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“Poppy Speaks Out At Last — Too Little, Too Late”: The American People Are Still Paying The Price

If only “Poppy” had quit in 1992, after one White House term, then the 41st president’s fruit would not be so bitter. George Herbert Walker Bush would have dined out on German reunification and the multinational coalition in the first Gulf War — a desert cakewalk. Through no fault of his own, the Soviet Union and the Cold War ended on his watch, and that should be enough for any man pushing 70.

“I didn’t finish the job,” Bush I said. He’s now 91.

Out on the stump, the monumentally ambitious president found he could not connect to the American people. A jolly good fellow who wrote a ton of thank-you notes, he went as far as China and Langley for the blue-chip resume, always a team player who never had “the vision thing.”

Earlier, in 1988, he won as Ronald Reagan’s chosen understudy. But like many men of his Ivy League WASP war hero mold, he could not speak straight to the heart of people at home. Not to save his political life. His speech often sounded strangled.

A new biography, an elegant volume composed by author and presidential historian Jon Meacham, is titled Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush. It’s based on the former president’s diaries and revealing chats, often at the family compound on the Maine coast.

The result of that sharing is the most generous portrait that the former president, nicknamed “Poppy” since prep school, could hope for. Meacham’s work is written in a gentlemanly spirit, just as his American Lion book on the gruff general and president, Andrew Jackson, glowed. For that he won the Pulitzer Prize. (Meacham once deftly edited a magazine piece of mine.) Meacham excuses Bush’s mean moments in political combat as untrue to his code. (The 1988 campaign was not pretty.) Nor does he pass judgment on Bush’s loyal service to President Richard M. Nixon.

Bush realized late there was no way to win against the young Bill Clinton, who could coax the stars out of the sky. The generational contrast was stark. We learn that Bush confided to his diary that he felt the war-high in his approval rating was thin ice. The future won; the past lost. Bush had been schooled and worked in exclusively male institutions; Clinton was educated in co-ed settings and married another Yale Law School graduate. (Barbara Pierce Bush dropped out of Smith College to marry Poppy.)

Now it turns out, tragically, Poppy’s speech troubles extended to his own firstborn son George W. Bush as wily Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney — who pushed the nation down the path of war in Iraq. More than most, the Bushes have played their family dramas out in public, at our expense. The American people are still paying the bill — and so are Iraq, Syria and other countries bathed in blood. The show was not even fun to watch.

The Bushes are not just genteel from a long New England line. Their manners mask a cutthroat bunch — jocks who don’t crack books much — when they aren’t writing adoring notes to fellow Bushes. Winning and loyalty are cherished, whether it’s horseshoes or the Florida presidential contest in 2000. They have their men, like lifelong friend James Baker, always there to help in a pinch. In Florida, with brother Jeb Bush as governor, the cliffhanger was almost a cosmic family thank-you note to opponent Al Gore, Clinton’s vice president — whom Poppy had once referred to as a pair of “bozos.” (Now he and Clinton are tight.)

Cheney’s war-mongering as his son’s vice president offended Poppy; building up his own power base was the last thing he would have done as Reagan’s No. 2. Bush, ever the good team player, found Cheney’s aggression a terrible influence. Yet Poppy had hired Cheney to be his secretary of defense and so — well, it was all in the tribe. As a seasoned foreign policy hand, Poppy knew the “axis of evil” language used by his son was trouble. But he never spoke “mano a mano” to his son, as columnist Maureen Dowd noted.

So why not say something at the time to us, the American people? It’s clear: We’re not their kind, dear.

 

By: Jamie Stiehm, Featured Post, The National Memo, November 13, 2015

November 13, 2015 Posted by | Bush-Cheney Administration, George H. W. Bush, Iraq War | , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Wrong Then, Wrong Now”: What Cheney Left Out Of Iran Speech: His Own Record

Former Vice President Dick Cheney accused the Obama administration of giving Iran everything it needs to wage a nuclear war on the U.S.

What Cheney left out was that Iran made significant advances with its nuclear program while he was in office.

With a nuclear accord with Iran all but guaranteed to survive a challenge from congressional Republicans, Cheney escalated the blame game between President Barack Obama’s White House and some former members of President George W. Bush administration over responsibility for spiraling turmoil in the Middle East.

“This deal gives Iran the means to launch a nuclear attack on the U.S. homeland,” Cheney said. “It is madness.”

Cheney, one of the chief architects of the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, said the agreement negotiated by the U.S. and five other world powers with Iran would “accelerate nuclear proliferation” in the Mideast and enable the Islamic Republic to attack the U.S. or its allies.

While criticizing Obama’s handling of Iran, Cheney has struggled to explain the advancement of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program during the Bush administration. Iran had about 6,000 uranium centrifuges installed at its Natanz nuclear research facility at the start of the Obama administration in 2009, up from zero eight years earlier, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Iran’s Centrifuges

“I think we did a lot to deal with the arms control problem in the Middle East,” Cheney said Sunday on “Fox News Sunday,” without specifically responding to a question from host Chris Wallace about Iran’s centrifuges.

Before Cheney began speaking Tuesday at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, the White House sought to preempt his argument with a video, distributed via social media, of Cheney’s past statements about the Iraq war titled: “Wrong Then, Wrong Now.”

Cheney’s warnings before the invasion that former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein was developing weapons of mass destruction were wrong, and since leaving office he has frequently predicted devastating attacks on the U.S. by hostile nations or terrorist groups that have never materialized.

Iraq Justification

He again defended the Iraq war on Tuesday: “To argue that we should not have gone after Saddam Hussein is to argue that he still should be in place today,” he said.

He also said the Iraq invasion led to Libya’s former dictator, Muammar Qaddafi, offering to surrender his own nuclear program.

Cheney’s speech was interrupted by a protester from Codepink, an anti-war group that protested the Iraq invasion and is planning a series of events this week in support of the Iran deal.

“Dick Cheney’s a war criminal!” a young woman shouted before she was forcibly removed from the event. “Try diplomacy not war.”

Cheney did not address the woman, only saying “thank you,” after she was escorted out by security.

Cheney’s speech on Tuesday came 13 years to the day after the New York Times reported that Iraq was trying to obtain thousands of “aluminum tubes” to construct uranium centrifuges. Cheney confirmed the report — initially attributed to anonymous Bush administration sources — later that day in an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program.

Ten days later, Bush delivered a speech to the United Nations General Assembly labeling Iraq “a grave and gathering danger” and citing the tubes as one piece of evidence for a nuclear program.

Aluminum Tubes

The Iraq Survey Group, which investigated Hussein’s alleged weapons programs after the invasion, determined that the tubes were most likely intended to build conventional rockets. No evidence ever emerged that Iraq tried to reconstitute a nuclear weapons program.

Obama has argued that opposition to the Iran accord has been drummed up by many of the same people who supported the ill-fated invasion of Iraq.

“VP Cheney was wrong on Iraq, and now he’s making false claims about the #IranDeal,” Eric Schultz, the White House’s deputy press secretary, said on Twitter as Cheney spoke.

Cheney’s speech comes as several presidential candidates prepare to make public statements about the Iran deal. Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas is expected to join Donald Trump at a rally for opponents of the agreement on Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is scheduled to speak on the deal Wednesday.

Congress returns to Washington on Tuesday after a five-week recess and lawmakers have until Sept. 17 to act on the agreement. As of Tuesday, 41 Democrats in the Senate have announced they will support the deal when Republicans, who have majorities in the House and Senate, attempt to advance a resolution of disapproval.

The Democratic support means that if the disapproval passes, Republicans won’t have enough votes to override a promised veto by Obama. Democrats also may have sufficient votes to filibuster such a resolution in the Senate, preventing it from ever reaching the president’s desk.

It isn’t clear if all 41 senators who have said they support the deal would also support blocking a vote on the disapproval resolution.

 

By: Toluse Olorunnipa, Bloomberg Politics, September 8, 2015

September 11, 2015 Posted by | Dick Cheney, Iran Nuclear Agreement, Iraq War | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Jeb Bush, Like Many Republicans, Wants A War With Iran”: That’s The ‘Pretty Good Deal’ Republicans Have In Mind

Like all Republican presidential candidates, Jeb Bush is opposed to the world powers nuclear agreement with Iran, and has denounced it in withering terms as a “bad,” “horrific” deal. Late last week, he offered some valuable perspective on what counts in his mind as a “good deal” in global affairs, when, speaking at a foreign policy forum in Iowa, he argued, “I’ll tell you, taking out Saddam Hussein turned out to be a pretty good deal.”

Because almost nobody in America thinks the Iraq War was a particularly good deal, the political media is holding his comment up as a gaffe. But against the backdrop of GOP opposition to the Iran agreement, it’s much more revelatory than that. It crystallizes the increasingly open secret in the world of foreign affairs that the “pretty good deal” we got in Iraq and the “better deal” Iran foes allude to so frequently are actually the same deal. Not in every particular—nobody of any prominence on the right is currently arguing for a wholesale invasion and occupation of Iran. But forced regime change was what we got in Iraq, and it’s what the supporters of the war there ultimately want in Iran.

There’s a danger whenever Bush is asked to comment about national security or Middle East policy that his comments will stem less from any considered position than from the poisoned soils of family loyalty and legacy redemption. For precisely that reason, it took him a week this past spring to make the easy migration from outright support for the Iraq invasion to conditional opposition (“knowing what we know now”).

But Bush has now rolled out, and adhered to, a tangle of views that could be mistaken for his brother’s—void the Iran agreement and possibly attack Iran, rescind President Barack Obama’s 2009 executive order banning torture, and possibly send thousands of U.S. troops back into Iraq—and none of them is even remotely controversial among his co-partisans.

Republicans of a neoconservative bent grow prickly when accused of promising a “better deal” in bad faith, or of harboring ulterior motives, and they became especially prickly when Obama points it out, as he did in a resolute speech at American University earlier this month. What makes their thin skin so odd is that these motives aren’t even really ulterior. They’re articulated unabashedly by many, many conservatives all the time. Republican presidential candidates, including Bush, have expressed interest in military strikes to set back Iran’s nuclear activities. Conservative writer Norman Podhoretz has been arguing for them for years.

That this view is widely shared on the right emerges as well from the cold logic of the multilateral negotiations themselves, and from the growing consensus among Republicans that the next U.S. president should walk away from the agreement as a first order of business.

This matrix is slightly oversimplified, but only slightly. Thanks to the agreement, there’s a decent chance that Iran won’t produce a nuclear weapon for many years. If the agreement collapses, the diplomatic channel will essentially be closed, Iran will probably manufacture a weapon, and the drumbeat for airstrikes will intensify. That’s a cardinal truth, no matter who violates the agreement. The ancillary benefit for hawkish Iran foes is that if Iran breaches the deal, it will provide U.S. policymakers with a robust rhetorical foundation for demanding the reimposition of sanctions, and coordinated airstrikes. Republicans are effectively saying that this isn’t good enough, and that we should void the deal ourselves—sacrifice all of that good will—to precipitate the crisis more rapidly.

That’s what Jeb Bush meant, in his foreign policy address last week, when he said, “If the Congress does not reject this deal, then the damage must be undone by the next president—and it will be my intention to begin that process immediately.” Ripping up the global powers agreement is the predicate for the “pretty good deal” Republicans have in mind. It’s the whole show.

 

By: Brian Beutler, Senior Editor, The New Republic, August 17, 2015

August 19, 2015 Posted by | Iran Nuclear Agreement, Iraq War, Jeb Bush | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Jeb’s New Iraq Stance”: My Brother’s ‘Mission Was Accomplished’

In the early months of his candidacy, Jeb Bush fumbled whenever he faced extremely predictable questions about his brother’s foreign policy. When asked about Iraq again at last week’s debate, he said that, knowing what we know now, “it was a mistake,” then inelegantly pivoted from praising veterans to blaming Obama for the current situation in the Middle East. This week Bush debuted a new stance: Whatever mistakes President George W. Bush made along the way, the Iraq War ultimately turned out for the best (at least until President Obama and Hillary Clinton messed it all up).

On Thursday in Iowa, he even used one of the most notorious lines from his brother’s presidency. “I’ve been critical and I think people have every right to be critical of decisions that were made,” Bush said at a Q&A hosted by Americans for Peace, Prosperity and Security. “In 2009, Iraq was fragile but secure. [The] mission was accomplished in the way that there was security there and it was because of the heroic efforts of the men and women in the United States military that it was so.”

Bush also declared, “Taking out Saddam Hussein turned out to be a pretty good deal.” He said it was a mistake to stop the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ metadata because there’s no evidence that “civil liberties were violated, that people’s privacy was violated.” He defended the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, saying he’s been there and “this is not a torture chamber.”

Torture is one point where Jeb slightly disagrees with W. He thinks “torture is not appropriate,” and he credited his brother with ending enhanced interrogation techniques (which the George W. Bush administration initially authorized). “The change of policy that my brother did and then was put into executive order form by [President Obama] was the proper thing to do,” he explained. But Bush wouldn’t commit to keeping that executive order in place, saying, “I don’t want to make a definitive, blanket kind of statement.”

In a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on Tuesday, Bush argued that President Obama and Hillary Clinton should be blamed for the current situation in Iraq, not his brother. “Why was the success of the [2007 troop] surge followed by a withdrawal from Iraq, leaving not even the residual force that commanders and the joint chiefs knew was necessary?” Bush said. “And where was Secretary of State Clinton in all of this? Like the president himself, she had opposed the surge, then joined in claiming credit for its success, then stood by as that hard-won victory by American and allied forces was thrown away.”

Trying to turn one of his biggest liabilities into a problem for Clinton is a bold strategy, but so far there isn’t much evidence that it’s working. Following Bush’s remarks, a number of people pointed out that the withdrawal was his brother’s idea. “I remind everybody that us leaving at the end of 2011 was negotiated in 2008 by the Bush administration. That was always the plan, we had promised them that we would respect their sovereignty,” said U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Raymond Odierno, an architect of the surge.

And TheNew Yorker‘s Dexter Filkins argued that, while Clinton “played a supporting role in a disastrously managed withdrawal,” that stemmed from a “disastrously managed war itself.” Plus, she wanted to leave some troops in Iraq:

By all accounts, she was one of the people inside the Administration who advocated for keeping a residual force in Iraq. “Hillary very much wanted to keep troops in the country,” James Jeffrey, the American Ambassador to Iraq at the time, told me. This does not amount, in Jeb’s words, to “standing by” while Iraq burned.

When asked about that point on Thursday, Bush called it an “aggressive effort to rewrite history,” saying it was obvious that Obama needed to renegotiate the Bush administration’s agreement.

Bush’s nuanced (or rather, factually shaky) argument may win over some Republicans, but convincing America that Obama and Clinton deserve more blame for the Iraq War fallout than the president who started it is a tall order. It seems the only mission Jeb accomplished this week was providing sound bites for attack ads linking him to his brother.

 

By: Margaret Hartmann, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, August 14, 2015

August 16, 2015 Posted by | George W Bush, Iraq War, Jeb Bush, Mission Accomplished, Status of Forces Agreement | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Forgetting A Little Detail Called… His Brother”: Jeb Bush Is Even Nuttier Than Trump Now

Donald Trump’s remarks about Megyn Kelly still make him the most vulgar of the Republican presidential candidates.

But he is no longer the nuttiest.

That distinction was claimed by Jeb Bush in a speech at the Reagan Library, when he declared that President Obama and Hillary Clinton are to blame for the rise of ISIS.

Jeb being the brother of the guy who used 9/11 as a pretext to invade Iraq in the first place, a venture that then-Senator Barack Obama opposed.

Six weeks after the opening “shock and awe” bombardment, President George Bush declared in a speech from the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln that the “major combat operations” in Iraq had ended in victory.

“Mission Accomplished,” read the big banner in the background.

Thousands of deaths later, the war was still raging and proving to be unwinnable.

In 2008, President Bush signed what was officially called an “Agreement Between the United States of America and the Republic of Iraq On the Withdrawal of United States Forces from Iraq and the Organization of Their Activities during Their Temporary Presence in Iraq.”

The agreement required us to withdraw our troops from Iraqi cities by June of 2009 and from the country altogether by December 31, 2011.

The schedule was already set in place when Obama took office in 2009. That included the 2009 closing of our biggest POW facility, Camp Bucca. The prisoners who were released from Bucca included Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

As has been reported in The Daily Beast, al-Baghdadi uttered some parting words to the camp’s commander.

“He said, ‘I’ll see you guys in New York,’” Army Colonel Kenneth King recalls.

Al-Baghdadi went on to become the head of ISIS and to announce the creation of a new Islamic State.

Obama did try to renegotiate the so-called “SOFA agreement” in order to allow U.S. troops to remain in Iraq past 2011, but he could not get the deal he wanted. Critics say he could have taken a more aggressive stance in the years after 2011, when the descendants of al Qaeda in Iraq began a murderous comeback.

But, of course, al Qaeda in Iraq would not have been a force of any consequence if President Bush had not smashed the Iraqi state in 2003.

In the meantime, we spent billions training Iraqi government troops who fled seemingly whenever they were attacked, leaving behind billions more in U.S. supplied equipment.

None of that was Obama’s creation.

All of it was a consequence of what President Bush so rashly set in motion.

And now his brother Jeb is trying to pin it on Obama as a way of going after Hillary Clinton. Talk about nutty. Not to mention offensive.

Trump is supposed to be the nutty and offensive one, but when it comes to ISIS he seems mainly to be woefully uninformed.

“Believe it or not, Iran is funneling money to ISIS,” Trump said on CNN.

Jeb could no doubt tell you that Iran is in fact battling ISIS by proxy and, in some instances, directly.

Something other than ignorance is at work when Jeb tries to pin the ISIS mess on Obama and Hillary.

Yes, as senator, Hillary did vote in favor of invading Iraq. And yes, as Secretary of State, she failed to make Iraq a top priority. (Though she did push Obama to keep American troops in Iraq after 2011.)

But she can hardly be faulted for what was all but sure to follow when Jeb’s brother gave the orders to invade Iraq.

And Obama is even less at fault.

Jeb is only able to claim otherwise because the people who truly are to blame have never been held accountable.

That includes not just Jeb’s brother but also former Vice President Dick Cheney, who promises to be even nuttier than Jeb when he makes an appearance of his own at the Reagan Library on September 9, two days before the 14th anniversary of 9/11.

Cheney and his daughter, Liz, will be there to sign copies of their new book, Exceptional: Why the World Needs a Powerful America. The library’s website says, “Dick and Liz Cheney explain the unique and indispensable nature of American power, reveal the damage done by President Obama’s abandonment of this principle, and show how America can and must lead again.”

Never mind that between the war in Iraq, the loss of focus on Afghanistan and the CIA torture scandal, the elder Cheney probably did more to weaken America than any other single individual in recent history.

The website goes on, “The Cheneys do what no one before them has done: chart a path forward to restoring American power and strength, explaining what must be done to reverse course, to fight and win the war on terror, to rebuild our military and reassure our allies that they can once again rely on American leadership.”

Neither parody nor irony seem intended as the website concludes, “A critical, frank, and much-needed touchstone, Exceptional should stand as a guiding principle for the potential presidential candidates in 2016—and for policymakers today and beyond.”

Talk about beyond nuts.

Perhaps if some of the other candidates do use Cheney’s book as a guiding principle, they too can prove to be even nuttier than Trump, who seems unlikely to read a book or anything else.

All anybody who wants to sound wackier than The Donald need do is begin a sentence with, “Well, Dick Cheney says…”

Meanwhile, Trump remains not just the most vulgar of the candidates, but also the front-runner.

 

By: Michael Daly, The Daily Beast, August 12, 2015

August 14, 2015 Posted by | Bush-Cheney Administration, Iraq War, ISIS, Status of Forces Agreement | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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