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“Hoodwinked”: Rumsfeld, Cheney, And A Bush-Family Drama

There’s something oddly Shakespearean about all of this.

Former President George H. W. Bush has ignited Republican infighting by alleging in an upcoming biography that former Vice President Dick Cheney formed his “own empire” within the White House and evolved into an “iron-ass” on foreign policy while serving in George W. Bush’s administration.

According to The New York Times, the 41st president is highly critical of Cheney and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in the book, with the elder Bush slamming both men for having ”served the president badly.”

Cheney, you’ll recall, was the defense secretary for George H.W. Bush before he became George W. Bush’s vice president. But Bush pere has come to believe this latest version of Cheney is “very different” from the one “he knew and worked with.”

The elder Bush was even less kind towards Rumsfeld, whom the former president sees as “arrogant” and lacking in “humility.”

In response, Rumsfeld today responded, “Bush 41 is getting up in years and misjudges Bush 43, who I found made his own decisions.”

For the record, Rumsfeld is an 83-year-old man. Not to put too fine a point on this, but hearing an 83-year-old flippantly dismiss the concerns of a 91-year-old because the latter is “getting up in years” seems a little ridiculous.

Making this a little stranger still, H.W. Bush suggested he wasn’t altogether pleased with some of his son’s phrases, most notably “axis of evil,” during his presidency. “I do worry about some of the rhetoric that was out there – some of it his, maybe, and some of it the people around him,” he said of W. Bush.

This led Jeb Bush to defend his brother against his father’s mild rebuke. The former governor told MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt, “My brother’s a big boy. His administration was shaped by his thinking, his reaction to the attack on 9/11. I think my dad, like a lotta people that love George wanna try to create a different narrative perhaps just to – just ‘cause that’s natural to do, right?”

Jeb added, “As it relates to Dick Cheney, he served my brother well as vice president, and he served my dad extraordinarily well as security of defense.”

Update: In H.W. Bush’s book, he also refers to his 1988 rival, former Gov. Michael Dukakis (D), as a “midget nerd.” Some of the instincts that did not serve Bush well during his White House tenure, regrettably, never went away.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, November 5, 2015

November 6, 2015 Posted by | Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, George H. W. Bush | , , , , , | 4 Comments

“This From A Trained, Known Failure”: Rumsfeld Thinks “A Trained Ape” Could Do What Obama Can’t

Donald Rumsfeld, whose mastery of foreign policy was amply displayed in Iraq, thinks that “a trained ape” could have done a better job handling Afghanistan’s President, Hamid Karzai, than President Obama and his team have. The problem, Rumsfeld told Greta Van Susteren, of Fox, on Monday night, is that Obama has not been deferential enough to Karzai: “The President has been unpleasant to him.” His entire Administration has dealt with Karzai “repeatedly and publicly in an abusive, unpleasant manner.” Is that perhaps what Rumsfeld considers untrained?

What is it about Obama that bothers people like Rumsfeld? He might ask himself, for a moment, why the idea of Obama—the President of the United States—speaking out of turn bothers him so much, and why the word “ape” sprung to mind. Rumsfeld worked for George W. Bush, who made something of a fetish out of talking like a cowboy; he spent a lot of time in office trying to out-preen Dick Cheney; and yet he just doesn’t like Obama’s tone. What’s particularly odd is that Van Susteren was asking Rumsfeld about, of all things, Karzai’s statement of support for Russia’s annexation of Crimea. (Rumsfeld called it “understandable.”) Haven’t we been hearing from Republicans that Obama is too passive when it comes to Ukraine—that he’s too pleasant with Putin, and doesn’t talk tough in the way that they imagine they would? Just a few weeks ago, Rumsfeld told Van Susteren that “it is U.S. weakness that has shaken the world.” He has also railed against the President’s supposed “apologies” for America.

Van Susteren asked Rumsfeld why it was so hard to get Karzai to sign a status-of-forces agreement—a memorandum that would clarify the legal position of American troops in Afghanistan. Karzai has withheld his agreement for months, despite warnings that it won’t be possible to keep even a residual American force in Afghanistan without one, and despite the approval of Afghanistan’s loya jirga. (He may want to insure he has a card to play after the upcoming Presidential elections.) Rumsfeld scoffed at the idea that Karzai had been difficult—this is where he talked about how “a trained ape can get a status-of-forces agreement. It does not take a genius.”

By that, perhaps, Rumsfeld meant that it does not take a genius to put American troops in another country. Indeed, it does not—Rumsfeld proved that himself, by getting our forces over to Iraq. The hard part can be getting them out.

“I realize these are tough jobs, being President or Secretary of State. But, by golly, they have trashed Karzai publicly over and over and over,” Rumsfeld said. This when Karzai had been so “friendly” during the Bush Administration; under Obama, it had all “gone downhill like a toboggan.” And so, as far as Rumsfeld is concerned, Karzai, a man whose country was invaded by the Soviet Union, was left “feeling he has to defend himself” against a United States government now in the process of withdrawing from his territory by supporting Russia’s invasion of a third country. And, Rumsfeld said, “I personally sympathize with him.” The Obama Administration has certainly made mistakes in Afghanistan, but the most questionable moves, like doubling down on troop levels early on, have tended to be hawkish—and, Rumsfeld style, they didn’t really work. A bitterness toward Obama that would be rich enough to evoke Rumsfeldian warmth toward aspiring Russian proxies is quite a thing. (It seems likely that Karzai is hoping that Putin can be a source of replacement cash, a process that has already begun.)

Rumsfeld may be right that it’s easier than it looks to make Karzai happy, as long as one doesn’t mind losing a good deal of taxpayer money to Afghan graft, and American lives in opaque standoffs in villages where we have no idea who is paying whom for a drug route or a piece of a construction project two provinces over. When Van Susteren suggested that Karzai’s support for Putin on Crimea was “a poke in the eye” to the Americans who had fought and died in Afghanistan to keep his government safe, Rumsfeld brushed her off. Karzai, he said, might have conveyed “his extreme anger” to the American government, but “he also said to the American people give them my best wishes and my gratitude.” How very pleasant of him.

 

By: Amy Davidson, The New Yorker, March 25, 2014

March 30, 2014 Posted by | Afghanistan, Donald Rumsfeld | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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