Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Long Reach, or History?

Marc Thiessen's book has gotten a lot of slammage from the left, who consider it a torture apologia riddled with errors (many of their own invention). But Thiessen left his readers an interesting comment from the Decider in the opening pages of the last chapter (conclusion:"You've Got a Harder Job", page 367):
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".

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."
That alone is enough to put MSNBC into a collective aneurysm, but Bush elaborated further:
"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."

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."
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.

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.

7 comments:

LASunsett said...

There is no doubt that history will be the ultimate judge of the Bush presidency.

As to:

//"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 think this is to some degree a learning experience for many people, for many different reasons.

The two that instantly come to mind:

1. Decent independents who didn't listen to those of us who warned against voting for Obama and the Dems. They bought into the empty promises and outright lies.

2. Stubborn conservatives who stayed home, because they did not like John McCain.

A.C. McCloud said...

I hate to keep bringing up Hitler, but from my reading of history he was brought in because the Weimar democracy was failing and people were afraid, for their livelihoods, pensions, future, etc, and traded their values for a loss of liberty at the crucial moment. The rest was blind loyalty, fear, and heavy denial.

Obama is certainly not a direct parallel because he isn't a nationalist by any means, but the parallel is his alignment with unions and socialists and their failing business model in an effort to hold onto what they've got as the country slides down off our mountain. Obama is all too happy to take us to that land of equal outcome for all to "solve"
the problem and far too many were not afraid to follow him there.

But Bush's lesson can only be learned if we don't heed.

LASunsett said...

Good point AC.

One main difference I would cite in your indirect parallel:

The Weimar was truly a destitute nation. It's currency was worth absolutely nothing and people wre really suffering. When Obama was elected here, no one was truly suffering - at least not at the same magnitude.

The perception was that people were suffering, they thought they were suffering and they were told they were by those who wanted power. I am not sure Americans have ever suffered as much as the Weimar, even during the Great Depression.

But you are right, the similarities are striking enough to notice.

Debbie said...

LASunsett mentions the "Stubborn conservatives who stayed home, because they did not like John McCain."

I worried about that prior to the election. I didn't like McCain, but we went to the booth and voted for him nevertheless. It was an anti-Obama vote.

The mind wonders where we would be now if McCain had won the election.

It cold not be anywhere near as bad as it is with Obama.

Debbie
Right Truth
http://www.righttruth.typepad.com

A.C. McCloud said...

Yep, we went to the polls and pulled the levers with noses held, Debbie.

I'm not sure we'd be better off with McCain, truthfully. Neither were presidential timber IMO, but Obama had a bigger ego and thought he could do it--with ease, which shows what we had in Bush.

LA--you're correct on the Weimar's state compared to America. But I think folks are seeing the waterfall approaching in the distance and are scrambling for lifeboats anywhere they can find them. The American middle-upper class union lifestyle was never sustainable indefinitely. I used to know a guy paid over 20 bucks an hour by a steel plant to lean on a broom all day.

Mustang said...

I think that we Americans tend to personalize government too much. It isn’t our fault, really. It is simply how we do things here. We vote for Bush, not for the GOP. We Vote against Obama, not for McCain. The fact is that if our country fails, if our government fails, then the president fails. We have to wonder, no matter what we think of Obama, does he wish to fail the test of presidential history? I think he does not want to fail, but I also believe Obama (and others) do regard a steady move toward socialism as a legitimate and proper course for the United States of America.

I suppose there are all kinds of explanations for this, not the least of which is a systematic repudiation of the traditional values of our founding fathers. Present liberal attitudes are similar to what a contemporary filmmaker might call American history remix. We may better understand leftist attitudes once we evaluate to whom and what these people have been listening. It would be less confusing if either political party or our government behaved consistently, but we are far from that. In the context of our history, today’s conservatives are quite socialist in their thinking —and this is the problem with Michael Steele’s GOP. In an attempt to widen that tent, the GOP now endorses the least conservative principles we might expect to find in a conservative party.

The fact is that Barack Obama does not view Islamic fundamentalism as the enemy of the United States. He rather sees the United States as the enemy of non-Americans, whether they are Muslims, Africans, South Americans, Mexicans, or —the list is far too long. If we agree with this view, then we must conclude that Mr. Obama is not now, nor has he ever been one of us. In contrast, Mr. Bush was always one of us, even when we disagreed with domestic or foreign policy.

A.C. McCloud said...

The fact is that Barack Obama does not view Islamic fundamentalism as the enemy of the United States. He rather sees the United States as the enemy of non-Americans, whether they are Muslims, Africans, South Americans, Mexicans, or —the list is far too long. If we agree with this view, then we must conclude that Mr. Obama is not now, nor has he ever been one of us. In contrast, Mr. Bush was always one of us, even when we disagreed with domestic or foreign policy.

Well said. Looking at this new START treaty coupled with other things being done I realized that for the first time in my life I don't know if our president is on the same side I am. It's a distressing thought, because I'm pretty sure he is, but not 100 percent certain, and that's due to the haziness of his past (which nobody seems overly enthusiastic about investigating).

In reality Obama is probably engaging in what he thinks is cleverness in trying to fool the world into his way of thinking, but if such a ploy were ever discovered it would be disastrous for the US.