Monday, November 08, 2010

Watch Matt Lauer's interview of George W. Bush 

I tuned in a few minutes late to Matt Lauer's interview of George W. Bush, and recommend that you do the same if you read this post in time (or see it online, where it will no doubt be available, later). It is interesting, and gives a glimpse in to Bush that many of us might not have seen before. All will agree, left and right, that the differences with the current president are striking.

I note that President Bush's book Decision Points is #1 on Amazon. I ordered a copy after seeing some of Lauer's interview.

UPDATE: GWB, on approval ratings of presidents: "If you chase popularity, you are chasing a moment, a poof of air." True in a sense, but popularity is not a mere decorative festoon on one's presidency. It is also a proxy for a certain sort of political leverage, or lack thereof. I respect Bush for doing what he believed was right whether or not it was popular -- to the extent that is true, and it was not always so -- but he put his agenda at risk by squandering his popularity. He may not have had a choice in this given his own limitations and the hostility of the chattering class, but so it was.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Nov 08, 10:34:00 PM:

A great President.

I don't agree about squandering popularity. I remember Conservatives abandoning Ronald Reagan in the Second Term as well. They grew unsettled about many things, and lost sight of a larger perspective in my humble opinion. Now he is given his proper due - as a legend and a hero.

GW Bush was unfairly treated by many who advocated strongly for invading in Iraq with force. Post 9-11, facing the GWOT, addressing the threats ignored and enabled for years prior, was just an enormous task. GW Bush led with great strength, class, decency, and especially seems to have gotten the policies right on so many levels.

Some Conservatives lost in a little tunnel of fashion, fail on a daily basis to be objective, honest, reasoned about this offering of the Bush Administration. It is truly amazing to see some promote Texas as the Conservative Utopia, yet fail to remember GW Bush was a major contributor in the LONE STAR success.

There are many vocal voices who have sent a great deal of the Conservative Base astray - some seeking their own aggrandizement, some with life long anti-GOP biases. They helped grow a reactionary nonsensical fervor, which eventually undermined the best interests we have in Washington prior to 2006. All of it was connected to fears over Iraq - which was a very complex, challenging, difficult, but essential endeavor to bring a needed intervention to the dysfunctional Middle East.

Many who lacked objectivity about GW Bush, are still stuck in a form of fashion today. They have had a hand in the Delaware fiasco.

GW Bush's efforts in attempting to reform Social Security with some admirable conservative principles was simply outstanding. Even the mighty GIPPER simply turned to make a deal with TIP. If we had been able to follow many Bush Administration desires, including reforming Fannie and Freddie, we would be much better off today - perhaps even in good shape.

Historic alliance with India, basically stemmed the AIDS Epidemic tide in Africa, led the world to liberate Iraq and Afghanistan, encouraged the liberty of the Liberian People, Tort Reform, Bankruptcy Reform, even swindled Teddy Kennedy and the Democrats running the Senate to enact standards-testing-competition in Public Education (Unions are still furious about this), putting the FREE WEST on the right path to win the GWOT, etc.

No Administration will ever be perfect, but after 9-11, the future looked bleak. The Bush Administration led so well, Americans became unconcerned once again - living in prosperity, inspired by the security and the tax relief.

Too bad those Democrats had undermined the Mortgage Market so badly through the years, via HUD - Fannie - Freddie, etc.  

By Blogger Progressively Defensive, at Mon Nov 08, 11:02:00 PM:

So strange; with so much at stake Bush does not answer well the simple question, would he do the same in Iraq with present intelligence. The answer could legitimately be yes or no. But if yes, the rationale would be the War Resolutions were correct even in hindsight. Hussein continued to flout the UN Resolutions (the Treaty ending the Gulf War I in effect) thus creating too great a threat to the US and it's strategic interests in the region. Better to fight him weak than when later strenthened through whatever secret activities. It was not the weapons alone, but the oil-for-food income he derived, his defiance, indications he sought weapons-grade uranium, etc. But they are still unnecessesarily skitish on that matter. If the answer is no, waiting might have proved better, that's OK, too, logically, but not as defensible. It also is a weaker political position providing Democrats with a rhetorical weapon (which should be beside the point).

A great president; a good man. And it's so funny, TARP was brilliant inteventionism that paid off in all ways for the USA and it was him, not Obama. If anything the easy borrowing was a Democratic Congress situation (or at least shared) and a danger the White House alerted the banking committee legislators about in 2007. Obama's legacy is the stimulus that wound up in party coffers as opposed to work projects and jobs.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Nov 09, 10:28:00 AM:

He may well be a good man, but a great president?

I discovered this site recently and enjoy it because I think the headliners and many of the commenters bring an interesting and sophisticated business perspective to their discussion of politics. I've been drifting gradually to the right for a number of years, and I find the discussion here helpful for my thinking.

But if you will forgive me for saying so, there seems to be more than a grain of truth to the notion that some people on the right engage in tribal thinking.

Bush and his team started a major war based on inaccurate premises, and then executed it disastrously. They performed a display of the limits of American power and competence, for all the world to see, and they weakened our country. How can that reasonably be disputed?

Maybe their motives were good. But I thought hardheaded realists on the right were more concerned with actions and results than motives.  

By Anonymous Ignoramus, at Tue Nov 09, 10:46:00 AM:

"A great President."

NFW. I second the immediate prior comment.

The decision to invade Iraq was his, although Cheney pushed for it ("Are you gonna take care of this guy or not?"). It ruined what could have been a great Presidency. It's already led to a lot of known bad things, including increased fiscal profligacy and Obama's election. Known Unknowns and Unkown Unknowns still lurk.

I'm more concerned with the upcoming G20 -- the food fight has already started -- than Bush's memoir, but couldn't let this go by without dissent.

Bush isn't a bad guy, but when I parse the Lauer interview (transcript here

) I hear a guy with regret. Cheney's not worth sympathy -- he's certifiable.  

By Anonymous Ignoramus, at Tue Nov 09, 11:20:00 AM:

ps, we didn't waterboard KSM enough  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Nov 09, 12:48:00 PM:

Bush was a buffoon, albeit a dangerous one.

He is responsible for grossly misrepresenting the US intelligence estimates on Iraq, a complete mismanagement of Iraq's political reconstruction, a dangerous restructuring of the US military in favor of private contractors.

He also instituted or condoned programs that increased government spying on individuals, instituted a hugely expensive prescription drug benefit, and abandoned fiscal sanity starting us down the road to the budget mess we are facing now.

I have never liked the Bushes, any of them, and think they are a pernicious influence on American politics. They are not true conservatives, rather they are something darker altogether. Crony capitalism with suspicious links to the CIA, the military and big oil.

I personally believe that George W. Bush will go down with Nixon and Warren Harding in history as one of the worst occupants of the White House.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Tue Nov 09, 01:36:00 PM:

"Bush and his team started a major war based on inaccurate premises, and then executed it disastrously. They performed a display of the limits of American power and competence, for all the world to see, and they weakened our country. How can that reasonably be disputed?"


'Bush and his team...' Alright, if you include in the definition of "team" to include all of the coalition member states, the Saudis and other local Arab governments glad to see Saddam go, the foreign intelligence services of all of Europe (who all agreed [privately; this was only publicly acknowledged once by an off the cuff remark by a member of the Iraq Study Group] that Iraq maintained a WMD program), and Congress, including such neo-conservative stars as Hillary Clinton and Tom Daschle.

The premise your statement is flawed. Ironic.

"started a major war based on inaccurate premises"

I guess you didn't see where Obama's DNI "believes" that Iraqi WMDs were spirited out of the country prior to the invasion, after the Congressional authorization for force? Absurd belief, until you consider that he was head of the National Geo-spatial Intelligence Agency at the time of the invasion. Or think about all the functional WMDs there that we DID find (some of which were used against us) that, if nothing else, fundamentally disprove the idea that the war was waged on a lie or a serious mistake which can be placed at the foot of the President. Or consider the hundreds of tons of uranium we shipped out of Iraq.

Oh what, you didn't hear about that? What a shock.


That article doesn't even mention the smaller amounts of much more dangerous radioactive materials we removed immediately after the invasion.

"and then executed it disastrously"

Baghdad fell on April 12th, after less than four weeks. US casualties were extremely limited (139 killed). The invasion was a smashing success. The period of pacification was, after initial difficulties, also a success. Or have you missed the successive elections, handing over of sovereignty, and fairly steady US withdrawal from Iraq?

'The pacification wasn't successful, it was horrible!'

Propaganda that doesn't account for historical measurements. For instance, in Vietnam (consisting largely, but not entirely, of counterinsurgency operations) there were more than 58k US deaths over about 7 years of combat. In Iraq (which was almost entirely counterinsurgency), in 7 years of combat (reached this year) there have been about 4k. For the mathematically challenged, that's a factor of 14.5:1. And almost all US goals have been achieved (we have to wait and see if Iran is going to push Iraq back into chaos or not).

How is that a disaster? Because 4,000 soldiers died, rather than 3,999? Because Iraq held genuine elections in 2005, instead of 2004? Please.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Tue Nov 09, 01:37:00 PM:

And a last word on the initial, less than successful years of the pacification campaign... that wasn't President Bush's fault. That was the Army's fault (Disclosure: I was in the Army at the time). There was a lot of pressure from below (including from me, for what that was worth... nothing, really) to conduct more aggressive operations in Iraq, and the leadership ignored it. Bush deferred to the military leadership (as he always said that he did). Finally, after it became apparent that they didn't know what the hell they were doing and were misrepresenting things to him, he placed a more aggressive officer in charge (Petraeus) and signed onto his more aggressive policies. This is all semi-chronicled in Bob Woodward's book, The War Within (I say semi-chronicled because this wasn't explained explicitly; you have to read between the lines and have some understanding of Army culture at the time to see this clearly).

"They performed a display of the limits of American power and competence, for all the world to see"

If you consider the destruction of a totalitarian regime and its replacement by a democratic system to be a 'limit' of American power and competence, then sure. Muammar Gadafi certainly agrees with you.

"and they weakened our country."

This is merely like a statement of faith, a wishy-washy, normative term that means nothing concrete. For instance, "he hurt our reputation! That weakens America!" and "he reduced the size of the military! That weakens America!" and so on.

On a more objective level, the Iraqi adventure re-established the credibility of American military power in the developing world, lacking since Vietnam and Somalia. Confidence in the power of a governing hegemon is a force for peace. More specifically, it deters potential aggressive actions against us or where we have important interests because other people don't want to go the way of Saddam.

And did I mention that our military is now quite battle-hardened and well-equipped? I know the Chinese have taken note of this in recent years, and PLA generals have commented on it.

Is this reasonable enough?

The idea that Iraq was some sort of ill-thought out, cowboyish adventure by Bush and his evil manipulative posse resulting in nothing but disaster is a stupid media narrative, given life and promoted out of political convenience. Simply parroting it is a disservice to President Bush and his evil posse as well as to critical thinking.  

By Anonymous Ignoramus, at Tue Nov 09, 02:02:00 PM:

To Dawnfire:

Am I right that you're saying that knowing what you know now, you'd still have invaded Iraq in 2003?

"We make our decisions. And then our decisions turn around and make us."  

By Anonymous Ignoramus, at Tue Nov 09, 02:56:00 PM:

To Dawnfire:

Are you saying that there was in fact Saddam WMD? But Bush himself says different. He just said it again. On TV. Last night. Or am I missing something?

"ill-thought out, cowboyish adventure by Bush and his evil manipulative posse "

They were planning it before 9/11. "Never waste a crisis." 9/11 and WMD were pretexts.

The Iraq invasion would have made Patton proud. The occupation ... not so much.

"nothing but disaster"

Locally, it'd have been a disaster, but for the surge. But Iraq may still go the way of Yugoslavia.

Within the region, I'm sure the Saudis and Israelis are glad Saddam is gone. But we've emboldened Iran, etc etc.

Domestically, it's been a disaster. When you deny this ... saying it's "a statement of faith" ... you lose all credibility.

If you're old enough to remember Vietnam, you'd know this was foreseeable. We're a far weaker nation right now.

"Confidence in the power of a governing hegemon is a force for peace."

We don't have the wherewithal -- financial and otherwise -- to take another big mission on right now no matter how important, I fear. We're going broke, if you haven't noticed. I fear that after the G20 we'll find ourselves quite isolated in the world.

Re numbers. We've had just over 4,000 KIA in Iraq; over 30,000 wounded. That's about 8:1. Vietnam had a 3:1 ratio. Iraq has been an IED booby trap war; our medical care has gotten better.

These numbers are consistent with what I've told my kids: That Vietnam was 5x the fuck-up that Iraq is ... except for it putting Obama in office.

Lastly, by your logic we should already be on the ground in North Korea. How's it different?  

By Blogger Ed Rasimus, at Tue Nov 09, 04:05:00 PM:

Some well thought out commentary and some reiteration of well-rehearsed talking points. I stumble every time the WMD issue is raised. To doubt that Saddam possessed or pursued WMD requires denial of his nuclear ambitions all the way back to the mid-'80s when the Israeli took out Osirik.

It requires ignoring the persistent, regular use of chemical weapons in the Iran-Iraq war and the application of chemical weapons on his own Kurdish population.

To say the intel was manufactured or not credible would require generating a conspiracy that included not only the several US agencies, but also the Brits, French, Germans, Israeli and Saudi estimates.

To say there was no cause for doubt about Sadaam's intention would require you to overlook ten years of resistance to UN mandated inspections.

To put forth that "none were ever found" works well enough for nuclear materials which leave a large footprint, but is a ludicrous argument when applied to binary chemicals and/or biological agents--both of which clearly constitute WMD.

And to say he acted unilaterally and through deceit would be to ignore the Congressional approvals and suggest he was capable of misleading the estimable likes of John Kerry, Al Gore and the gang that can't shoot straight (or even like a gun!)  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Nov 09, 06:01:00 PM:

Mr. Rasimus, it's hard to know where to start. Do you even recognize how many dishonest rhetorical tricks you deployed in just a few paragraphs?

1. Redefine the terms: You're playing around with the term WMD. Not all are created equal, and not all are a reason for war. Chemical weapons? We did not go to war on the possibility that Saddam was sitting on some leftover mustard gas or some such. If the Bush admin had tried to sell the war on that basis, they would have been laughed out of Congress. You know that. So why do you mention chemical weapons? Obviously, to bolster a weak case.

2. Straw man: "To doubt that Saddam possessed or pursued WMD...." No one doubts that Saddam at some point in time pursued nuclear ambitions. That's why the weapons inspectors were there. But was there any reliable evidence that he was pursuing them in 2002 and 2003? Was there any imminent danger? Because that's the basis on which we went to war. Remember smoking guns and mushroom clouds?

3. Strategic vagueness: "To say the intel was manufactured or not credible""--what intel are you talking about? The yellowcake from Niger was not credible. The reports from Chalabi associates were not credible. And I sure don't remember the French ever saying they had credible evidence that Saddam was close to nuclear capability.

4. "My lack of evidence actually proves my case." You dismiss "none were ever found" as a "ludicrous" argument with respect to chemical and biological weapons. But what is your credible evidence that there were such weapons in any relevant time frame?

5. Misdirection: You point to congressional approvals. Yes, in the wake of 9/11, Congress gave Bush authorization to do what he wanted, as presidents will and generally should get in times of crisis. So what? It was Bush's choice and his responsiblity, and history will judge him for it.

If you have to blow this much smoke, isn't something deep inside you saying that maybe, just maybe, you were wrong?  

By Blogger Progressively Defensive, at Tue Nov 09, 10:58:00 PM:

Easy to prove he is a great president to any reasonable person's satisfaction.

First of all, the intelligence was the exact same as Bill Clinton's and he had the exact same CIA head as Bill Clinton.

Second, he worked with the best possible intelligence, then provided it to the UN, then provide Hussein with every possible opportunity to cooperate fully, for the first time, with the UN resolusions designed to assure his peaceful intent. It would have been irresponsibly ludicrus for him not to have invaded because France wanted to wait. The US even asked, e.g., France to provide a time-line at which they would invade; France refused.

But the best proof is Barack Obama's foreign policy team; his expert, Joe Biden, his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, his current General Petreas, and his current Secretary of Defense Gates. They all either did concur with the decision or may be presumed to have concurred with it. Barack Obama was so impressed without saying so, he appointed only like-minded to W's opinion to his foreign policy team.

He also cut taxes making the tax system more progressive (absolutely) and spurred the economy from recession, creating millions of jobs and lowering unemployment. He organized TARP which has been an unmitigated success. He even warned the Congressional banking committees about the impending mortgage crisis in 2007; they ignored him.

Feel free to respond.  

By Blogger Progressively Defensive, at Tue Nov 09, 11:35:00 PM:

Would I invade now?

Yes; I would have invaded when he violated UN Resolutions ... because he violated UN Resolutions. That was the FDR's mistake with Hilter; he did not invade when Hitler violated the Treaty of Berlin (1922) with the USA. What insanity it was to let this two-bit punk toy with the USA after the generous terms at the end of Gulf War I. Why? He was bent of getting the means to strike back in revenge against the USA and had oil-for-food scandal money. It was so obvious a threat and as a matter of fact, the Baathist party is modeled on the Nazi party.

Would Theodore Roosevelt agree? Yes. Abraham Lincoln? Yes. Thomas Jefferson? Yes. (Barbary Pirates) George Washington? Yes. (Shay's Rebellion) Ronald Reagan? Oh yeah, yeah, yeah ... the best president the USA ever had and everyone knows it. Star Wars is going very well, clowns, er uh, scientists. The Soviet Union is destroyed without firing a shot and Eastern Europe is free after FDR surrendered it to Soviet fascism.

Democrats ought to understand; they are bad for poor people and bad for world peace. Everything they aspire to the GOP is better except for pretending to be noble. They are better pretenders but having the media as producers of their act is their best asset.

Dawnfire82; what do you think of that answer?  

By Blogger Progressively Defensive, at Tue Nov 09, 11:40:00 PM:

Anonymous responding to Mr. Rasimus, I call balderdash. The Congress and the Democrats who did so voted for war, end of story. That is so desperate to put all the blame on Bush; the reason the War Resolutions Act (or whatever it's called) was to require both Congress and the President to "declare" war. The debates in 2003 clearly cooroborate that. No Democrats voting affirmative offered an equivocation then; only in hindsight ... typical.  

By Anonymous JT, at Wed Nov 10, 04:36:00 AM:

And one wonders what original documents left in Sandy's panties that show what the outgoing administration knew. Whether it concerned terrorism or Saddam's regime.

I think y'all said it better than I ever could. 17 resolutions. All Hussein needed to do was cooperate and he'd be alive, as would his sons. Sure, some of the dead wouldn't be dead, but he'd have made different dead people. Raped a few zillion more brides, whatever, right?

Democrats hate Bush because he remains unapologetic about being red-white and blue, Christian, and man enough to put the USA first. That's what I like about him.

I think he is a great man, and will be judged as a great President. Obama will be judged a failure, and his legacy will be that what he accomplished will be undone.

... and BTW ... two years later, our troops are still over there, the Afghan war has been escalated, and we've let a bunch of bad guys go 'home' to return to the battlefields. Brilliant.  

By Anonymous Ignoramus, at Wed Nov 10, 02:34:00 PM:

There's a serious point to what follows:

Me, yesterday, on this thread above said: "But we've emboldened Iran, etc etc."

Bush, today, on the op-ed page of the WSJ:
"The notion that we went into Iraq and therefore the Iranians became emboldened—it was the opposite," Mr. Bush says. "The Iranians, it turns out, suspended their program," he continues, referring to a 2007 National Intelligence Estimate finding that Tehran had halted its weapons program in 2003. He says that it wasn't until mid-2005 that Iranian elections brought to power Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who announced the process of nuclear enrichment would accelerate."

This is actually profound. Bush is saying something totally contraindicated by the facts.

Here's the timeline:

Pre-Iraq Invasion. USA agencies say that Iran suspended development of nuclear weapons.

2003: USA invades Iraq .

2005: Ahmadinejad gets elected. Openly pursues nuclear weapons program and later openly threathens to use them against a USA ally .... Israel.

From this timeline how can you can conclude: "... we went into Iraq and therefore the Iranians became emboldened—it was the opposite,"

"If you piss on my leg, don't tell me it's raining."

I expect an answer from my usual opposition here, else I'll draw nasty ... but justified ... inferences.  

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