Friday, June 20, 2008

Bush Farewells Europe, No Sign Of Regret For Wars Or Torture

Dan Froomkin notes that President George W. Bush is still, after almost eight years, unable to avoid disturbing and hilarious gaffes when he dares to be interviewed by anyone other than American corporate media :

President Bush's contempt for those who question him or doubt his accomplishments has been on full display lately.

That two thirds of Americans are now in that category apparently hasn't made him any more receptive to their concerns-- quite the opposite.

When British Sky News reporter Adam Boulton today challenged Bush on his dedication to freedom, suggesting that Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib represented "the complete opposite of freedom," Bush accused Boulton of "slander[ing] America."

Evidently still smarting about the Supreme Court's rejection of his detainee policies last week, Bush noted defensively that the lower courts had agreed with him -- as if that mattered.

While Americans increasingly blame him for record-high gas prices and the toll on their pocketbooks, Bush dismissively referred to domestic concerns about those high prices as "squawking."

And in an interview on Friday with Ned Temko of Britain's Observer, Bush actually joked that he was "still looking" for the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction that were the main reason he
gave to the public for going to war.

From the transcript of the Boulton-Bush Sky News interview :

Boulton: "I mean, you've talked a lot about freedom. I've heard you talk about freedom -- I think every time I've seen you."

Bush: "Yes."

Boulton: "And yet there are those who would say, look, let's take Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib and rendition and all those things, and to them that is the, you know, the complete opposite of freedom."

Bush: "Of course if you want to slander America, you can look at it one way. But you go down -- what you need to do -- I think I suggested you do this at a press conference -- if you go down to Guantanamo and take a look at how these prisoners are treated -- and they're working it through our court systems. We are a land of law. "

Boulton: "But the Supreme Court have just said that -- you know, ruled against what you've been doing down there."

Bush: "But the district court didn't. And the appellate court didn't."

Boulton: "The Supreme Court is supreme, isn't it?"

Bush: "It is, and I accept their verdict. I don't agree with their verdict. And it's not what I was doing down there. This was a law passed by our United States Congress that I worked with the Congress to get passed and sign into law."

Boulton: "But it looked like an attempt to bypass the Constitution, to a certain extent."

Bush: "This was a law passed, Adam. We passed a law. Bypassing the Constitution means that we did something outside the bounds of the Constitution. We went to the Congress and got a piece of legislation passed."

Boulton: "Which is now being struck down, I think."

Bush: "It is, and I accept what the Supreme Court did, and I necessarily don't have to agree with it.

"My only point to you is, is that yes, I mean, we certainly wish Abu Ghraib hadn't happened, but that should not reflect America. This was the actions of some soldiers. That doesn't show the heart and soul of America. What shows the heart and soul of America is the sacrifice of our troops willing to defend our country and liberate 50 million people, or the generosity of America when it comes to providing money for HIV/AIDS in Africa, or the fact that America feeds more of the hungry in the world than any other country. That's the true America."

Froomkin also notes that most who interview Bush "try to get Bush to express some remorse" on the War On Iraq, and its consequences. From the Temko (UK Observer) interview :

Temko : "One of the questions, of course, [Britons] ask, is, do you feel a sense of personal pain --"

Bush: "Course I do."

Temko: "-- over the Iraqi civilians who have --"

Bush: "I feel a sense of pain for those who were tortured by Saddam Hussein, by the parents who watched their daughters raped by Saddam Hussein, by those innocent civilians who have been killed by inadvertent allied action, by those who have been bombed by suicide bombers. I feel a sense of pain for death. I feel a sense of pain for the families of our troops. I read about it every night. Or I used to read about it every night; the violence has changed. But I get a report every day about whether or not the U.S. has suffered casualties. And when I get those reports, I think about those mothers and fathers."

Much of the pain Bush feels, of course, comes from the media coverage of his presidency, and its wars. Bush remains obsessed by how historians will view his presidency, and sounds more and more like the American extremist right bloggers who believe that every kid who joins the Army knows full well what they're in for :

"This is a volunteer army, and these kids are in this fight because they want to be in the fight and they believe in it. And yet these poor parents are looking at -- often times looking at negativity, just people quick to report the ugly and the negative. But it's hard to report on the schools that are opening or the clinics that are opening or the playgrounds that are filling up, the society is coming back."

From the Temko interview :

Q : "Gordon Brown a couple weeks ago phoned a voter who was upset about Iraq, and apologized on behalf of the government, not for the war, which he still thinks was the right thing, but for the kind of suffering of the Iraqi people. Do you think that's a wise thing to do?"

Bush : "I think the Iraqi people -- yes, some have suffered, no question. But they're living in a free society. Everybody is going to have to handle their own internal business the way they want to. I'm not going to second-guess one way or the other. But my view is, is that when you talk to Iraqis, they're thrilled with the idea of living in a free society. Do they like the fact that violence is still there? No. But every society reaches a level of violence that's tolerable. And has that reached Iraq? I don't know yet. But I do know life is improving. . . ."

Temko: "But the existence of the war has led to the deaths of innocent people, and the fact is --"

Bush: "It has, but before the war, hundreds of thousands were discovered in mass graves."

Temko: "So on balance, you have --"

Bush: "Freedom trumps tyranny every time. And it's hard for people to see that."

Temko: "[W]hat's your greatest achievement or your greatest pride as President? And what's your greatest regret?"

Bush: "Well, first of all, just so you know, I'm not going to be around to see it. There's no such thing as objective short-term history. It takes a while for history to have its -- you know, to be able to have enough time to look back to see why decisions were made and what their consequences were. So, you know, I'd hope it'd be somebody who would use the influence of the United States to help transform societies by working on disease and hunger and freedom. And the liberation of 50 million people from the clutches of barbaric regimes is noteworthy, at the minimum. "

Temko: "Does this job take its toll on you? I mean, can you --"

Bush: "My spirits are pretty high. I mean, I'm -- you got to believe, you know? You got to have a set of beliefs that are the foundation for your very being. Otherwise these currents and tides and 24-hour news and politics will kind of leave you adrift."

From the UK PM Gordon Brown-Bush press conference :

Q: "Mr. President, in his last major speech, Tony Blair said on Iraq, 'Hand on heart, I did what I thought was right. But if I got it wrong, I'm sorry.' Is it possible you got it wrong? Would you share at this point those slightly more reflective sentiments? And in particular, should you, in retrospect, perhaps have concentrated a little more on Afghanistan?"

Bush : "History will judge the tactics. History will judge whether or not, you know, more troops were needed earlier, troops could have been positioned here better or not. Removing Saddam Hussein was not wrong. It was the right thing to do.

"[T]he fundamental question is, will we work to see [freedom] have a transformative effect in the Middle East? Now, there are many doubters. I understand that, because there is some who say that perhaps freedom is not universal. Maybe it's only Western people that can self-govern. Maybe it's only, you know, white-guy Methodists who are capable of self government. I reject that notion. I think that's the ultimate form of political elitism."

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Historians Gush Over Bush At No. 10 Send Off

On his final visit to the UK as POTUS, George W. Bush sat down for a dinner in No. 10 Downing Street with PM Gordon Brown and a gaggle of historians.

Bush, of course, is obsessed with how historians will view his presidency, usually pushing a point that it will take decades before his war-making White House can be accurately assessed by those who write the history.

Bizarrely, claims at least one historian, there was little or no talk of war in the 21st century. Bush's era of war. They instead focused on the past.

The dinner saw Bush being introduced to and debated past wars with the following historians :

Simon Schama A History of Britain
Alistair Horne A Savage War of Peace
Valmai Holt Major & Mrs Holt’s Battlefield Guide
Max Arthur Forgotten Voices series
Piers Brendan The Decline and Fall of the British Empire
Linda Colley Britons: Forging the Nation, 1707–1837
David Cannadine The Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy
Martin Gilbert Official biographer of Sir Winston Churchill
Andrew Roberts A History of the English Speaking Peoples since 1900

This London Times story claims Bush has read, or is reading, all of these books :

In one corner was Simon Schama, who labelled Mr Bush as an “absolute f***ing catastrophe” in 2006. In another was Andrew Roberts, who is close to Mr Bush and his inner circle and was displaying a pair of presidential cufflinks he was given the last time they met.

He told The Times that it was “a completely wonderful and fabulous occasion — I sat next to the President. We talked about the interaction between history, politics, and personalities. That is about as far as I can go because it was a private dinner.”

Alistair Horne, another of the guests, had also met Mr Bush before and has discussed with him in the White House the parallels between Iraq and the “savage war of peace” in Algeria half a century ago.

He said: “You think about prime ministers and presidents being surrounded by cabinet officials, aides and so forth but at the end of the day, they are alone. They’re lonely.”

Downing Street aides said that Mr Bush changed seats several times over the evening, as Mr Brown strove to introduce his guest to as many people as possible.

The evening allowed both President and Prime Minister to wallow in their favourite subject of British history, with many of the guests, including Alistair Horne, David Cannadine and Valmai Holt, experts in military history and the rise and fall of Empire.

The topic of conversation appeared to avoid any direct judgment on Mr Bush’s presidency.

According to Roberts, they talked about “the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, but not the 21st” — when Mr Bush took much of the world to war.

Mr Bush ended his dinner by posing for a group photograph underneath a portrait of Elizabeth I in the Downing Street drawing room.

As they lined up for the shot, he was heard to remark: “This is going to be my White House Christmas card” — his last before he leaves office in January and is himself consigned to history.

The Rupert Murdoch owned London Times didn't see any need to mention another guest at the dinner : Rupert Murdoch. The ex-Australian media mogul and war profiteer is believed to have had a private chat with Gordon Brown, with President Bush by his side.

Murdoch played historian himself in the days before the start of the Iraq War, when he said :
"He will either go down in history as a very great president or he'll crash and burn."

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Bush's Last European Junket Greeted With Disinterest, Disgust By Locals

Why no massive anti-Bush protests in Europe as he stages his farewell presidential tour? Well, why bother? :
U.S. President George W. Bush is making his last major visit to a continent where many dismiss him as yesterday's man.

As his presidency winds down, Bush — reviled by many Europeans and simply ignored by others — can do little this week but smooth the way for his successor.

His tour kicks off Tuesday with a one-day summit of U.S. and European leaders in Slovenia, where officials have alluded to long-standing misgivings in Europe over Bush's foreign policy in Iraq and its approach to climate change and other issues.

"As in all relationships, the EU and U.S. sometimes have different views," Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel told reporters before Bush's scheduled arrival Monday evening.

Bush and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice planned to meet with Slovenian President Danilo Turk and Prime Minister Janez Jansa, and later with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana at a castle that the late Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito once used as a retreat.

Later Tuesday, Bush was to head to Germany to meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel. He also planned stops in Italy, the Vatican, France, England and Northern Ireland.

Like many Americans, Europeans have Bush fatigue. His decision to invade Iraq stirred anti-American sentiment in many countries, although that has receded as Europeans watch the U.S. presidential campaign and weigh prospects for change under a new president.

"A lot of people like America. They may not sometimes necessarily like the president but they like America," Bush said in an interview with POP TV of Slovenia. "They like what America stands for."

Although Bush will meet with key European leaders again at next month's summit in Japan of the Group of Eight major industrialized nations, this week's trip was likely to be his last major tour across the continent before the U.S. presidential elections in November.

When Bush first visited this ex-Yugoslav republic in 2001 for a summit with then-Russian President Vladimir Putin, he was met with large and boisterous demonstrations.

This time, reflecting deep-seated apathy for a president increasingly viewed as yesterday's man, only a few small, loosely organized protests were planned. And though security was tight, unlike his 2001 stop, there were no American flags to welcome Bush.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Germany Turns It Back On Bush During Europe Farewell Tour

During his last European tour as POTUS, George W. Bush encountered widespread hostility, dissent and just plain old bad manners. The overwhelming mood in Europe as Bush hits the road to say goodbye and to whip up angst against Iran appears to be one of, 'Please, just go away' :
Typically when US presidents visit Germany they walk through the Brandenburg Gate and take in the city and its historical sites.

It has not been lost on any commentator that on his farewell visit to the country, which kicks off on Tuesday night, George Bush will not be received at the heart of the capital.

Attempts to persuade him to open the brand new US embassy - back in its place after a gap of over six decades - failed. His father, George Bush Snr, a less despised figure, will come to do the honours instead, on July 4.

Instead Bush Jr is heading for the sandy plains of Brandenburg, 40 miles north of Berlin, to Schloss Meseberg, the idyllic but isolated country pad of the German government.

It is called keeping a low profile, probably a sensible thing to do for a man who has never been considered a friend by the majority of Germans. He is said to be the least popular US president in German history, and in a recent survey for the opinion pollsters Forsa, the majority of respondents went so far as to deem him to be the biggest single threat to world peace.

But neither did he, for a long time, want to have much to do with Germans either, particularly after the former chancellor Gerhard Schröder secured an election victory in 2002 thanks to his dogged insistence that he would not support the Iraq war.

German gratitude for the role the US has played in much of its 20th century history - the Marshall Plan, the Berlin airlift, protection against the Soviet Union - still endures, but it has been greatly overshadowed by seven Bush years, the Iraq invasion, Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib.

It has often been said that Germans became more anti-American during this period than at any time, but the more thoughtful ones have always been quick to point out that it was rather "antibushismus".

Now they appear to be happy at the prospect of being able, as they see it, to put this unpleasant period behind them. Almost 70% have said they would vote for Barack Obama if they were able (while sympathy for John McCain is scant). They admit they donít know what Obama really stands for, but what most appeals to them is that he is not Bush.
"I'm Not A WarPig!" Claims WarPig Bush

President Bush is desperately trying to change global public perceptions about his abhorrent White House administration, and his personal role in cheerleading the US into the illegal War On Iraq.

Regrets? He has a few.

From Times Online :

President Bush has admitted to The Times that his gun-slinging rhetoric made the world believe that he was a “guy really anxious for war” in Iraq. He said that his aim now was to leave his successor a legacy of international diplomacy for tackling Iran.

In an exclusive interview, he expressed regret at the bitter divisions over the war and said that he was troubled about how his country had been misunderstood. “I think that in retrospect I could have used a different tone, a different rhetoric.”

Phrases such as “bring them on” or “dead or alive”, he said, “indicated to people that I was, you know, not a man of peace”. He said that he found it very painful “to put youngsters in harm’s way”. He added: “I try to meet with as many of the families as I can. And I have an obligation to comfort and console as best as I possibly can. I also have an obligation to make sure that those lives were not lost in vain.”

The unilateralism that marked his first White House term has been replaced by an enthusiasm for tough multilateralism. He said that his focus for his final six months in office was to secure agreement on issues such as establishing a Palestinian state and to “leave behind a series of structures that makes it easier for the next president”.

Mr Bush is concerned that the Democratic nominee Barack Obama might open cracks in the West’s united front towards Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. At the EU-US summit in Slovenia, he pressed for tougher sanctions against Iran unless it agreed to suspend its uranium enrichment programme verifiably: “They can either face isolation, or they can have better relations with all of us.”

Mr Bush told The Times that when his successor arrived and assessed “what will work or what won’t work in dealing with Iran”, he would stick with the current policy.

Shaul Mofaz, a hardline Israeli minister, has suggested that a military strike on Iran is “unavoidable”. But Mr Bush said: “We ought to work together, keep focused. His comments really should be viewed as the need to continue to keep pressuring Iran.”

The President was keen to bind his successor into a continued military presence in Afghanistan and Iraq, but offered only cautious optimism about a recent decline in violence. Asked about corruption allegations dogging Hamid Karzai, the Afghan President, Mr Bush insisted: “I have found him to be an honest man.”

The President knows that Republican nominee-in-waiting John McCain will have to distance himself from the current Administration. "He's an independent person who will make his decisions on what he thinks is best."

Asked if the US is ready for a black president, Mr Bush says: "I think the fact that the Democratic Party nominated Barack Obama is a statement about how far America has come.

"Having that all that, it's going to be important for the American people to figure out who can handle the task of the 21st Century. It's a challenging job."

More on Bush's somewhat bizarre claims to be a 'Man Of Peace', after deceiving America into an illegal War On Iraq from the UK Guardian :

To some it may come as too little too late. But setting out on his final trip to Europe as president, George Bush has expressed regret that his rhetoric in the run-up to the war in Iraq may have created the impression that he was a warmonger.

Bush, who met the German chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday on a tour that will take in Rome, Paris and London, also disputed the notion that the war had harmed the image of the US abroad.

Noting that he finds it difficult "to put youngsters in harm's way", he added: "I try to meet with as many of the families as I can. And I have an obligation to comfort and console as best as I possibly can. I also have an obligation to make sure that those lives were not lost in vain." Bush's statements come as his presidency enters its final six months. They also come as the two presidential candidates spar over the differences between them, notably their stances in the build-up to the war.

Far from being a lame duck, Bush said he was full of vigour.

Crafty Bush Fired Rove In Church To Avoid Scene

When it came time for President Bush to dump loyal attack dog Karl Rove last year, he chose to give his old friend the bad news in the one place he knew Rove would not create a scene. Bush was clearly worried that Rove's infamous temper might show itself :
“On a Sunday in midsummer, George W. Bush accompanied Karl Rove to the Episcopalian Church Rove sometimes attended,” writes Alexander. “They made their way to the front of the congregation. Then, during their time in the church, Bush gave Rove some stunning news. ‘Karl,’ Bush said, ‘there’s too much heat on you. It’s time for you to go.’”

Maybe Bush knew what he was doing in breaking such bad news in such serene atmosphere: As Alexander documents, Rove has quite the temper.

"He's got a temper and a loud voice and he used it," said Bill Miller, a consultant who worked for and against Rove in Texas. "He's known for getting hot. There are buttons people know about. Losing and getting screwed with will [upset] him in a hurry."
Many key Republicans now view the Bush administration as a failure, and incredibly damaging to the Republican brand. They heap plenty of the blame on Karl Rove. has the full story.
Bush Tries To Force Through Secret Deal To Keep American Troops In Iraq For Years To Come

Dan Froomkin, the world's best President Bush chronicler, takes a closer look at the Bush White House plan that will extend the occupation of Iraq by American troops, and why the Iraq-US 'security deal' may be not much more than another attempt to contain Iran :

Despite opposition from both the Iraqi and American people, President Bush appears to be forging ahead on a multi-year security agreement with the Iraqi government that would lock in the occupation status quo.

A British newspaper reports new details about the ongoing secret negotiations: Bush wants to retain the use of more than 50 military bases in Iraq and is insisting on immunity from Iraqi law for U.S. troops and contractors, as well as a free hand to carry out military activities without consulting the Baghdad government. The pact, which Bush has said he does not intend to submit for Congressional approval, would take effect shortly before he leaves office. Reversing it, while possible, would force a future president to break an international commitment.

But there are signs of increasing resistance on the Iraqi side. At a congressional hearing yesterday, two members of the Iraqi parliament said Bush's terms would infringe on Iraqi sovereignty and perpetuate the violence there. They said any agreement should include a timetable for a quick departure of U.S. troops.

And in case the stakes weren't already high enough, the agreement is shaping up to be yet another proxy battle with Iran.

Patrick Cockburn writes in the Independent: "A secret deal being negotiated in Baghdad would perpetuate the American military occupation of Iraq indefinitely, regardless of the outcome of the US presidential election in November.

"The terms of the impending deal, details of which have been leaked to The Independent, are likely to have an explosive political effect in Iraq. Iraqi officials fear that the accord, under which US troops would occupy permanent bases, conduct military operations, arrest Iraqis and enjoy immunity from Iraqi law, will destabilise Iraq's position in the Middle East and lay the basis for unending conflict in their country.

"But the accord also threatens to provoke a political crisis in the US. President Bush wants to push it through by the end of next month so he can declare a military victory and claim his 2003 invasion has been vindicated. . . .

"The US has repeatedly denied it wants permanent bases in Iraq but one Iraqi source said: 'This is just a tactical subterfuge.' Washington also wants control of Iraqi airspace below 29,000 feet and the right to pursue its 'war on terror' in Iraq, giving it the authority to arrest anybody it wants and to launch military campaigns without consultation. . . .

"Iraq's Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, is believed to be personally opposed to the terms of the new pact but feels his coalition government cannot stay in power without US backing."

Anne Flaherty writes for the Associated Press: "Iraqi lawmakers told Congress on Wednesday that they have serious misgivings about a long-term security agreement being negotiated this year with President Bush, putting themselves squarely in line with Democrats who say hashing out a deal before Bush leaves office is bad timing.

"Opposition in the U.S. and Iraqi legislative bodies underscores the political hurdles facing Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as they try to settle the terms under which U.S. troops can continue operating in Iraq after a United Nations authorization expires at the end of the year."

Flaherty writes that the Iraqi lawmakers "said they thought violence in their country would subside after U.S. troops leave, and they embraced the idea of setting a timetable for the troops' departure."

Reuters reports: "A majority of the Iraqi parliament has written to Congress rejecting a long-term security deal with Washington if it is not linked to a requirement that U.S. forces leave, a U.S. lawmaker said on Wednesday.

"Rep. William Delahunt, a Massachusetts Democrat and Iraq war opponent, released excerpts from a letter he was handed by Iraqi parliamentarians laying down conditions for the security pact that the Bush administration seeks with Iraq.

Robert H. Reid writes for the Associated Press about how the proposed agreement "is shaping up as a major political battle between America and Iran. . . .

"The agreement, which both sides hope to finish in midsummer, is likely to be among the issues discussed this weekend when Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is due to visit Iran -- his second trip there in a year.

"Ahead of the visit, his party sought to calm worries by insisting that the deal would not allow foreign troops to use Iraq as a ground to invade another country -- a clear reference to Iranian fears of a U.S. attack. . . .

"A lawmaker from al-Maliki's party told reporters Tuesday that the Iraqis and the Americans are far apart on the security agreement. He said negotiations 'are at a standstill, and the Iraqi side is studying its options.'

"'The Americans have some demands that the Iraqi government regards as infringing on its sovereignty,' lawmaker Haidar al-Abadi said. 'This is the main dispute, and if the dispute is not settled, I frankly tell you there will not be an agreement.' . . .

"Most Iraqis view the U.S. insistence that American troops continue to enjoy immunity under Iraqi law as an infringement on national sovereignty. U.S. officials maintain they respect Iraqi sovereignty and are not seeking permanent bases."

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Fallout From Scott McClellan Expose Of Bush White House Continues...

Bush Critics Were Right On Just About Everything

From Dan Froomkin, Washington Post :

As the response to former White House press secretary Scott McClellan's new book enters its second week, the focus has shifted to the messenger rather than his message.

McClellan is a flawed vessel for any serious communication. From behind the podium, he made a mockery of the press and the public's right to know, most notably by repeating non-responsive and sometimes ludicrous talking points. He has yet to persuasively explain his change of heart. And his insistence that self-deception rather than a conscious disregard for the truth was behind what he now describes as the White House's consistent lack of candor is spectacularly self-serving.

But the significance of McClellan's book is that his detailed recounting of what he saw from the inside vindicates pretty much all the central pillars of the Bush critique that have been chronicled here and elsewhere for many years now. Among them:

* That Bush and his top aides manipulated the country into embarking upon an unnecessary war on false pretenses;

* That Bush is an incurious man, happily protected from dissenting views inside the White House's bubble of self-delusion;

* That Karl Rove's huge influence on the Bush White House erased any distinction between policy and politics, so governing became about achieving partisan goals, not the common good;

* That Vice President Cheney manipulates the levers of power;

* That all those people who denied White House involvement in the leak of CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity were either lying or had been lied to;

* That the mainstream media were complicit enablers of the Bush White House and that its members didn't understand how badly they were being played.

By coming back again and again to the CIA leak story, McClellan also validates a key theme of the Bush critique: That the Plame case was a microcosm of much that was wrong with the way the Bush White House did business.

No one could have predicted that the Plame case would play such a central role in McClellan's personal conversion to Bush critic. But his eventual recognition that Rove and then-vice presidential chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby had flatly lied to him when they denied any involvement in the leak, along with his sudden realization that Bush and Cheney declassified secrets when it was politically convenient, were evidently two major factors. (A third was his unceremonious firing by Chief of Staff Josh Bolten.)

McClellan's revelation that on Oct. 4, 2003, Bush and Cheney directed him to vouch for Libby's innocence once again raises the question of how the president and particularly the vice president have been able to avoid any kind of public accountability. McClellan even raises the possibility, repeatedly hinted at by special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, that Cheney directed Libby to disclose Plame's identity.

McClellan also makes clear how baldly Bush broke his original pledge to fire anyone involved in the leak. In an appearance on NBC's Meet the Press yesterday, McClellan told Tim Russert: "I think the president should have stood by the word that we said, which is if you were involved in this any way, then you would no longer be in this administration. And Karl was involved in it. . . .

"The president said he was going to restore honor, integrity. He said we were going to set the highest of standards. We didn't live up to that. When it became known that his top adviser had been involved, then the bar was moved. And the bar was moved to, 'If anyone is indicted, they would no longer be here.'"

McClellan also describes a bizarre relationship with the truth within the Bush White House. His central thesis -- which also serves as his own personal defense -- is that the persistent lack of candor that afflicted the White House regarding key initiatives such as the Iraq war just sort of happened. There wasn't any real intention to lie; it was just well-meaning people getting caught up in the political game that consumes modern-day Washington.

Here's how he explained his own experience it to Keith Olbermann on MSNBC's Countdown Thursday night: "I got caught up in the Washington game in terms of the spinning and obfuscation and secrecy and stone walling and things like that."

But when, time and again, the "lack of candor" conveniently furthers political goals, how are we not to conclude that it is, well, pretty much the same thing as lying?

Consider the way McClellan describes Bush in one particularly seminal case study. Recalling a conversation he overheard between Bush and a supporter in the 2000 race, when questions were being raised about Bush's possible cocaine use as a young man, McClellan quotes Bush as saying: "You know, the truth is I honestly don't remember whether I tried it or not. We had some pretty wild parties back in the day, and I just don't remember."

McClellan notes the absurdity of such a statement, then writes: "I know Bush, and I know he genuinely believes what he says. He isn't the kind of person to flat-out lie, particularly when speaking in private to a supporter or friend. So I think he meant what he said in that conversation about cocaine. It's the first time when I felt I was witnessing Bush convincing himself to believe something that probably was not true and that, deep down, he knew was not true. And his reason for doing so is fairly obvious: political convenience. . . .

"In the years to come, as I worked closely with President Bush, I would come to believe that sometimes he convinces himself to believe what suits his needs at the moment. . . .

"Bush is certainly not the first or last politician to deceive himself, but the extent to which he resorts to self-deception beyond personal matters, which one can argue should be off-limits anyway, and the sincerity with which he embraces self-deluding beliefs amount to a personality trait that goes directly to larger issues of characters and leadership style and carry over into real issues of governance."

Saying something that you know "deep down" isn't true, for personal gain -- isn't that the definition of lying?

McClellan repeatedly insists that Bush and his top aides were not actually liars (with the exception of Rove and Libby, of course). He writes near the end: "As I've detailed in this book, the campaign mentality at times led the president and his chief advisers to spin, hide, shade and exaggerate the truth, obscuring nuances and ignoring the caveats that should have accompanied their arguments. Rather than choosing to be forthright and candid, they chose to sell the war, and in so doing they did a disservice to the American people and to our democracy. However, this is not the same as saying they deliberately misled and lied."

And yet, as McClellan himself notes, most key decisions were made in secret by a small circle of advisers. Sometimes, he acknowledges, it wasn't even a circle: "Cheney had greater power and influence than any other vice president in history, and no one really knew how extensively he wielded it. Being shut out from his thinking and from the ways he advised the president left a large black hole in my understanding of what was really going on inside the administration."

Later, he writes: "[L]urking behind it all remained the magic man, Vice President Cheney. No one knew better how to orchestrate what was happening from behind the curtain while the grand production was playing out on stage. Quietly slipping in and out of internal deliberations, his influence and wand waving barely discernible to the outside world, Cheney rarely showed all his cards and never disclosed how he made things happen. Yet somehow, in every policy area he cared about, from the invasion of Iraq to expansion of presidential power to the treatment of detainees and the use of surveillance against terror suspects, Cheney always seemed to get his way."

Some Excerpts

From page 131: "Every president wants to achieve greatness but few do. As I have heard Bush say, only a wartime president is likely to achieve greatness, in part because the epochal upheavals of war provide the opportunity for the transformative change of the kind Bush hoped to achieve. In Iraq, Bush saw his opportunity to create a legacy of greatness."

Here is the book's preface: "As press secretary, I spent countless hours defending the administration from the podium in the White House briefing room. Although the things I said then were sincere, I have since come to realize that some of them were badly misguided. In these pages, I've tried to come to grips with some of the truths that life inside the White House bubble obscured.

"My friends and former colleagues who lived and worked or are still living and working inside that bubble may not be happy with the perspective I present here. Many of them, I'm sure, remain convinced that the Bush administration has been fundamentally correct in its most controversial policy judgments, and that the dis-esteem in which most Americans currently hold it is undeserved. Only time will tell. But I've become genuinely convinced otherwise. . . .

"When words I uttered, believing them to be true, were exposed as false, I was constrained by my duties and loyalty to the president and unable to comment. But I promised reporters and the public that I would someday tell the whole story of what I knew. After leaving the White House, I realized that the story was meaningless without an appreciation of the personal, political, and institutional context in which it took place. So the story grew into a book. . . .

"Waging an unnecessary war is a grave mistake. But in reflecting on all that happened during the Bush administration, I've come to believe that an even more fundamental mistake was made -- a decision to turn away from candor and honesty when those qualities were most needed."

Here are some more excerpts from the Wall Street Journal: "The most obvious evidence that the Bush White House embraced the permanent campaign is the expansive political operation that was put in place from day one. Chief political strategist Karl Rove was given an enormous center of influence within the white House from the outset. This was only strengthened by Rove's force of personality and closeness to the president. . . .

"The permanent campaign also ensnares the media, who become complicit enablers of its polarizing effects. They emphasize conflict, controversy and negativity, focusing not on the real-world impact of policies and their larger, underlying truths but on the horse race aspects of politics -- who's winning, who's losing, and why."

On Bush's decision to go to war, which McClellan dates back all the way to November 2001: "[I]it's not asking too much that a well-considered understanding of the circumstances and history of Iraq and the Middle East should have been brought into the decision-making process. The responsibility to provide this understanding belonged to the president's advisers, and they failed to fulfill it. Secretary of State Colin Powell was apparently the only adviser who even tried to raise doubts about the wisdom of war. The rest of the foreign policy team seemed to be preoccupied with regime change or, in the case of Condi Rice, seemingly more interested in accommodating the president's instincts and ideas than in questioning them or educating him.

"An even more fundamental problem was the way his advisers decided to pursue a political propaganda campaign to sell the war to the American people. It was all part of the way the White House operated and Washington functioned, and no one seemed to see any problem with using such an approach on an issue as grave as war. A pro-war campaign might have been more acceptable had it been accompanied by a high level of candor and honesty, but it was not. "

A few of the laugh-out-loud absurdities from McClellan's book:

McClellan repeatedly claimed from behind the podium that "ongoing legal proceedings" precluded him from answering important questions, such as about the Plame case, even when this was an incredibly obvious dodge. (See, for instance, my April 10, 2006, column: Some Explaining To Do.)

Here's McClellan on page 260 of his book: "Eventually, long after leaving the White House, I came to see that standing in front of the speeding press bus in those days had much more to do with protecting the president and White house from further political embarrassment than respecting the sanctity of the investigation."

You don't say.

And McClellan also would like us to believe that he thinks Bush should have demanded an internal investigation into the CIA leak case early on, and "should have ordered the public release of as much information as possible as soon as it was known, to that the scandal would not take on a life of its own."

But McClellan seems to forget a key point: The stonewall that Bush ordered, that McClellan so dutifully enforced, and that the media largely accepted, arguably won Bush the 2004 election. The politically damaging truth -- that Rove and Libby were indeed involved, and that Cheney may have been as well -- remained obscured for years.

One of the biggest surprises in McClellan's book is his ferocious criticism of the media -- for being lapdogs.

Here are some excerpts of his thoughts on the media:

"If anything, the national press corps was probably too deferential to the White House and to the administration in regard to the most important decision facing the nation during my years in Washington, the choice over whether to go to war in Iraq. The collapse of the administration's rationales for war, which became apparent months after our invasion, should have never come as such a surprise. The public should have been made much more aware, before the fact, of the uncertainties, doubts, and caveats that underlay the intelligence about the regime of Saddam Hussein. The administration did little to convey those nuances to the people, the press should have picked up the slack but largely failed to do so because their focus was elsewhere -- on covering the march to war, instead of the necessity of war.

"In this case, the 'liberal media' didn't live up to its reputation. If it had, the country would have been better served."

Warren P. Strobel and Jonathan S. Landay, who as reporters for Knight-Ridder were almost alone in reporting skeptically about the campaign for war, blog for McClatchy Newspapers: "It's not news. At least not to some of us who've covered the story from the start. . . .

"The news media have been, if anything, even more craven than the administration has been in defending its failure to investigate Bush's case for war in Iraq before the war."


Press blogger Jay Rosen reminds us of the key role -- stooge -- that McClellan played in the White House's attack on the press: "It denied the whole theory of the 'fourth estate,' ridiculed the idea that the press is part of the system of checks and balances, told reporters they were a special interest group rather than a conduit to the public-at-large, wiped out all remaining distinctions between propaganda and public information, and welcomed the de-legitimizing of the news media by allies in the culture war.

"'Back 'em up, starve 'em down and drive up their negatives' is the way I summarized this approach. In July 2003 Bush took it further when he installed in the White House briefing room a stooge figure, a pathetic character who had no power, no in-in-the-loop knowledge, no respect from key players in the Administration, no talent for improvised explanation under the lights, and no problem being made to look like an ass in front of the country, the cameras and the rest of the world."

Scott McClellan is now rumoured to be preparing to testify against the Bush White House in congressional hearings.
Bush Reveals US In Iraq For Four Decades

From a previously unreleased President George W. Bush interview come some amazing revelations :

When NBC News correspondent Richard Engel sat down with President Bush last year for an interview, he had little idea how much Bush would reveal about his true intentions and his real sentiments about the war on terror and America’s allies and enemies.

Among the excerpts of the interview captured in Engel’s new book, “War Journal: My Five Years in Iraq”:

- “‘This is the great war of our times. It is going to take forty years,’” [Bush told Engel]. “Bush said in forty years the world would know if the war on terrorism, and conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, had reduced extremism, helped moderates, and promoted democracy.”

- Bush admits to Engel that going to war was a decision based on his personal instinct and not on any long-range strategy for the Mideast:

“I know people are saying we should have left things the way they were, but I changed after 9/11. I had to act. I don’t care if it created more enemies. I had to act.”

- Bush tells Engel that the election of Hamas was actually a positive development because it pressured Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas to make reforms:

I think the election of Hamas was a good thing. It proved to Abbas he was failing. I told Abbas, ‘You lost the election because you aren’t providing for your people, jobs, education, what people want.’ Now they know they have to compete.”

- And he says that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is an obstacle to peace in the region:

The problem is Olmert. This is a man who came to power on a promise that he was going to unilaterally define a Palestinian state. You can’t pressure democracies.”

- Bush also explains that he’s open to meeting with Iran, describing the administration’s attempt at dialogue with Syria, but that he’s doubtful it would be effective:

We can have meetings. Talking is not the problem. We can talk to Iran. But Iran wants nuclear weapons and I’m not going to let that happen. Not on my watch. We tried to have dialogue with Syria, right after the war, didn’t get much.

[Syrian President Bashar] Asad didn’t deliver. We’d ask for ten al-Qaeda guys. They’d give us one.”