April 19, 2004


The Gospel According to George: The press wanted contrition. Maybe they don't understand the man. Bush's faith will guide him—in Iraq and at the polls (Howard Fineman and Tamara Lipper, 4/26/04, Newsweek)

There it is, encapsulated in prime time: the Bush campaign, presidency and world view. This is a president who often would rather preach than answer questions—or ask them. He leads and runs unapologetically on faith, dividing the world and the presidential campaign into two discrete spheres: one for patriots who believe in his policies and vision, and one for everyone else. Whether he can win re-election that way is unclear. The race is a tossup; the press conference didn't appreciably move the polling needle. But if Karl Rove is the guru, the strategy is pure Martin Luther. "Here I stand," Bush seems to declare. "I can do no other."

Faith in his vision (and Dick Cheney's) is the essence of his war leadership, Bob Woodward reports in his new book, "Plan of Attack." As Woodward describes it, Bush essentially locked onto the notion of invading Iraq by the winter of 2001, and gave the "go" order 16 months later without subjecting the idea to a real vetting by his inner circle. Asked whether he seeks his own father's advice on Iraq, the son demurred. "You know, he is the wrong father to appeal to in terms of strength," the president told Woodward. "There is a higher father that I appeal to."

Tellingly, there was no rage at the White House over the Woodward account. "Sure he asked for the new war plan on Iraq," said one top aide. "He asked for updates on 67 other plans as well." The president needed to keep his provisional decision quiet to prevent a public uproar that might have limited his options later, said another aide. There was no formal directive to the Pentagon until February 2002—still more than a year before the war commenced. But the White House does not dispute the basic notion that Bush (and Cheney) had long had Iraq in their gun sights. Woodward is "a good reporter," said one official.

Why would he apologize for liberating Iraq?

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 19, 2004 3:58 PM

This is another example of the left/right divide having grown so large that, while the left thinks that it has landed some killer blow, the right doesn't think it's been hit.

Left: George Bush allows his religious belief to shape his policy and was committed to changing the regime in Iraq before, after and in response to 9/11.

Right: And your point is?

Posted by: David Cohen at April 19, 2004 4:25 PM

What did God know, and when did He know it? Can we subpoena His transcripts?

Posted by: Robert Duquette at April 19, 2004 4:47 PM

" Asked whether he seeks his own father's advice on Iraq, the son demurred. "You know, he is the wrong father to appeal to in terms of strength," the president told Woodward. "There is a higher father that I appeal to."

*wince* That's a pretty harsh thing to say about your own father.

Fineman and Lipper are correct, though, that the Administration doesn't have any serious problem with the new Woodward book. When Condi Rice made the rounds of the talking-head shows yesterday, the only significant criticism she had was in regard to the part that claimed that Cheney and Powell were so at odds as a result of the debate over the war that they were hardly speaking to each other any more; she refuted that part. On the other hand, she explicitly praised the book as a whole.

Posted by: Joe at April 19, 2004 4:53 PM

It's also worth remembering that this is the second book Mr. Woodward has written, with the cooperation of Administration figures, about the GWB military-political team's decision-making process (I refer, of course, to _Bush At War_). I don't know whether GWB gave another interview like he did for the first book, but as I said earlier, there's no sign that the Administration has a problem with any part of the book other than the Cheney/Powell thing. Here's the link to today's Washington Post story in which Dr. Rice opined that the book was probably going to be "terrific":


Posted by: Joe at April 19, 2004 5:02 PM

I agree with Joe about the "father" thing. Comes out sounding a little weird.

You are correct, but hopefully Rove is making a marketing effort, that goes beyond just the "right", and I think he is.

Posted by: h-man at April 19, 2004 6:38 PM

Even if Orrin is right about Iraq, Bush is no longer in a position to claim that he liberated it if he leaves and leaves an Iranian mullah in charge.

Americans are not that dumb.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 19, 2004 9:50 PM

We gave Japan autocratic one party rule and delude ourselves that we democratized it.

Posted by: oj at April 19, 2004 9:59 PM

Who the heck cares? Iraqi's can (and will) make their own decisions as to how they live their lives. They can make it a hell or now, as they will.

All the US really cares is that Iraq is no longer a threat to us.

If they choose freedom, democracy, and prosperity for themselves, so much the better.

Posted by: ray at April 19, 2004 10:17 PM

It was never a threat.

Posted by: oj at April 19, 2004 10:59 PM

Are you nuts? It certainly was a threat. More precisely: Saddam was a threat to us. He (or his sons) had the capability to slip a few kiloliters of chemical weapons to OBL or any other handy terrorist group who had the desire to turn the NY subway into a tunnel of coughing death.

Sometime in the next few years, he'd have the ability to slip nuke material to them, too.

Would you willing allow a nest of baby rattlesnakes to settle next door to you? Or would you argue that they are no danger--their poison glands haven't developed yet?

Posted by: fred at April 20, 2004 9:59 AM

Russia has loose nukes. Korea would sell nukes. Saddam had dreams. He was no threat to us.

Posted by: oj at April 20, 2004 4:08 PM