapons back in 1988 – he used them on his own people – back when we were treating Saddam as a friendly. You’ll certainly forget that Rumsfeld claimed to know exactly where they were – ‘in the area of Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat’.

‘Weapons of Mass Destruction program related activities’ by themselves are not nearly scary enough to get the American people behind us which is why we have been playing up the ‘Al Qaeda has ties with Iraq’ angle. We only have one questionable account of someone meeting someone or other in Prague but, if the worst comes to the worst, we can just repeat the story about a senior Al Qaeda operative who went to hospital in Baghdad- that’s clearly a link! And perhaps our invasion will attract a whole bunch of Al Qaeda sympathizers to Iraq – maybe it will even create some – and then we can claim that we are fighting in Iraq to defeat the people who wouldn’t be in Iraq if we hadn’t invaded in the first place? It sounds silly now but, trust me, in a couple of years people will be saying this stuff with a straight face.

Both of these reasons, though, will soon be forgotten and we’ll be justifying the war by referring to the terrible attrocities that Saddam committed while he was ‘Our Man’.

It’s funny how, when you think about it, all the realists, for years to come, will be justifying this war for humanitarian reasons and, if it goes badly, it will discredit the idea of liberal intervention for decades! Hope no other situations arise in the next couple years where a humanitarian intervention really is required or we’ll look pretty silly. <gulp>

The good news is that the costs are expected to be low – Wolfie expects that the war will pay for itself. It certainly won’t cost $100 billion like some people are saying (we fired Lindsey already). Rumsfeld says he’s not sure whether it will last six days or six weeks – it certainly won’t last six months – and the idea that it will take several hundred thousands of troops to secure the country…well that’s just laughable (we fired Shinseki too).

No, my fellow Americans, we are at a turning point in America’s history. After 9/11, when we have the overwhelming support of almost every country in the world – when even Jaques Chirac said that ‘Today, we are all Americans’ – and after the invasion of Afghanistan when even all the muslim countries were cooperating to overcome the Taliban – when there was unprecedented cooperation in the War on Terror and we vowed that we would catch Bin Laden ‘Dead or Alive’ – it is unthinkable that we would squander that goodwill or that our approval rating in pro-American Jordan will drop to 9% or that Bin Laden’s approval rating will exceed mine or that or that tensions between Europe and America will rise to the levels not seen in 50 years or that our armed forces would be stretched beyond sustainable levels or that my administration will routinely slur our political opposition as pro-terrorist or that 4000 American soldiers will die or that the war will cost several trillion dollars or that hundreds of thousands of Iraqis will die or that the occupation of Iraq might continue for decades to come.

Given that all of those things are unthinkable, my fellow Americans, I hope I can count on your support until January 2009 when the whole deal becomes the next president’s problem.

But, my fellow Americans, when times get tough and those liberals are reminding you of all these facts and you vaguely remember that you believed my lines and that you questioned your fellow American’s patriotism and that you can barely keep straight all the various justifications and the Plan for Victory and the Strategy for Victory and the temporary surge that lasts for years, just remember that you were all for it and that there was no way to know then what you know now!

God Bless America!

Prediction from The Ministry of Truth (futures department)

Before the end of this year, the Bush administration will claim that the War in Iraq is nothing to do with the War on Terror and that no-one had ever claimed that success in Iraq was crucial to the War on Terror. The whole thing was made up by the sneaky liberal press to discredit the administration.

Bush will personally make this announcement in a Press Conference and he will use that condescending tone that says “Not only am I right, I have always been right and I don’t know why you are implying that I might have ever suggested otherwise” (like he did on Monday).