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How What Happened in the Bush Administration Shaped What Happened in Iraq

By Horace Coleman

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The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the policies or stances of VVAW.

What Happened:
Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception
By Scott McClellan

(Perseus Books Group, 2008)


You can fool all the people some of the time, some of the people some of the time and enough of the people enough of the time. But it's really bad when you fool yourself.

George Bush is not stupid. Neither is he evil. He has above average intelligence, a pleasing personality and other good traits. And, considerable flaws.

He's an over reacher with bad judgment and excessively stubborn. He prefers loyalty over competence or integrity. Too often he's like the character Evilene in the movie The Wiz: "Don't nobody bring me no bad news!"

The GOP's "permanent campaign" mentality and the Washington way of politics didn't help BushCo. Presidents, even a "CEO / MBA president," can't guarantee themselves a sterling legacy.

White House Press Secretary (2003-6) Scott McClellan followed Ari Fleischer as White House Press Secretary. McClellan was George W. Bush's deputy communications director when Bush was governor of Texas. McClellan liked, and still likes, Bush.

According to his book's blurb, McClellan was "Drawn to Bush's strong, successful record of bipartisan leadership and commitment to compassionate conservatism, and later [was] inspired by his promise to restore dignity to a White House sullied by scandal and partisan warfare . . . ."

It also says that Bush's presidency went "disastrously and irretrievably of course."

McClellan's book covers 9/11, the Iraq war, and "the marketing campaign to sell it to the public." He comments about Karl Rove, Condoleeza Rice and Dick Cheney.

McClellan discusses White House mishandling of Hurricane Katrina and the Valerie Plame incident. He details attempts to discredit her husband's exposure of the poorly forged "proof" that Hussein tried to get uranium ore to build a nuclear weapon, the flap about Plame's CIA cover being blown and who in the White House might have done that then tried to cover it up.

To modify a Texas saying, George W. Bush is all hat with cattle he made sick and couldn't cure, e.g., starting a war, cutting taxes and expecting Iraqi oil to pay for it all.

George 41 didn't know the price of a gallon of milk. George 43 lost track of the price of a gallon of gasoline and thought his druthers and dreams were done deals. Part of his legacy is making kidnapping and torture official U.S. policy. Dynasties run thin—sometimes sooner rather than later.

Some quotes from McCllelan's book:

"The first grave mistake of Bush's presidency was rushing toward military confrontation with Iraq." . . . "His second grave mistake was his virtual blindness about his first mistake . . . ." [210]

"How was the war in Iraq part of the war on terror when it had no connection to 9/11and no relationship with al Qaeda? Why did Bush rush to war with no plan to win the peace? How did the administration miscalculate the strength of the insurgency so badly? Either Bush and his advisors had distorted the truth (in which case they were less than honest), or they had failed to recognize the truth in a rush to topple Saddam Hussein (in which case they were less than competent)." [191]

" . . . A phone conversation Karl [Rove] had on July 11,2003, with Time magazine's newest White House correspondent , Matt Cooper, which would remain under 'double super secret' anonymity (Cooper's wit, not mine) for nearly two more years. That is when it would be revealed publicly and to me that Rove had disclosed Plame's identity to Cooper."

On Saturday, September 27, 2003 McClellan had asked Rove about the leak of Plame's identity. Rove had told McClellan he'd talked to Washington Post columnist Robert Novak about Plame working for the CIA and told Novak that ". . . I couldn't confirm it because I didn't know." [161]

Why didn't Bush come clean about Iraq? "One [reason] was his fear of appearing weak A more self-confident executive would be willing to acknowledge failure . . . ." "Another likely reason was the personal pain he would have suffered if he'd had to acknowledge that the war against Saddam had been unnecessary." [207]

"Still another motive for Bush to avoid acknowledging mistakes was his determination to win the political game at virtually any cost. Bush was not about to give the establishment Washington media anything critics could use to damage him and his reelection effort." [209]

"Just as Vietnam had come to haunt two administration forty years earlier, so Iraq haunted both the Bush presidency and George W. Bush. . . . But the one reaction Bush would never allow himself was self-doubt." [211]

In an article called "The Decline of Presidential Ethics" (Chronicle of Higher Education, November 7, 2008), history professor John Patrick Diggins wrote "When truth has no value in politics, morality has no meaning in life."


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