Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Bush's Legacy Not Yet Defined?

From the St Petersburg Times :

In the Lincoln Bedroom, President George W. Bush likes to show off one of the most treasured historical artifacts in the White House, a handwritten copy of Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Gettysburg Address.

The building’s walls speak of past battles, victories, defeats, heartache. President George Washington’s portrait hangs in the Oval Office. Civil War Commander and two-term President Ulysses Grant is placed in Bush’s private study.

The Queen’s Bedroom offers memories of Winston Churchill, who stayed there before and after World War II, as Bush told C-SPAN, “waddling around… with a cigar in one hand, a brandy in the other, demanding attention.”

As Bush marks the Presidents Day holiday and George Washington’s 275th birthday on Monday, he faces a drumbeat of criticism for the event that will likely be a big part of his legacy — the Iraq war.

The president believes it will take some time to determine his place in the pantheon of presidents, despite the negative assessments some historians have already made.

“I don’t think you’ll really get the full history of the Bush administration until long after I’m gone. I tell people I’m reading books on George Washington and they’re still analyzing his presidency,” Bush told CBS’ “60 Minutes” in an interview last month.

Many in the current crop of historians are already prepared to declare Bush’s presidency a failure.

In a December opinion article in The Washington Post, Columbia University history professor Eric Foner wrote that Bush was likely to join mediocre presidents like Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan and Andrew Johnson.

“Even after being repudiated in the midterm elections of 1854, 1858 and 1866, respectively, they ignored major currents of public opinion and clung to flawed policies. Bush’s presidency certainly brings theirs to mind,” Foner wrote.

Foner’s article was headlined, “He’s the worst ever.”

But Vanderbilt University history professor Thomas Alan Schwartz said it was too soon to judge Bush. “Presidential reputations tend to go up and down,” he said.

He cited Dwight Eisenhower as a president whose stock has risen in the decades since he handed over power to John Kennedy in 1961.

“But Bush will face some enormous obstacles to being fully rehabilitated. Much does depend on Iraq, but even if that does not end in disaster — still an open question — the mistakes made in the occupation will be ascribed to him. Were Osama Bin Laden to be captured or killed before Bush leaves office, that could help, but the uncertainties involving Afghanistan will also hurt him,” Schwartz said.

Bush, a Republican, sees historical parallels in Democrat Harry Truman’s presidency. Truman set in motion the Cold War doctrine that shifted U.S. foreign policy from one of getting along with the Soviet Union to trying to contain its expansion.

Bush sees his ultimate legacy as starting a years-long effort to check a radical Islamist militant movement from spreading globally. He sees Iraq as a central battleground.

“Today, at the start of a new century, we are again engaged in a war unlike any our nation has fought before. And like Americans in Truman’s day, we are laying the foundations for victory,” he said last May.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Bush Attempts To Draw Comparisons Between His War On Terror And George Washington's War Of Independence

President Bush continues to cling to the personal belief that he and George Washington are not all that dissimilar. He's tried before to draw comparisons between Washington's struggle to free the independent colonies from the grip of England, and his own struggle to, as he puts it, preserve the freedoms of the United States and Western democracy from the tyranny of global Islamism.

A few days back, Bush used the occasion of the 275th birthday of the first president, George Washington, to give the comparisons another shot.

From the Associated Press :

"Today, we're fighting a new war to defend our liberty and our people and our way of life," said Bush, standing in front of Washington's home and above a mostly frozen Potomac River.

"And as we work to advance the cause of freedom around the world, we remember that the father of our country believed that the freedoms we secured in our revolution were not meant for Americans alone."

Bush chose the national Presidents Day holiday to make his first visit as president to Mount Vernon. He and first lady Laura Bush helped lay a wreath at Washington's tomb, then the president gave a speech from a platform on the bowling green lawn of the estate.

"On the field of battle, Washington's forces were facing a mighty empire, and the odds against them were overwhelming. The ragged Continental Army lost more battles than it won, suffered waves of desertions, and stood on the brink of disaster many times. Yet George Washington's calm hand and determination kept the cause of independence and the principles of our Declaration alive...

"In the end, General Washington understood that the Revolutionary War was a test of wills, and his will was unbreakable," said Bush.

More from the speech :

"With the advantage of hindsight, it is easy to take George Washington's successes for granted and to assume that all those events were destined to unfold as they did. Well, the truth is far different.

"America's path to freedom was long and it was hard. And the outcome was really never certain. Honoring George Washington's life requires us to remember the many challenges that he overcame, and the fact that American history would have turned out very differently without his steady leadership.

"George Washington's long struggle for freedom has also inspired generations of Americans to stand for freedom in their own time.

"Today, we're fighting a new war to defend our liberty and our people and our way of life. And as we work to advance the cause of freedom around the world, we remember that the father of our country believed that the freedoms we secured in our revolution were not meant for Americans alone. He once wrote, "My best wishes are irresistibly excited whensoever in any country I see an oppressed nation unfurl the banners of freedom."

So according to his speech, Bush sees himself as repeating the efforts of George Washington to free the oppressed, but unlike Washington, Bush is trying to do this on a worldwide scale, something Washington knew was impractical and impossible more than 200 years ago.

No wonder Bush talks about the 'War on Terror' being a struggle that will last generations.

Bush's Washington's Birthday Speech In Full

Friday, February 16, 2007

"Put Your Hands Down"

Bush Tries To Stifle Child-Level Anti-War Dissent

President Bush popped into a YMCA on Wednesday to trot out his favourite "armies of compassion" spiel about the need for more volunteers to help carry society's burden.

No doubt he wasn't expecting to find himself surrounded by anti-war dissenters, particularly when a raucous debate was going on at the exact same time in Congress, over the future of the Iraq War.

During the photo shoot, in which the kids repeatedly broke out the V, peace sign, Bush tried to keep the dissent out of the view of all the cameras and failed.

Fantastic photo, however. Look at the determination on the face of the young boy in the centre of the shot.

As quoted on White House Watch :
"While the House of Representatives debated weighty matters of war and peace yesterday, President Bush headed to the YMCA.

"In a brightly lighted basement gym, he visited children bending paperclips into different shapes and urged Americans to volunteer as mentors. He talked not of armies in Iraq but of 'armies of compassion' at home.

Even the kids seemed confused.

One asked why he came.

'I came to see you,' the president responded.

As the cameras clicked away, a 7-year-old boy made peace signs. 'Put your hands down,' Bush chided playfully.

And this exchange was overheard by one reporter :
1st kid: 'He's my favorite president.' (referring to Bush)

"2d kid: 'My favorite president is President Obama.'

"1st kid: 'Who's that?'

"2d kid: 'He's the first black president.'"

"Turn Off The TV, Dad"

In his early 1970s, George W. Bush squared off against his dad, challenging him to a fight. George was drunk, His father held back from smacking his loudmouth, wayward son across the chops and, according to some biographies, brother Jeb was there to cool down young George.

The mythology of the Bush family tells us that Papa Bush never thought his son was cut out for politics, and few were more surprised than he when George Jnr decided he wanted to become President Of The United States.

Now Papa Bush is basically retired, and suffering what appears to be mild dementia, he is spending far too much time, according to his wife, watching endless cable news programs, most of which regularly trash his son, the president, and berate and insult George Jnr in ways that few would have dared to have done when he was president.

Father and son have both claimed they never talk about politics, and rarely, if ever, discuss the War On Iraq. Which seems impossible. How could they not? Papa Bush pulled out of Iraq because his advisers made sure he understood the chaos that would be unleashed if they went ahead and overthrew Saddam Hussein.

George Jnr claimed, in late 2002, that he had to overthrow Saddam for a variety of reasons, including the fact that Saddam had supposedly ordered an assassination attempt on the old man when he was visiting Saudi Arabia, or Jordan (the claims differ) in 1993. The car bomb didn't go off. Papa Bush survived.

But the spectacular failure of the current Bush administration has wrought damage to the Bush dynasty way beyond anything even Papa Bush expected. Jeb Bush was supposed to make a run for president himself, to keep the political dynasty alive. Had the Iraq War gone the way it was hyped to go in early 2003, no doubt Jeb would the number one or number two most likely Republican contender right now.

But that only happened in the fantasy world of Papa Bush's insomnia-punctured dreams.

The reality is horrendous, for the Middle East, for Iraq, and for the Bush dynasty.

Who doesn't blame the father when the son turns out to be dangerous and destructive?

Papa Bush's public tears a few months back, while giving a speech, where he had to comforted by Jeb, was obviously a venting of his feelings about what his son has done, and what has happened to the name of Bush in American politics.

But George Jnr is now publicly reassuring his dad, telling him not to worry, "I'm fine," and warning him to keep away from the TV during the current, fiery debates in the Senate over the future direction of the war President Bush simply had to have.

From the Washington Post :
"I am actually more concerned about him than I have ever been in my life, because he's paying too much attention to the news," the president told C-SPAN...

"And I understand how difficult it is for a person who loves somebody to see them out in the political process and to kind of endure the criticism. My answer to him is: 'Look, don't pay attention to it. I'm doing fine.' "

Bush's comments were not the first hint at frustration inside the Bush family over his political troubles. After the November elections, which ousted Republican majorities from both houses of Congress, the elder Bush bristled at those disparaging his son. At a conference in the United Arab Emirates, he responded to Arab critics. "When your son's under attack, it hurts," he said. "You're determined to be at his side and help him any way you possibly can."

Ever the optimist, George Jnr also thinks his father will be recognised, some time in the distant future, as one of the greatest American presidents. It hasn't happened yet, theorises George Jnr, because of the political legacy of Ronald Reagan.

"Well, George H.W. Bush is one of them...He followed President Reagan, who was such a really strong president that people have yet to take a look at my dad."

Everybody needs their fantasies.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Watergate Reporter : For Lies And Distortions, Bush Even Tops Nixon

Carl Bernstein spent years trying to carve a coherent path through the intricacies of the Nixon administration, along with fellow journo Bob Woodward, to tell the story of the Watergate scandal that eventually led to President Richard M. Nixon resigning, live on TV.

After years following the mutated truths and outright lies of the Bush administration, Bernstein recently gave an interview for a PBS documentary where he ripped into the most powerful man in the world, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and today's underwhelming crop of White House correspondents, who he views as mostly toothless and too involved in the system of spreading disinformation and pre-packaged propaganda on behalf of President Bush.

Here's some of Bernstein's key quotes, as published on Raw Story and Editor & Publisher :
Nixon's relationship to the press was consistent with his relationship to many institutions and people. He saw himself as a victim. We now understand the psyche of Richard Nixon, that his was a self-destructive act and presidency.

The lying in the Nixon White House had most often to do with covering up Watergate, with the Nixon administration's illegal activities. Here, in this presidency, there is an unwillingness to be truthful, both contextually and in terms of basic facts that ought to be of great concern to people of all ideologies. ...

The Bush administration is a far different matter in which disinformation, misinformation and unwillingness to tell the truth -- a willingness to lie both in the Oval Office, in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, in the office of the vice president, the vice president himself -- is something that I have never witnessed before on this scale.

This president has a record of dishonesty and obfuscation that is Nixonian in character in its willingness to manipulate the press, to manipulate the truth. We have gone to war on the basis of misinformation, disinformation and knowing lies from top to bottom.

It's very difficult, as a reporter, to get across that when you say, "This is a presidency of great dishonesty," that this is not a matter of opinion. This is demonstrable fact. If you go back and look at the president's statements, you look at the statements of the vice president, you look at the statements of Condoleezza Rice, you go through the record, you look at what [counterterrorism expert] Richard Clarke has written, you look at what we know -- it's demonstrable.

It's fact. Now, how do you quantify it? That's a different question.

But to me, if there is a great failure by the so-called mainstream press in this presidency, it's the unwillingness to look at the lies and disinformation and misinformation and add them up and say clearly, "Here's what they said; here's what the known facts were," because when that is done, you then see this isn't a partisan matter. This is a matter of the truth, particularly about this war. This is a presidency that is not willing to tell the truth very often if it is contrary to its interests. It's not about ideology from whence I say this.

It's about being a reporter and saying: "That's what the story is. Let's see what they said; let's see what the facts are."

Victory In Iraq : Freedom, Liberty, Peace & Car Bombings

This post originally appeared on the Road To Surfdom blog.

We've come a long way from the days when Victory In Iraq was defined by Coalition of the Willing leaders as something close to the peace and security we enjoy.

When a democratic and West-friendly Iraq would be free of violence and terror, and the fear of sudden death-by-explosion had faded like the memory of Saddam's torture brigades.

The definition of what will constitute "victory" in iraq has been consistently watered down by President Bush, Tony Blair and John Howard over the past twelve months. Howard now gives entire interviews on Iraq without even mentioning what he thinks "victory" would look like.

But President Bush has set the bar set the bar at a new low, where victory is now defined as...well, something close to the Iraq we see today. Car bombings and all.

From Bush's press conference yesterday :

Q: You talk about victory, that you have to have victory in Iraq; it would be catastrophic if we didn't. You said again today that the enemy would come here, and yet you say it's not an open-ended commitment. How do you sqaure those things?

BUSH : You know, victory in Iraq is not going to be like victory in World War II. It's one of those challenges I have to explain to the American what Iraq will look like in a situation that will enable us to say we have accomplished our mission.

First..Iraq will be a society in which we have relative peace. I say "relative peace" because if it's like zero car bombings, it never will happen that way...the fundamental question is, can we help this government have the security force level necessary to make sure that the ethnic cleansing that was taking place in certain neighbourhoods has stopped.

So, the definition for 'Victory In Iraq' for Bush, right now at least, is having Iraqi security forces in place to stop ethnic cleansing, but with car bombings of crowded markets accepted as just part of the colourful mix of newfound "freedom and liberty".

But what can you do?

Apparently, some people in Iraq will always want to pack their backseat with 50 kilos of fertiliser and fuel oil and drive it into the local pet market.

As some people will always want to dump a suitcase full of thermite and a remote control detonator into the boot of a stranger's vehicle, when they're not looking, and then follow them through the streets of Baghdad until the bomb-laden car ahead passes a desireable target.

I get the feeling we're going to be hearing Coalition of the Willing leaders using the term "relative peace" a lot more often than the word "victory", in the months ahead, as Bush gets closer to the Baker-Hamilton phased withdrawal plan he now thinks isn't such a dodgy idea after all.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

War With Iran? What A Laugh

An interesting exchange with President Bush, who's always ready with a laugh, regardless of how serious the issue is that brings on the guffaws.

From UPI :

At a farewell reception at Blair House for the retiring chief of protocol, Don Ensenat, who was President Bush's Yale roommate, the president shook hands with Washington Life Magazine's Soroush Shehabi.

"I'm the grandson of one of the late Shah's ministers," said Soroush, "and I simply want to say one U.S. bomb on Iran and the regime we all despise will remain in power for another 20 or 30 years and 70 million Iranians will become radicalized."

"I know," President Bush answered.

"But does Vice President Cheney know?" asked Soroush.

President Bush chuckled and walked away
Al Qaeda Provide Bush Character Assessment

"Alcoholic" Gambler, "Addicted" To "Lies"

Ayman al-Zawahri, 2nd in command of 'Al Qaeda' in Afghanistan, has claimed that President Bush is a "lying gambler" who made the ultimate double-or-nothing bet on the Iraq War, and lost.

From the Associated Press :

"Bush suffers from an addictive personality, and was an alcoholic. I don't know his present condition ... but the one who examines his personality finds that he is addicted to two other faults — lying and gambling," al-Zawahri said in the audiotape.

On the tape, al-Zawahri said Bush has gone down in history as one of the world's "most notorious liars."

"So pay attention before it's too late, and beware of Bush's losing gambler's lie which claims that he, with the corpses of your killed and limbs of your wounded, is spreading democracy around the world," said al-Zawahri, apparently addressing the American people.

Al-Zawahri also said recent congressional elections in the United States that elected a majority of Democrats would change nothing.

"The people chose you due to your opposition to Bush's policy in Iraq, but it appears that you are marching with him to the same abyss," al-Zawahri said of the Democrats according to the transcript.

Al-Zawahri called what he described as Bush' failure in Iraq and the growing Taliban resistance in Afghanistan the "most important events" of the past year. He also said "the people cooperating with the United States in Afghanistan and in Iraq would be abandoned by the Americans once they fail, the same way they did in Vietnam."

Friday, February 09, 2007

Two Years Left Of 'Packing Up The Desk' To Go

Bush Raises Only Disinterest With The US Media

There's a consensus that seems to be growing amongst the US media, and it's one already well explored by media across Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

President Bush is over. He's had his final big moments in the spotlight. Since the State Of The Union address in January, he's become less and less a front page media prize. This means he has lost his cache. The media seems vastly uninterested in what he's doing now.

The focus has shifted completely to Iraq and to the new US Congress, and their battles to supposedly end the war and rein in Bush's war spending.

It's a silly argument in many ways, that Bush has become a non-story, and will remain so for the next 22 months of presidency.

A war on Iran, another huge terrorist attack in the US, a withdrawal from Iraq, or something close to a tangible victory in that war will turn all the world's media attention back on him again.

Of course, none of those key events may happen, and Bush may well continue to be of next to no interest for the mainstream media.

But again, in other ways, the claims that Bush has worn out his newsworthiness, for now, is also true. He has announced he will be working with Congress to reform social security, immigration, energy use and resources and Medicare, primarily, before his days in the White House draw to a close. And he may make great or even extraordinary progress on all four key reform issues.

But homeland reforms of this nature are rarely ever international news.

And Bush has been pushing social security, immigration and Medicare reform from his first year in office. The feeling, or vibe, in the Letters To Editor pages across traditional Red and Blue American states is : "Just shut up and get on with it."

Does the media itself feel betrayed by Bush, particularly the right wing conservative media, now that Bush is pumping reforms and ideas that have long been within the domain of Democrats and progressives?

Is President Bush really yesterday's news?

This piece in the Washington Post further explores how the spotlight is drifting away from President Bush :

These days, many in the media seem to be writing off President Bush.

"The American people basically fired George Bush in the last election," writes New York Times columnist Tom Friedman. "We're now just watching him clean out his desk."

"A lot of Americans consider this presidency over," says CNN's Bill Schneider.

"If America were a parliamentary democracy, we would have a no-confidence vote and a new prime minister by spring," writes New York Daily News columnist Michael Goodwin.

Are these and other pundits giving us the unvarnished truth, that we are witnessing the historic collapse of a presidency? Or is this the triumph of quick-draw, poll-driven journalism?

"If we had a straight dictatorship," writes the New Republic's Jonathan Chait, "Bush would long ago have been dragged out of the White House either by an angry mob or by disgruntled generals." (Not that he's in favor of either.)

Chait agrees in an interview that the president still has power, but notes: "Psychologically, it does feel that people are starting to move past Bush. No one has changed his mind about Bush in the last two years. It's kind of boring to write about him anymore because he's so unchanging."

The media, as always, are mesmerized by polls. When Bush was riding high in the "Mission Accomplished" days of 2003, some of the coverage was almost giddy. If Bush's current approval ratings were at 50 percent, his media portrayal would look very different. With the president having sunk as low as 28 percent in a CBS News survey, it is all too easy to dismiss him, even as he mounts an escalation of the war in Iraq.

That war, of course, is the reason why the mainstream media see no possibility of Bush bouncing back. Things are a mess in Iraq; the country has turned against the war; and few journalists think the "surge" is going to work. Therefore, the reasoning goes, Bush will continue to sink into the quagmire of the war he chose to wage.

Other unpopular war presidents have staggered to the ends of their terms -- Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson come to mind -- and Bush may do the same. But because Iraq is now widely viewed as having been an unnecessary personal crusade on Bush's part, there seems to be an extra element of derision in the political commentary, especially from the left.

Bush's father recently vented his frustrations with the coverage. "It's one thing to have an adversarial . . . relationship -- hard-hitting journalism. It's another when the journalists' rhetoric goes beyond skepticism and goes over the line into overt, unrelenting hostility and personal animosity," the former president said.

Actually, even some of the journalists who are especially aggressive in their coverage of Bush like him in private settings, where the president has a joshing manner and enjoys handing out nicknames. But professional resentment may still be behind some of the increasingly negative coverage. "In the press corps," Chait says, "there's a little bit of a realization that they had been played."

From Iraq, where the media fell down on the WMD debate, to Bush's 2000 campaign persona as a compassionate conservative, many journalists now believe they were led astray. That has given an extra edge to their stories and columns on Bush being out of touch and has fueled an effort to vindicate their darker picture of the war. In short, the mainstream media no longer give this president the benefit of the doubt.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Bush Hometown Sees Massive Tourist Slowdown

Presidential Bobbleheads Just Don't Sell In Crawford Like They Used To

When Texas Governor George W. Bush brough his 1600 acre ranch seven miles outside of Crawford, Texas, in 1999, he kicked off a mini-tourism and trinket industry in the town of 700 people.

According to the Associated Press, the Crawford Chamber of Commerce claimed $813,000 worth of t-shirts, coffee mugs, cowboy boots, posters, postcards and other assorted retailia were sold by souvenir shops in that first year that Bush called Crawford home.

His name and presence and campaign to seize the White House generated more than $1 million in 2000. In 2004, the Crawford stores saw sales hitting $2.66 million. That was the boom year.

As Bush's popularity has plunged to Nixonian levels, so to has Bush-related paraphenalia.

Naturally, the locals blame the Cindy Sheehan crowd and other protestors for driving away genuine tourists and Bush pilgrims.

From the Associated Press :

Near the lone stoplight on Main Street, a for-sale sign hangs from a dusty window where a souvenir shop used to sell cufflinks, cowboy boots and denim shirts emblazoned "The Western White House."

Another gift store across the street is shuttered too, though a sign says it will reopen elsewhere. And the biggest souvenir shop in Crawford is reporting a drop in sales.

The Washington professionals have their polls, their focus groups and their newspaper editorials. But Crawford, the 700-person town where President Bush's ranch is located, has its trinket stores, and they have fallen on hard times, in what some say reflects the president's sinking popularity over the war in Iraq and a daunting influx of anti-war protesters.

Norma Nelson Crow closed her Crawford Country Style store three months ago.

"I feel so strongly about the president that I wanted to continue to support him any way I could," she said. "But I'm distressed about the poll numbers and think it was a combination of things: that and the protesters."

Bill Johnson, owner of Crawford's largest gift shop, Yellow Rose, said he plans to continue running his store, which also sells crosses, saddles, guns and Western clothing in addition to coffee mugs, T-shirts and other souvenirs.

"I think the president's ratings will go up, and when that happens, the sales go up," he said. "As far as Crawford's future, I think it looks bright. Is it going to be as hectic as it was a few years ago? No. But Crawford's name is known far and wide, and when he retires, people who are endeared to him will want to come to Crawford."

Sunday, February 04, 2007

When Bush Promised To Kick Saddam's "Ass All Over The Mid East"

Below you will find an excerpt from the first chapter of the book 'Hubris', that sets the scene of President Bush in early-to-mid 2002, when he first began to create the reality that was 'The War On Iraq'.

It's an interesting moment in time captured by the authors, and the rest of 'Hubris' easily stands up to the challenge of following on from such an exceptional opening chapter. A great book on a terrible war.

This chapter excerpt also says a lot about President Bush's motivations for going to war on Saddam Hussein, and the easy optimism that seemed to infect the White House during those now halcyon days :

Early on the afternoon of May 1, 2002, George W. Bush slipped out of the Oval Office, grabbed a tennis racquet, and headed to the South Lawn. He had a few spare moments for one of his recreational pleasures: whacking tennis balls to his dogs, Spot and Barney.

It was a pleasant spring day in Washington and not an especially taxing one for the president. He had no pressing political worries. Having routed the Taliban regime in Afghanistan the previous fall, Bush was standing tall in the polls, with an approval rating hovering at 70 percent.

That morning, there had been his usual terrorism briefings, then meetings with congressional leaders where Bush had talked about moving forward his domestic proposals, including a measure promoting faith-based social programs.

Later in the day, the president was due to meet the vice president of China. Bush also had an unusual press interview on his schedule that afternoon. As he hit the balls and watched the dogs scamper, Bush prepared for that session with two press aides by reviewing questions he would likely be asked about one of his predecessors he admired most: Ronald Reagan.

Ever since September 11, 2001, Bush had increasingly identified with Reagan: his optimism, his firm convictions, his stark, uncompromising stand against Soviet communism. Bush had come to consider Reagan's battle against the Soviet Union a parallel of his own struggle against Islamic extremism. The Evil Empire was now the Axis of Evil-that trio of tyrannies, Iraq, Iran, and North Korea, that Bush had proclaimed the nation's foes months earlier during his first State of the Union speech.

Frank Sesno, the veteran newscaster, was due shortly at the White House to query Bush about Reagan and the parallels between his presidency and Bush's. The interview was for a History Channel special that would air upon the death of the former president, who was ninety-one years old and suffering from advanced Alzheimer's disease.

On a two-page "pre-brief" memo prepared by his staff and containing questions that might be asked, Bush had written out by hand points he wanted to emphasize. The presidential scribbles, his aides thought, were revealing-perhaps a window onto Bush's view of himself. "Optimism and strength," Bush had scrawled on top of the memo. Also, "decisive" and "faith." Next to a question about Reagan's direct, blunt style, Bush had written, "moral clarity." He had drawn an arrow next to the word "forceful." Alongside a question about the 1983 suicide bombing attack on the U.S. Marines barracks in Lebanon (which killed 241 American troops) and how a president copes with such losses, Bush had written, "There will be casualties."

On the South Lawn, Press Secretary Ari Fleischer and another member of the communications staff, a burly, irrepressible former television producer named Adam Levine, reviewed these points with Bush. Then they all moved inside and headed upstairs to the Red Room so Bush could have makeup applied for the interview.

Bush casually asked Fleischer how his day had been going and what the talk in the pressroom was. Fleischer mentioned Helen Thomas, the longtime correspondent then writing for Hearst News Service. She was a gadfly and constantly giving Fleischer a tough time about an issue much in the news: Iraq. Bush and other administration officials had been decrying Saddam Hussein, the dictator of Iraq, as a threat to the United States and the world.

To many, it sounded like war talk. The media were filled with speculation that the White House was preparing for an invasion. But Bush had steadfastly refused to state his intentions. His aides repeatedly claimed that Bush had reached no decisions. Interviewed by a British broadcaster a few weeks earlier, Bush had resorted to a Clintonesque evasion: "I have no plans to attack on my desk."

At that day's daily press briefing, Thomas had peppered Fleischer with questions about Iraq. Referring to stories in the media about secret plans for military action, she asked, "What is the president's rationale for invading Iraq?" What made Saddam different from other dictators and worth an invasion? Fleischer bantered with Thomas and pointed out that "regime change" in Iraq had been the official policy of the U.S. government since President Bill Clinton signed the Iraq Liberation Act in 1998. Thomas shot back: Did the law mandate that the United States overthrow the Iraqi government by force?

Bush, Fleischer said, "believes that the people of Iraq, as well as the region, will be more peaceful, better off without Saddam Hussein." Thomas retorted, "That's not a reason" to go to war. "Well, Helen," Fleischer replied, "if you were the president, you could have vetoed the law." The reporters chuckled, and Fleischer called on another journalist.

As Fleischer recounted this exchange for the president, Bush's mood changed, according to Levine. He grew grim and determined-steely. Out of nowhere, he unleashed a string of expletives.

"Did you tell her I don't like motherfuckers who gas their own people?" the president snapped.

"Did you tell her I don't like assholes who lie to the world?"

"Did you tell her I'm going to kick his sorry motherfucking ass all over the Mideast?"

Fleischer paused. "I told her half of that," he replied. Bush laughed, as did his aides. Still, Bush's visceral reaction was telling.

This wasn't bluster; this was real. The president had meant what he said-every word of it.

This was the Bush that Levine admired. "You know where we're going here," Levine thought.

Go Here To Read The First Chapter Of 'Hubris'

Friday, February 02, 2007

Always Time For A Few Jokes

President Bush doesn't like to miss any opportunity to try out his stand-up comedy stylings, even in the midst of the most horrific, most expensive and mostly deadly foreign policy debacle the United States has seen for decades, if not in the entire history of the nation.

So Bush hit the Alfalfa Club for his annual celebration of the birthday of Civil War Confederate Leader Robert E. Lee.

The Alfalfa Club "jokingly" elected George W. Bush President Of The United States in January, 1998. A bigh laugh was had by one and all. Shortly after, Bush and Karl Rove began his campaign to make that joke into a reality in 2000.

Here's Bush's attempts this year to lighten the mood of a few hundred of America's most elite political and business leaders :

"As always, I'm delighted to be back at Alfalfa. When I was here last year, my approval rating was in the 30s, my nominee for the Supreme Court had just withdrawn and my vice president had shot someone -- ah, those were the good old days.

"What with the polls and everything, the Washington Post said the other day that I was, quote, 'at the nadir of my presidency.' The press always underestimates me. I can go lower."

And: "Hey, let me give you an update on that satellite that was blown out of the sky last week. The Chinese didn't do it. Cheney was out hunting again."

Ho, ho, ho.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

As Democrat And Republican Opposition Mounts Over Bush Troop "Surge" Plan, Bush Claims He Doesn't "Feel Abandoned"

Capitol Hill in the past two weeks has been the scene for some of the most dramatic, and democratic, Senate hearings since the Watergate and Vietnam era.

The Democrats promised that when they took control of Congress, they were going to go over all aspects of the Iraq War with a fine-tooth comb, including increases to the number of troops in the field, and so far they've lived up to their promises.

The most divisive of all the hearings should have been those concerned with the president's plan to "surge" more than 20,000 extra troops into Iraq, mostly to try and quell the appalling daily violence filling Baghdad streets with blood and ruin.

But a growing number of Republicans are now joining the Democrats in their opposition to the troop "surge" plan. It is clear that the vast majority of Americans now want nothing more than for the troops to be withdrawn from Iraq, come what may, and this antipathy is clearly reaching the Republican senators, who are now jumping ship in greater and greater numbers.

But the president doesn't seem to care, nor mind. He has made it repeatedly clear that he is "The Decider" and the commander in chief, and he will do what he said he will, what he sincerely believes he must, in bringing the Iraq War to some kind of close that will allow the United States to claim a victory, of sorts.

The president will not be swayed, even by the opposition of Republican senators who backed the war from the beginning, and who've fought running media battles week in, week out, for the past four years, to keep the American public on side.

A battle they've clearly now lost.

The fight, as far as Congress is concerned, is not over, even if Bush seems remarkably unfazed by the massive falloff in support for the war from within his own party.

From Reuters (excerpts) :

President George W. Bush said on Wednesday "I don't feel abandoned" by fellow Republicans in Congress who are working with Democrats to protest his Iraq policy with a congressional resolution.

In a television interview, Bush shrugged off criticism of his plan to send 21,500 more U.S. troops to Iraq and said he hoped lawmakers would give U.S. forces what they needed to get the job done.

"I don't feel abandoned," Bush said on Fox News Channel's "Neil Cavuto" program.

"And what do you expect? When times are good, there's millions of authors of the plan. When times are bad, there's one author, and that would be me."

Some of Bush's Republican allies are breaking with him over Iraq as the war becomes more unpopular and his job approval numbers wane.

The Senate is poised to take up a resolution opposing Bush's new strategy with a debate expected next week.

At the White House, Bush met members of a congressional delegation that just returned from a visit to Iraq and Afghanistan, a bipartisan group that included some of his sharpest critics on Iraq, like House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, and Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. John Murtha.

Bush last week called himself the "decision-maker" with the power to decide what to do with U.S. troops. Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Arlen Specter (news, bio, voting record) said on Tuesday the president "is not the sole 'decider,"' that Congress had a role as well.

Bush said he saw the comment as Specter wanting to make sure Congress was heard.

"They get to decide funding levels, for example. And my hope is of course that they would make sure our troops have what it takes to do the jobs that I've asked them to do. But you shouldn't be surprised that members of the legislative body want to have input," Bush said.

With some in Washington predicting Bush only has four to six months to show his plan can work before demands grow for a U.S. disengagement from Iraq, Bush said he understands the skepticism.

He said he believes Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is starting to fulfill his pledges.

"I say he is in the process of performing. Well, let me tell you what that means. It means moving more Iraqi troops into Baghdad. It means going after murderers regardless of their religious persuasion," Bush said.

With two years left in office, Bush insisted he is not thinking about the end of his term and expressed no worries about his job approval numbers, which show barely a third of Americans like the job he is doing.

"I guess I could try to be popular. But I've always found that somebody who tries to be popular is one who may end up compromising principle, and I'm not that kind of person," he said.

And this from the Associated Press (excerpts) :
Two senators, a Republican and a Democrat, leading separate efforts to put Congress on record against President Bush's troop buildup in Iraq joined forces Wednesday, agreeing on a nonbinding resolution that would oppose the plan and potentially embarrass the White House.

Sens. John Warner, R-Va., and Carl Levin, D-Mich., had been sponsoring competing measures opposing Bush's strategy of sending 21,500 more U.S. troops to the war zone, with Warner's less harshly worded version attracting more Republican interest. The new resolution would vow to protect funding for troops while keeping Warner's original language expressing the Senate's opposition to the buildup.

The resolution is likely to pose a threat to the White House because of its potential appeal to Republicans who have grown tired of the nearly four-year war and want a chance to express their concerns. The White House has been hoping to avoid an overwhelming congressional vote criticizing Bush's handling of the war.

The agreement comes as several leading Republicans who support the troop buildup said they will give the administration and the Iraqis about six months to show significant improvement. Many other Republicans say they are deeply skeptical additional troops in Iraq, rather than a political settlement, would help calm the sectarian violence.

In an interview with Fox News, Bush took issue with McConnell's statement that his plan needs to be successful over the next six to nine months.

"I think it's a mistake to put timetables on difficult missions because an enemy can adjust," Bush said. "On the other hand, I certainly understand the urgency in Mitch's voice. I also understand the skepticism on Capitol Hill. I mean, no doubt, there's a lot of pessimism there today."

Bush also criticized a proposal by Sen. Barack Obama (news, bio, voting record), a Democratic presidential candidate from Illinois, to have all U.S. combat forces out of Iraq by spring 2008.

"I say that it's important to succeed and that failure in Iraq will cause chaos," Bush said.

"My admonition to those who are speaking out is let us back the troops and let us hope for the success" of their mission.

More Republicans Distance Themselves From Bush's Iraq Policy

Bush Seen To Be "Spoiling For A Fight" With Iran

President Signs Executive Order That Grants Him Increased Powers Over Most Important Federal Agencies

Bush Says United States "Will Respond Firmly" If Iran Increases Military Action Inside Iraq

"I Have No Intent Upon Going Into Iran," Says Bush, But Doesn't Rule Out Air Strikes
Bush Tries To Run Down Media With Giant Tractor

A boy and one big toy. This image has been accessed from this Reuters website

It's worth running this story just to use that headline.

A funny, and somewhat dramatic report, about President Bush getting behind the wheel of a monster tractor and then appearing to attempt to run down some of the White House press corps. The reaction to this story on other blogs has been an interesting mix of "Run the bastards down!" and "This is another sign of how pyschotic the president really is."

Isn't the president entitled to just a little fun?

From Newsweek blog :

Does President Bush have it in for the press corps?

Touring a Caterpillar factory in Peoria, Ill., the Commander in Chief got behind the wheel of a giant tractor and played chicken with a few wayward reporters.

"I would suggest moving back," Bush said as he climbed into the cab of a massive D-10 tractor.
"I'm about to crank this sucker up."

As the engine roared to life, White House staffers tried to steer the press corps to safety, but when the tractor lurched forward, they too were forced to scramble for safety.

"Get out of the way!" a news photographer yelled.

"I think he might run us over!" said another.

...Secret Service got involved, as one agent began yelling at reporters to get clear of the tractor.

Watching the chaos below, Bush looked out the tractor's window and laughed, steering the massive machine into the spot where most of the press corps had been positioned.

The episode lasted about a minute, and Bush was still laughing when he pulled to a stop. He gave reporters a thumbs-up.

"If you've never driven a D-10, it's the coolest experience," Bush said afterward.