On November 6, 2008, two days after the election of Barack Obama, President Bush held a meeting of his cabinet and senior staff. He started by telling us that a friend had called to tell him how sorry he was about the election. The president recounted his response: "Don't be sorry. It was a great day for the American people".That alone is enough to put MSNBC into a collective aneurysm, but Bush elaborated further:
He then said: "It will be a good lesson for the country, for people who say if I only had this person in office, my life will be better. They will learn that it is not government that improves lives. It will be a fascinating political science lesson."
"I feel a great sense of liberation after the election. History has a long reach. Someday there will be a sober assessment of what we did here..."In the next paragraph Bush hints a little about why they did it without busting the wall between conventional wisdom and classified intelligence:
"Our job is to make sure the next president and his team can do the job and succeed. No one at this table should want them to fail--because that means the country got attacked again."The left might be tempted to use that fail comment against Limbaugh but it was clearly in the context of the war, not social policies. Thiessen goes on to describe a wide-eyed Obama getting the first security briefing from Mike McConnell and wondering where they obtained all the threats and the answer: the NSA's TSP program. In the subsequent 15 months Obama has done a lot of posturing and positioning but America still has the NSA program, Gitmo, renditions, and troops on the ground in the same place they were when Bush left.
He added: "When they arrive, they will quickly realize we didn't invent the war on terror. It will be a day of reckoning when the reality of the world sets in."
While that doesn't vindicate Bush's response it certainly doesn't dismiss it either, keeping the notion of 'someday they will understand' alive and well. Obama now knows everything Bush knew--which Cheney still knows--which is perhaps why he comes out every time Obama seems to publicly forget.
Meanwhile, one of the biggest Bush detractors continues to be Lawrence Wilkerson, a former assistant to Colin Powell and part of the small group of State Department radicals who pushed back on the 'neocons' back in the day. Lawrence was once asked by PBS in 2005 about Dick Cheney's influence in the run-up to Iraq:
It's difficult for me to say. ... Dick Cheney is genuinely concerned about the security of this country; there's no question in my mind about that. He's paranoid about it, I think. And you can say, "Well, the vice president of the United States and the president of the United States should be paranoid about my security," and I probably wouldn't argue it until it starts causing me to do things that violate my own code of conduct, ethics and so forth. Then I'm going to object.Unless it depended on maintaining everything we hold dear? Here's Wilkerson, a vociferous critic of the administration primarily due to harsh treatment of detainees but also over Iraq, admitted he wasn't privy to the highest intelligence and was only speculating on some of his responses, but he thought Cheney wasn't evil, just overly paranoid about threats he likely wasn't briefed on. So why was Cheney so paranoid? Was it just 9/11?
Consider that the Veep and other high officials were offered anthrax vaccinations concurrent with 9/11 and a week BEFORE the first anthrax letters were mailed, and several weeks before they became news items in the media. The conspiracy theorists like to use this as a smoking gun to argue the government was behind the letters (and everything else) but isn't it just as likely they understood the threat and the enemy almost immediately?
And if in the end Bush knew he had misjudged AQ by thinking of them as a clever cat's paw of the pan-Arabic movement (individual Arabs, as Saddam once said) or even darker unnamed forces why would he, behind closed doors, tell his team they should hold onto hope that the "long reach" of history would vindicate them in the end? Was the "long reach" just the rambling of a failed president trying to pick up the pieces of a legacy and cheer up the troops or was it the surface reflection of his "brutal honesty"? Guess we'll have to wait for history.