2007 September 07 Friday
Robert Draper On George Bush In Dead Certain

Texas journalist Robert Draper was given access to George W. Bush and members of his inner circle to work on a book about Bush's Presidency. The book, Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W. Bush, is out. Robert Draper draws a picture that is not flattering. Bush can't remember what he decided on big questions about Iraq.

Mr. Bush acknowledged one major failing of the early occupation of Iraq when he said of disbanding the Saddam Hussein-era military, “The policy was to keep the army intact; didn’t happen.”

But when Mr. Draper pointed out that Mr. Bush’s former Iraq administrator, L. Paul Bremer III, had gone ahead and forced the army’s dissolution and then asked Mr. Bush how he reacted to that, Mr. Bush said, “Yeah, I can’t remember, I’m sure I said, ‘This is the policy, what happened?’ ” But, he added, “Again, Hadley’s got notes on all of this stuff,” referring to Stephen J. Hadley, his national security adviser.

On the title Dead Certain: Bush is not alone in confusing the feeling of certainty with the reality of being correct. No, you aren't automatically correct just because you feel highly certain.

Bush still believes that Saddam Hussein really had WMDs.

Bush, for his part, was not disposed to second-guessing. Througout 2006, he read historical texts relating to Lincoln, Churchill, and Truman — three wartime leaders, the latter two of whom left office to something less than public acclaim. History would acquit him, too. Bush was confident of that, and of something else as well. Though it was not the sort of thing one could say publicly anymore, the president still believed that Saddam had possessed weapons of mass destruction. He repeated this conviction to Andy Card all the way up until Card’s departure in April 2006, almost exactly three years after the Coalition had begun its fruitless search for WMDs. [p. 388]

Looney Tunes. He gets a wrong idea and becomes highly attached to it. Won't let it go.

Bush likes Big Ideas that are A Really Tough Decision.

What’s more, when dissenting views did reach the president, the results could be an obstinate digging in of heels. For example, calls for Mr. Rumsfeld’s resignation from several retired generals in the spring of 2006 elicited this response from Mr. Bush: “No military guy is gonna tell a civilian how to react.” As one aide glumly put it: “The moment someone would say ‘Fire Donald Rumsfeld,’ Donald Rumsfeld would get a new lease on life.”

The best approach to selling the ever-competitive president on an idea, aides told Mr. Draper, was to tell him, “This is going to be a really tough decision.” Mr. Rumsfeld (whose own Big Idea was to “transform” the military and go into Iraq with a lighter, faster force) gave similar advice, telling his lieutenants that if they wanted the president’s support for an initiative, it was always best to frame it as a “Big New Thing.”

Mr. Draper writes that Mr. Bush was “at root a man who craved purpose — a sense of movement, of consequence” and that he was irresistibly drawn to Big Ideas like bringing democracy to the Middle East, Big Ideas that stood in sharp contrast to the prudent small ball played by his father, who was often accused of lacking the “vision thing.”

Bush believes he's got to be a big picture man.

"The job of the president," he continued, through an ample wad of bread and sausage, "is to think strategically so that you can accomplish big objectives. As opposed to playing mini-ball. You can't play mini-ball with the influence we have and expect there to be peace. You've gotta think, think BIG. The Iranian issue," he said as bread crumbs tumbled out of his mouth and onto his chin, "is the strategic threat right now facing a generation of Americans, because Iran is promoting an extreme form of religion that is competing with another extreme form of religion. Iran's a destabilizing force. And instability in that part of the world has deeply adverse consequences, like energy falling in the hands of extremist people that would use it to blackmail the West. And to couple all of that with a nuclear weapon, then you've got a dangerous situation. ... That's what I mean by strategic thought. I don't know how you learn that. I don't think there's a moment where that happened to me. I really don't. I know you're searching for it. I know it's difficult. I do know—y'know, how do you decide, how do you learn to decide things? When you make up your mind, and you stick by it—I don't know that there's a moment, Robert. I really—You either know how to do it or you don't. I think part of this is it: I ran for reasons. Principled reasons. There were principles by which I will stand on. And when I leave this office I'll stand on them. And therefore you can't get driven by polls. Polls aren't driven by principles. They're driven by the moment. By the nanosecond."

Our political system scares off most of the people who would make good Presidents. We are stuck with the likes of the Bushes and Clintons.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2007 September 07 12:29 AM  Politics American Presidency

US or Them said at September 7, 2007 5:38 AM:

From the NY Times review:

"Although the President Bush described in this volume will be familiar to most readers,... He keeps meticulous count of all the books he’s read. (At one point he tells Mr. Draper he’s up to 87 for the year.)"

I am very curious to know exactly what books he's read. And, is he comprehending these books or just reading them? What has he read about Islam that provides the basis for him to prattle about it being a "Religion of Peace" ? I'd really love to see that reading list.

Gary said at September 7, 2007 8:59 AM:

Bush could not be more wrong about Iran. They pose a threat to Israel perhaps, but to us? As near as I can tell, Iranians have taken over Beverly Hills and part of the San Fernando Valley, but those Iranians aren't even Muslims, they're Jews.

And even though the Iranian government may threaten once in a while "to wipe Israel off the map," Bush's buddies Vicente Fox and Felipe Calderon have more or less said the same thing with regard to us. Because they don't use language that is quite so inflammatory, and they're not aiming nukes at us, Bush says they're "our friends."

For all its problems and difficulties, Russia will still be around as a nation state 50 or 100 years from now, maybe the old USSR will have even made a comeback. What will become of us? Los Estado Unidos de Mexico y Norteamerica. Ugh. No thank you.

black sea said at September 7, 2007 9:55 AM:

I also found the "87 books so far" comment to be revealing. We don't know at what time of year he made this claim, but even if it was December 31st, it's still remarkable, though not necessarily for good reasons. Most employed people don't have the time to read and reflect upon one book every four days. Surely, a president fully engaged in his responsibilities wouldn't. (Although the less time he spends on his day job, perhaps the better for the rest of us.)

The fact that he's keeping a running tally of his literary consumption relative to Rove's seems competitive in a childish sense, rather like vying to see who can eat the most hot dogs. Throughout the interviews, Bush appears obsessed with proving that he has been right all along, that he sees potential dangers and opportunities that others can't recognize, and that, even after his death, he will be vindicated by history (hence his addiction to the history books). These may be the convictions of a visionary leader, but they're also the attributes of kooks, crackpots, and fanatics of every stripe.

Most of us mere mortals aren't so sure of our convictions, which may make us less promising material for leadership, a role to which Bush considers himself emminently well suited. On the other hand, a little doubt and self-scrutiny may be essential to more reasonable judgement.

Trent Telenko said at September 7, 2007 1:16 PM:

Don't believe what you read in the news about Iraq having no WMD.

The majority of Iraq's program was sent outside Iraq to Libya. As for media reporting of inside Iraq chemical WMD, the following is an e-mail I received from a senior NCO who was in theater during OIF and OEF.

It is reports from such men that the President reads and believes.

I'm bored with this tripe. I saw the news, CNN and Fox, as they captured highly secured locations with chemicals....and then in the press it was "just pesticides." Hmmm... right next door was unsecured ammo and weapons, this was camoflagued and fortified, and it was "for agricultural use only?" I checked the reports against Jane's and all of the chemicals could be for pesticides...and were also VX components.

This is like how its not in the news when we are given the go ahead to go into a mosque and find dead women and children who had been multiply raped and later tortured, dead males, drugs, porn.... plus all the weapons and intel indicated coordination from outside Iraq. We release it, embeds are on hte mission....it doesn't run.

I say again.... WE RELEASE IT, EMBEDDED JOURNALISTS ARE ON THE MISSION!! "The administration" (if you all are going to insist on making anything military part of the admistration, which is a fairly non-informed statedment) releases it. There are nonmilitary journalists there. And you still don't hear of it stateside.

Or that the official military story is almost always right on the money because the PAO shops are absolute pains in the ass about verified info, and minor issues like the fact Abu was under investigation for misconduct, CENTCOM issued press releases about it, and the initial reports of prisoner abuse were ignored by the media until they had photos to go with it....

By the way...for you idiots who pass judgement without knowledge, the PAO shops issue what they get from THE COMMANDER!!!! Go back to your staff work.... facts include what the commander says are facts. So if the incident report is given to the PAO shot to be X, Y, and Z and its approved by the commander, its what they release. Been there, done that. And you're missing the 99.9 percent time its all right on the money and ignoring how often the media edits in commentary or gets the facts wrong themselves.

I can't comment directly about the nuke program, but my own observations about chemical agent components and the lack of publicity about the terrorists/criminals we are facing.... as well as the jump-to-convict any misdeeds by the military.... its a series of trends that makes these discussions based on what you see over here in the media, and the gross characteriszation of all material coming out of the military as "by PR flacks"....pretty much indicates there is not basis for discussion. Minds are made up.

I'm starting to look forward to going back to a warzone to get away from the noise.

Gary said at September 7, 2007 8:35 PM:

If I am not mistaken it was Oscar Wilde who observed that "the stupid are cocksure, while the intelligent are full of doubts." Hmm.

Stephen said at September 7, 2007 9:13 PM:

This story quote from George is revealing:

"...because Iran is promoting an extreme form of religion that is competing with another extreme form of religion. Iran's a destabilizing force..."

This can only be a reference to the Shia / Sunni schism, an the clear implication is that the US has decided that the Sunni's are the One-True religion in the region. I think its common ground now that the US is dumb as dirt at the moment, but deciding to take sides in a religious debate (in the middle-east no less!!!) takes dumbness to a whole new level.

The citizens of the US twice voted this idiot into office. Donald Duck would have been a less damaging choice.

Stephen said at September 7, 2007 9:14 PM:

Gary, a wise rule by which to live.

Stephen said at September 7, 2007 9:26 PM:

Trent, believe what you want - just like George.

gcochran said at September 7, 2007 10:31 PM:

Trent, you must think that the President had good evidence that would vindicate his invasion of Iraq if released, but that mysterious forces are keeping him from doing so.

That's implausible.

I have a theory that fits all the known facts and is a lot more plausible: He's a jackass, and so are you.

Wolf-Dog said at September 8, 2007 5:48 AM:

But returning to what Randall Parker said about our political system: for some reason the truly smart and good people (who do exist in America) are scared away by the political system. Why and how is this happening, and what can be done to improve the system?

What about electing a group of 1,000 top scientists from the top 50 universities, who would be in a very important decision making position. This group would be appointed in a manner that is similar to Supreme Court, but with a much more active capacity to introduce legislation and to enforce that legislation. This group would have direct access to the president, and would be able to veto the bad decisions of the president. Additionally, this group of elected 1,000 scientists, would control a special annual budget of $25 billion per year, to be spent on supporting important research and development neglected by the government, in an apolitical way, in areas such as biology, energy, etc. Any comments?

Jane Maxwell said at September 8, 2007 3:22 PM:

Sheesh. Strategic thinking- "You either have it or you don't" says George. Adding to the deadly irony is that Bill Kristol describes meeting him and thinking with delight that this guy didn't know diddly. He's pumped with nonsense and convinces himself that the "genius" is all his. This reads like a sad parody.

Where does this invincible boneheaded self-esteem come from? "I'm a good guy because I am friendly to black people and want to submit to Mexico and the religion of peace?"

Jane Maxwell said at September 8, 2007 3:25 PM:

Wolf-dog, I think it's that sort of thing that has got us into trouble. The key failure is our own- we lost control of the culture {and the borders} to the left, and failed to demand limited government. Rule by "experts" along the lines of the E.U. is the antithesis of a free self-governing Republic.

Wolf-Dog said at September 8, 2007 11:47 PM:

"Rule by "experts" along the lines of the E.U. is the antithesis of a free self-governing Republic."

The US does not have a 'Rule by "experts" ' system, we have a "Rule by Dummies" system.

In terms of foreign trade deficit, the Dummy Rulers made the greatest creditor country the greatest debtor country.

If we have an additional elected independent group of non-politician experts making some decisions that the politicians are not trained to understand, (similar to Federal Reserve), this would not cause harm.

EU ruled by the "experts" has a positive trade balance, a medical system that makes the average citizen over there more happy than the many millions in the US who cannot afford to have insurance, decent high schools, etc. Many upper-middle class Americans are actually trying to move to Europe because of our dummies who are destroying the US.

But the "experts" that I am talking about, would be 1,000 elected officials (from science, engineering and business) whose credentials will include both knowledge and also good character and altruism), who will be chosen by means of a national annual referendum that will assign some kind of score based on what people are saying about these "experts". These "experts" would have figured out that had we spent half the money on a Bronx project every year for energy instead of invading Iraq in 2003, then by 2007 we would have attained a lot of independence from imported oil after 5 years.

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