kottke.org posts about George W. Bush
Journalist Walt Harrington has known George W. Bush for more than twenty-five years and wrote an article for The American Scholar about his conversations with the former President over the years.
President Bush -- and he was, no doubt, by then a real president -- talked expansively about Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, China, Korea, Russia. He talked about his reelection strategies, Iran's nuclear ambitions, WMD and how he still believed they would be found, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, Vladimir Putin. He talked about his aides and how tough their lives were, the long hours and stress and time away from their families, about how difficult it was for his daughters. He said that compared with everyone around a president, the president had the easiest job. He was the same confident, brash man I had met years ago, but I no longer sensed any hint of the old anger or the need for self-aggrandizement.
Published in The Onion more than 10 years ago after George W. Bush took office, Bush: 'Our Long National Nightmare Of Peace And Prosperity Is Finally Over' is just getting more and more prescient.
Bush swore to do "everything in [his] power" to undo the damage wrought by Clinton's two terms in office, including selling off the national parks to developers, going into massive debt to develop expensive and impractical weapons technologies, and passing sweeping budget cuts that drive the mentally ill out of hospitals and onto the street.
During the 40-minute speech, Bush also promised to bring an end to the severe war drought that plagued the nation under Clinton, assuring citizens that the U.S. will engage in at least one Gulf War-level armed conflict in the next four years.
"You better believe we're going to mix it up with somebody at some point during my administration," said Bush, who plans a 250 percent boost in military spending. "Unlike my predecessor, I am fully committed to putting soldiers in battle situations. Otherwise, what is the point of even having a military?"
They probably should get a Pulitzer. (thx, andrew)
Bob Woodward offers ten lessons that the Obama administration can learn from the eight long years that George W. Bush held office. The advice basically boils down to "keep your head out of the sand and your ass".
[Bush] made probably the most important decision of his presidency -- whether to invade Iraq -- without directly asking either Powell, Rumsfeld or Director of Central Intelligence George J. Tenet for their bottom-line recommendations. (Instead of consulting his own father, former president George H.W. Bush, who had gone to war in 1991 to kick the Iraqi army out of Kuwait, the younger Bush told me that he had appealed to a "higher father" for strength.)
(via lined & unlined)
In his latest post for his NY Times blog, Errol Morris talks with three photographers -- one each from Reuters, AP, and AFP -- and has them select their ten favorite photos of George W. Bush.
He popped out that door, and when the door opened and he came through it, the look on his face was like no look I'd ever seen on George Bush's face in my life. [...] And I said, "If he wasn't just back there behind that door crying, I don't know what that look on his face is." Because he just looks absolutely devastated as he comes through this door after essentially ending his eight year presidency. And it's just really striking. He just looks absolutely devastated.
The interview with the last photographer is the least interesting because he refuses to interpret any of the photographs but his set of photographs includes at least 3 photographs that I had never seen before and that weren't "published extensively in the United States".
Greg Allen raises a good point regarding the new White House web site: why did the old site get completely erased?
It seems problematic to me that the entire official web presence of the Bush administration, as tainted and manipulative or enraging as you may think it is, just gets wiped clean from the web like that. People need to remember, reference, discuss, and link to that publicly owned, previously published information; it shouldn't be tossed to the curb like a dead plant or buried in the National Archive backup tape repository.
Perhaps there needs to be a simple directory structure put in place, something like:
The files for each President's site would live under the associated directory and would never need to be taken down to make room for new files. Of course, maintaining all that, and the different systems and platforms potentially used by each administration would be a total PITA.
Update: Here are the Clinton whitehouse.gov archive and the George W. Bush whitehouse.gov archive. Nice but they don't address the broken links issue and snapshots don't capture any dynamic functions (like search, for instance). Also, shouldn't every page on the site function like a wiki so you can go back and see the history at any time? Quite a few people suggested using subdomains (e.g. 43.whitehouse.gov) instead of directories to keep everything straight; I concur. (thx, arnold & kate)
Vanity Fair has gotten ahold of a few menus to be served at the White House before George W. Bush leaves office. Here are a few of the dishes:
Gored hearts of Palm Beach, with hanging chard
Chateau Petreas, Iraqi Riserva (bold start with a long, nutty finish)
Utter tripe, with Crawford ranch dressing
Deep-fried Halliburton, in Saddam Hoisin Sauce
New Orleans flounder
And for dessert, coalition crumble.
Honestly I was getting a little burned out on Errol Morris. I've been reading his Times blog, reading and listening to interviews with him about Standard Operating Procedure, and went to see him at the Apple Store last night. (I was most intrigued by his observation that photographs both reveal and conceal at the same time.) But this (relatively) short interview with him on the AV Club site is worth reading and got me unburned out. One of the many choice quotes:
I wish they'd just get it over with and make [Iraq] the 51st state, because I think it's the perfect red state: religious fundamentalists, lots of weaponry. How could you go wrong? We're already spending a significant fraction of our gross national product on the infrastructure; such as it is, on Iraq. Make it the 51st state and get it over with.
The interviewer, Scott Tobias, makes an interesting observation toward the end.
It seems like there's been plenty of instances in which big guys [i.e. Bush, Cheney, etc.] could have and should have been held accountable. Yet it's not as if they've slipped a noose. It's as if they deny that there's even a noose to be slipped.
And Morris replies:
That's what's so bizarre. You know, there are smoking guns everywhere, and people are being constantly hit over the head with smoking guns, and people simply don't act on them.
For me, this is the central mystery of the Bush administration. There has been demonstrable legal wrongdoing on the part of this administration and through some magical process, they've charmed the country and managed to sidestep not only legal action (including impeachment) but even the threat of legal action and -- this is the best part -- get fucking reelected in the process. With Bush's disapproval rating at an all-time high (for any President since Gallup began polling), it's not like people aren't aware and the 2006 elections clearly show the country's disapproval with Bush et al. Maddening and fascinating at the same time.
What the 44th president of the United States should do upon taking his/her oath of office:
President George W. Bush's successor should renounce his monarchy. It betters the instruction of King George III, which provoked the Declaration of Independence.
Among other things, the 44th president of the United States should do the following promptly upon taking office: Transfer the impending trials of six "high-value" al-Qaida detainees before Spanish Inquisition-like military commissions to civilian courts; repudiate President Bush's kidnappings, secret imprisonments, and maltreatments of suspected al-Qaida supporters abroad on his say-so alone-a page from Hobbes' state of nature; denounce signing statements that declare the president's intent to disregard provisions of bills he has signed into law because he disputes their constitutionality; and end the snobbish custom of former government Brahmins preening in their honorifics after leaving office. The Founding Fathers prohibited titles of nobility to encourage a nonhierarchical culture that honors equality before the law.
According to a poll of 109 historians, George W. Bush is the Worst. President. Ever, hobnobbing with the likes of Millard Fillmore, James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, and Franklin Pierce at the bottom of the barrel.
This marks a dramatic deterioration for Bush. Previously he wasn't viewed in the most positive terms, but there was a consensus that he wasn't the "worst of the worst" either. That was in the spring of 2004. In the meantime, Bush has established himself as the torture president, the basis for his invasion of Iraq has been exposed as a fraud, the Iraq War itself has gone disastrously, the nation's network of alliances has faded, and the economy has gone into a tailspin-not to mention the bungled handling of relief for victims of hurricane Katrina. In 2004, only 12 percent of historians were ready to place Bush dead last.
That's the most depressing paragraph I've read all day. And it doesn't even address the Patriot Act and all the other civil liberties restrictions enacted with 9/11 as the excuse.
Frontline's two-part report on Bush's War is getting good reviews.
A two-part special series that tells the epic story of how the Iraq war began and how it has been fought, both on the ground and deep inside the government.
Davenetics sums up the program's findings:
It really was a perfect storm of bad judgment, malicious intent, a power structure out of balance, a weak Natl Sec Adviser, a marginalized secretary of state, an all-powerful veep, a lazy Congress, and outplayed British PM, a foolishly managed French foreign policy, an ignored military leadership, an Oedipal complex hall of fame President, and a media that focused on Rumsfeld's funny press conference delivery instead of highlighting the fact that he was wrong, horribly wrong, on just about any point that mattered.
Both parts of the series are available for viewing in their entirety on the Frontline site.
The true meaning of George W. Bush's favorite painting. Quoting Inigo Montoya, "I do not think it means what you think it means". (via conscientious)
This wasn't meant to be Tyler Cowen day on kottke.org, but you need to check out this concise barnburner of an article written by Cowen for the Washington Post on the cost of the war in Iraq. Taking the form of a letter to President Bush, the article explores the opportunity costs of the war and then offers the real reason why the war has been disastrous:
In fact, Mr. President, your initial pro-war arguments offer the best path toward understanding why the conflict has been such a disaster for U.S. interests and global security.
Following your lead, Iraq hawks argued that, in a post-9/11 world, we needed to take out rogue regimes lest they give nuclear or biological weapons to al-Qaeda-linked terrorist groups. But each time the United States tries to do so and fails to restore order, it incurs a high -- albeit unseen -- opportunity cost in the future. Falling short makes it harder to take out, threaten or pressure a dangerous regime next time around.
Foreign governments, of course, drew the obvious lesson from our debacle -- and from our choice of target. The United States invaded hapless Iraq, not nuclear-armed North Korea. To the real rogues, the fall of Baghdad was proof positive that it's more important than ever to acquire nuclear weapons -- and if the last superpower is bogged down in Iraq while its foes slink toward getting the bomb, so much the better. Iran, among others, has taken this lesson to heart. The ironic legacy of the war to end all proliferation will be more proliferation.
As a refreshing mint, check out the length of the y-axis on this graph comparing the cost of the war and the amount spent by the US govt on energy R&D. (thx, ivan)
Update: Noam Chomsky, in an August 2002 interview:
The planned invasion will strike another blow at the structure of international law and treaties that has been laboriously constructed over the years, in an effort to reduce the use of violence in the world, which has had such horrifying consequences. Apart from other consequences, an invasion is likely to encourage other countries to develop WMD, including a successor Iraqi government, and to lower the barriers against resort to force by others to achieve their objectives, including Russia, India, and China.
A short video appreciation of the 22nd Amendment of the US Constitution...or, why there's only ~460 days left of our collective national nightmare. (via quipsologies)
A Seymour Hersh piece from tomorrow's New Yorker about the Bush Administration's plan for Iran. Amazingly enough, Bush is using the same tactics he did to wage war in Iraq. This time, instead of Iraq = Al-Qaeda, it's Iran = Iraq.
In a series of public statements in recent months, President Bush and members of his Administration have redefined the war in Iraq, to an increasing degree, as a strategic battle between the United States and Iran. "Shia extremists, backed by Iran, are training Iraqis to carry out attacks on our forces and the Iraqi people," Bush told the national convention of the American Legion in August. "The attacks on our bases and our troops by Iranian-supplied munitions have increased... The Iranian regime must halt these actions. And, until it does, I will take actions necessary to protect our troops." He then concluded, to applause, "I have authorized our military commanders in Iraq to confront Tehran's murderous activities."
Will we fall for it again?
George Bush is searching for answers to account for his failed Presidency. "The reality has been daunting by any account. No modern president has experienced such a sustained rejection by the American public."
On his new blog at the New Yorker, George Packer asks (and answers) a question: Why do the highest government officials always seem to know less about a particular situation than anyone else? "I believe that the President believes so firmly that he is President for just this mission -- and there's something religious about it -- that it will succeed, and that kind of permeates."
Did President Bush get his watch stolen in Albania while shaking hands with people in the crowd? Bruce Schneier: "At 0.50 minutes into the clip, Bush has a watch. At 1.04 minutes into the clip, he had a watch."
Update: Tony Snow is saying that Bush put the watch in his pocket. (thx, hal)
Bad news from McSweeney's: their distributor filed for bankruptcy late last year and now they're out $130,000:
As you may know, it's been tough going for many independent publishers, McSweeney's included, since our distributor filed for bankruptcy last December 29. We lost about $130,000 -- actual earnings that were simply erased. Due to the intricacies of the settlement, the real hurt didn't hit right away, but it's hitting now. Like most small publishers, our business is basically a break-even proposition in the best of times, so there's really no way to absorb a loss that big.
To try and make up the gap, they're having a big sale and are also auctioning off some "rare items" like original art from Chris Ware, proofs from issues, signed copies of things, a painting by Dave Eggers of George W. Bush as a double amputee, and so on. In addition to Ware and Eggers, there's stuff from David Byrne, Nick Hornsby, and Spike Jonze. I've long admired McSweeney's for their editorial and business approach...it would be a shame to see them go out of business because of another company's financial difficulties. So give them a hand by purchasing something, if you'd like.
Andrew Sullivan: "Critics will no doubt say I am accusing the Bush administration of being Hitler. I'm not. There is no comparison between the political system in Germany in 1937 and the U.S. in 2007. What I am reporting is a simple empirical fact: the interrogation methods approved and defended by this president are not new. Many have been used in the past. The very phrase used by the president to describe torture-that-isn't-somehow-torture - 'enhanced interrogation techniques' - is a term originally coined by the Nazis. The techniques are indistinguishable. The methods were clearly understood in 1948 as war-crimes. The punishment for them was death."
From Lee Iacocca's new book: "The President of the United States is given a free pass to ignore the Constitution, tap our phones, and lead us to war on a pack of lies. Congress responds to record deficits by passing a huge tax cut for the wealthy (thanks, but I don't need it). The most famous business leaders are not the innovators but the guys in handcuffs. While we're fiddling in Iraq, the Middle East is burning and nobody seems to know what to do. And the press is waving pom-poms instead of asking hard questions. That's not the promise of America my parents and yours traveled across the ocean for. I've had enough. How about you?"
A paper by Linda Bilmes of Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government concludes that in addition to the stated cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan by the Bush administration, it will cost $350 - $700 billion for the US gov't to provide health benefits and care over the lifetimes of soldiers who served there. More from the Christian Science Monitor. (thx, marcus)
SMU is pursuing the George W. Bush presidential library but the faculty says, in effect, "That crook? Hell no!"
Historical rankings of US presidents. Honest Abe is number one with a...well, he's just #1. George W. Bush comes in at a respectable 22nd, just behind Bill Clinton. (via fakeisthenewreal)
Tyler Cowen takes a closer look at the recent "600,000 deaths in Iraq" claim. "We all know that the political world judges Iraq by the absolute badness of what is going on (which means Bush critics find a higher number to fit their priors), but that is an incorrect standard. We should judge the marginal product of U.S. action, relative to what else could have happened. In that latter and more accurate notion of a cost-benefit test, U.S. actions probably appear worst when deaths are rising over time, and hitting very high levels in the future."
Abridged version of Bob Woodward's State of Denial, which "details the infighting, disarray, and mistakes made by the Bush war council during the Iraq war".
Letters to George W. Bush from German citizens attempting to affirm their rights to moon land they have purchased for $19.99 an acre. "If you intend to use my area within the bounds of your intention, to build a moon base or something else on, over, or under the surface of this moon area, you have to contact me personally. This must be absolutely, to clear up under which special conditions I will leave the rights of use to you or the United States of America."
Sources cited by The Independent say that George W. Bush is planning "astonishing U-turn" on his global warming policies, which, as Elizabeth Kolbert notes in this week's New Yorker, have been anything but helpful. Those who oppose Bush will give him a lot of crap for doing this just so he can salvage something from his shoddy Presidency, but if something genuinely gets done on the issue, I'll be happy...who gets credit for what and when needs to take a backseat here.
David Remnick on the Bush Administration's sustained assault on the press. "You begin to wonder if the Bush White House, in its urgent need to find scapegoats for the myriad disasters it has inflicted, is preparing to repeat a dismal and dismaying episode of the Nixon years."
A group of designers (National Design Award finalists and winners) recently declined to be honored at a White House breakfast. "It is our belief that the current administration of George W. Bush has used the mass communication of words and images in ways that have seriously harmed the political discourse in America. We therefore feel it would be inconsistent with those values previously stated to accept an award celebrating language and communication, from a representative of an administration that has engaged in a prolonged assault on meaning."
George W. Bush, dissident president? "Now that President Bush is increasingly alone in pushing for freedom..." The WSJ editorial page is laughably bad sometimes.
George W. Bush makes a guest post on Design Observer: "I don't know much about designing rugs. So I [...] delegated. That's one of the things you do in decision-making."
If Mike Wallace could question GW Bush, he would ask him: "What in the world prepared you to be the commander in chief of the largest superpower in the world? In your background, Mr. President, you apparently were incurious. You didn't want to travel .... Why do you think they nominated you?"
Our short national nightmare is over, Harriet Miers has withdrawn her nomination for the Supreme Court (her letter). However, our long national nightmare still has 1181 days to go.
A complete list of nicknames that George W. Bush has for people. A lot of people think the nicknames thing is stupid, but really it's the only sign of Bush having any sort of personality aside from that of Bad Speech Bot.
Kerry supporters barred from international telecom meeting by Bush Administration. This type of thing makes me *so* angry. It's the fucking **US** government, not the Republican government or Bush government. So! Angry!
Is some of the music on Bush's iPod stolen?. This is "exactly the kind of behavior the music industry characterizes as theft".