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Will Denialists Heed State Of Denial?

Ah, if only . . .


The New York Times review of Bob Woodward's State of Denial is out. Here's the lead paragraph:

In Bob Woodward’s highly anticipated new book, “State of Denial,” President Bush emerges as a passive, impatient, sophomoric and intellectually incurious leader, presiding over a grossly dysfunctional war cabinet and given to an almost religious certainty that makes him disinclined to rethink or re-evaluate decisions he has made about the war. It’s a portrait that stands in stark contrast to the laudatory one Mr. Woodward drew in “Bush at War,” his 2002 book, which depicted the president — in terms that the White House press office itself has purveyed — as a judicious, resolute leader, blessed with the “vision thing” his father was accused of lacking and firmly in control of the ship of state.

That's a sort of double-barrel indictment: of Mr. Bush for being . . . Mr. Bush. And of Bob Woodward for either having been wrong four years ago or wrong now. I know where I come down on that question.

The above description precisely captures what I've believed about Mr. Bush since he was elected: that he's shallow, not very bright, cocky and fundamentally weak. Shallow, stupid and arrogant we probably could have survived: it's always been Mr. Bush's insecure weakness (above described as passivity) that scared me.

Mr. Rumsfeld, too, is exactly the guy I always thought he was:

Mr. Woodward draws an equally scathing portrait of Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, who comes off as a bully and control freak who is reluctant to assume responsibility for his department’s failures, and who has surrounded himself with yes men and created a system that bleached out “strong, forceful military advice.” Mr. Rumsfeld remains wedded to his plan to conduct the war in Iraq with a lighter, faster force (reflecting his idée fixe of “transforming” the military), even as the situation there continues to deteriorate.

Mr. Bush's own Chief of Staff wanted Rumsfeld tossed out a window. But Mr. Bush couldn't do it, could not get rid of Rumsfeld. It would have meant admitting error. And weak men cannot admit error.

Mr. Woodward reports that after the 2004 election Andrew H. Card Jr., then White House chief of staff, pressed for Mr. Rumsfeld’s ouster (he recommended former Secretary of State James A. Baker III as a replacement), and that Laura Bush shared his concern, worrying that Mr. Rumsfeld was hurting her husband’s reputation. Vice President Dick Cheney, however, persuaded Mr. Bush to stay the course with Mr. Cheney’s old friend Mr. Rumsfeld, arguing that any change might be perceived as an expression of doubt and hesitation on the war.

This may be the most telling revelation in the book. James Baker is the Bush family fixer. You remember the Harvey Keitel character in Pulp Fiction? The character called "the Wolf?" That's Baker in the Bush universe: the cool, unflappable professional who handles things, makes bodies disappear.

But James Baker is George H.W. Bush's man, not Junior's. He's Daddy Bush's guy. And let's remember something: the current president Bush has deliberately stiff-armed his father from the start and overtly (and I would say rather callously) replaced his own father with Ronald Reagan as his presidential role model.

Given that history, can you imagine how distraught Card had to be, and Laura along with him, to suggest bringing in James Baker? It's about an inch away from begging Bush pere to come in and get a grip on his screw-up son.

Mr. Woodward describes the administration’s management of the war as being improvisatory and ad hoc, like a pickup basketball game, and argues that it continually tried to give the public a rosy picture of the war in Iraq (while accusing the press of accentuating the negative), even as its own intelligence was pointing to a rising number of attacks against American forces and an upward spiral of violence. A secret February 2005 report by Philip D. Zelikow, a State Department counselor, found that “Iraq remains a failed state shadowed by constant violence and undergoing revolutionary political change” and concluded that the American effort there suffered because it lacked a comprehensive, unified policy.

In other words, Mr. Bush has been doing exactly what his critics said he was doing: lying about the propsects of success in Iraq and putting out a rosy scenario that found its eager, uncritical echo chamber in talk radio and the right-wing blogosphere.

There is now very little doubt that in terms of judging this president his critics had a much clearer vision than did Mr. Bush's supporters. The President's dwindling band of admirers wants desperately to believe that this president will be another Reagan, that his image will improve with time, that he (and they) will somehow be vindicated.

But if history is repeating itself it's not repeating those particular chapters. Mr. Bush is not on the verge of becoming Ronald Reagan, underestimated by his foes and justly adored by his acolytes. Rather Mr. Bush is repeating the chapters numbered 1968 to 1974. It's Mr. Nixon, a man who was most clearly seen by his harshest critics, who Mr. Bush most resembles.


(Thanks to The Moderate Voice)

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“Will Denialists Heed State Of Denial?”

  1. Blogger Cantankerous Bitch Says:

    Arianna has a snarky post up saying "Welcome to 2002, Bob". http://www.huffingtonpost.com/arianna-huffington/woodward-as-journalistic-_b_30769.html

    No kidding. It's nice to see any number of political ostriches waking up, but seriously. Some of us have been screaming about this crap for years now.

    I just wish I could enjoy "I told ya so".

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