The Bush Bind
Copyright © by Dan Schneider, 5/8/04


  Sitting Presidents are always subject to criticisms fair and not. Our current President is no different. Usually the charges made by the other party are the standard ones any opposing party would hurl- they have truths and untruths admixed liberally within. Rare is it, though, that the charges are both damning and almost certainly true in toto. Even worse is when these true charges come from former members of your own administration. Such is the fix that W. finds himself in these days. Not only is he seeking re-election against Democratic Senator John Kerry, but he has to fend off increasingly damning charges from current and former members of his own administration. Even worse, these charges seem to support nearly every criticism levied by the most ideological of his opponents against the President in regards to his neglect of terrorism before 9/11, and his deceitful conduct of the war in Iraq to the world and American people.
  You know your Presidency is in dire trouble when everything the Far Left says about you is subsequently proven true by your own people. To wit- the release of former National Coordinator for Counter-Terrorism [aka ‘Terrorism Czar’] Richard Clarke’s book Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War On Terror, his 3/21/04 60 Minutes interview, & subsequent testimony before the 9/11 Commission has shown Bush as 1) blithely uncaring of Al Quaida threats pre-9/11, 2) monomaniacally obsessed with Saddam Hussein before and after 9/11, to the point of seeking to have subordinates ‘frame’ Saddam for the attacks, and 3) woefully mismanaging both the Afghan & Iraq wars and their aftermaths. Here’s a typical book excerpt reprinted via a New York Times piece: ‘I expected to go back to a round of meetings examining what the next attacks could be, what our vulnerabilities were, what we could do about them in the short term. Instead, I walked into a series of discussions about Iraq. At first I was incredulous that we were talking about something other than getting Al Qaeda. Then I realized with almost a sharp physical pain that Rumsfeld and [Deputy Defense Secretary Paul] Wolfowitz were going to try to take advantage of this national tragedy to promote their agenda about Iraq.
  Of course, the Bushies sought to immediately discredit Clarke, except that in interview after interview Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (quoted by Clarke as saying There aren't any good targets in Afghanistan. And there are lots of good targets in Iraq.’), National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and co. kept contradicting their own earlier claims, and each others’. The worst example of this was in reaction to this claim by Clarke: ‘Later, on the evening of the 12th, I left the video conferencing center and there, wandering alone around the situation room, was the president. He looked like he wanted something to do. He grabbed a few of us and closed the door to the conference room. "Look," he told us, "I know you have a lot to do and all . . . but I want you, as soon as you can, to go back over everything, everything. See if Saddam did this. See if he's linked in any way."
  I was once again taken aback, incredulous, and it showed. "But, Mr. President, Al Qaeda did this."

  "I know, I know, but — see if Saddam was involved. Just look. I want to know any shred——"

  "Absolutely, we will look — again.` I was trying to be more respectful, more responsive. `But you know, we have looked several times for state sponsorship of Al Qaeda and not found any real linkages to Iraq. Iran plays a little, as does Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, Yemen.`

  "Look into Iraq, Saddam," the president said testily and left us.

  For days the Administration denied the ‘meeting’ ever took place. Clarke was unequivocally a liar. When Clarke’s aides backed up his story, and several White House staffers admitted they knew Clarke’s version to be true the White House sheepishly admitted they had been ‘mistaken’- the meeting did occur, but W. was just doing ‘due diligence’- no pressure on Clarke and his staff to frame Saddam.
  Even more telling has been Rice, portrayed as utterly clueless and out of her league in regards to National Security, being told by the White House that she could not publicly testify under oath before the 9/11 Commission for the specious reasoning that it would violate the separation of powers of the federal government. Add to that W’s refusal to testify before the Commission, and the continued lack of Weapons of Mass Destruction being found in Iraq, and this is a trying time for the President.
  Yet, these are just the latest in a series of stunning revelations from former ‘insiders’ of W’s reign. Whereas Clarke has been portrayed as a turncoat auditioning for a job with ‘President’ Kerry (absurd considering his appointments over the years by mostly Republican Administrations), the White House has had no easy response to an equally damning book by former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O’Neill, by Ron Suskind. In it O’Neill claims that from Day 1 the Bush Administration sought to topple Saddam above all other concerns. O’Neill blasts CIA Director George Tenet when as evidence for Saddam’s WMD threat he produced a grainy photo of an Iraqi factory claimed to be producing chemical and biological weapons. O’Neill, ex-CEO of Alcoa, the aluminum giant, skeptically said there was no way you could tell what was being produced in a factory from such a photo. Tenet, State Secretary Colin Powell, Rumsfeld, Rice, and others seemed peeved that he was contradicting what the President wanted to hear.
  By all accounts the 1-2 punches of O’Neill’s & Clarke’s books has the Administration in a tizzy. Well, all except the President who seems to be living up to his enemies claims of being a mere figurehead. So blissfully out of touch with the nation’s mood is W. that on 3/24, at a Radio-TV Correspondents Dinner, he joked ‘Those weapons of mass destruction have to be here somewhere. Nope, no weapons over there. Maybe under here.’ while a slide show showed the President supposedly looking under Oval Office file cabinets and desks.
  The apex of how out of touch W. is may have been this quote from Clarke’s 60 Minutes interview: ‘I blame the entire Bush leadership for continuing to work on Cold War issues when they back in power in 2001. It was as though they were preserved in amber from when they left office eight years earlier. They came back. They wanted to work on the same issues right away: Iraq, Star Wars. Not new issues, the new threats that had developed over the preceding eight years.
  That all of these claims and charges have been hanging in the air since 9/11 by Leftists & Democrats is especially galling to W & more so to Conservative Republicans already abandoning his sinking ship for his bloated overspending. They seem to be smelling the rot that W and Co. refuse to. It’s clear the President knew of the Al Quaida threat but pooh-poohed it, knew that they had plans to use jet liners as missiles on US targets, and was warned within a week of 9/11 that such an attack could occur. Still he did nothing. Compared to a 1999 thwarted terrorist attack at LAX, under the Clinton Administration, & w seems especially naďve & in over his head. Add to that a cluelessness regarding the future of Iraq, & the most disastrous economic record since Herbert Hoover and the earlier Bush re-election strategy of downplaying the economy in favor of his ‘War Record’ seems specious at best. At worst it’s a recipe for political hari-kiri as more former aides-cum-critics surface.
  The White House seeks to portray critics like Clarke as hypocritical by pointing to the fact that in August ‘02 news conference Clarke gave a speech praising Bush’s handling of terrorism, not seeing that such a presentation merely strengthens Clarke’s claims that he was strong-armed by the White House into downplaying what he knew to be true. The failures of the CIA & DIA have been fobbed off with the excuse that other nations’ intelligence agencies made similar errors re: Saddam’s WMD capabilities, yet it is now clear that most of those claims were made in large part based upon biased US Intelligence information and outright fraud by, especially, UK Intelligence.
  Add all of these things together and for the 1st time since Barry Goldwater ran for President in 1964 Conservatives are terrified that their candidate could be running a campaign headed for a disaster to rival that one. And they are right to fear, for people like Clarke, O’Neill, & the swiftly, forced-forgotten CIA Weapons Inspector David Kay (remember?- no WMDs in Iraq), seem to keep popping up every few weeks. There are still 7 months to go before the election, but one needs to go back to Watergate to see an Administration inflicting so much damage upon itself. Just don’t mention Deep Throat to anyone in the Administration. Or, better yet, do, and watch them squirm.


[An expurgated version of this article originally appeared on the 4/04 Hackwriters website.]

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