Annals of Bad Faith: “Bush on Bush”

NY Times review of Bush’s Decision Points:

Doubts arise about the depth of Bush’s principles in part because he so often clung to them even as he violated them. A typical Bush mind change goes like this: (1) I have always believed deeply that X. But (2) in this case X would cause vast human suffering or higher taxes or some other terrible tragedy that I couldn’t, as president, allow. Therefore (3) I will abandon X on this occasion. But (4) I still believe deeply that X.

Bush claims to have been the first president to really get tough on terrorism. “My decision” to invade Afghanistan “was a departure from America’s policies over the past two decades.” President Reagan withdrew American forces from Lebanon after Hezbollah bombed our Marine barracks there. President Clinton withdrew from Somalia when warlords shot down an American helicopter. He doesn’t mention his own father’s decision to stop the Persian Gulf war of 1991 at the Kuwait-Iraq border rather than proceed to Baghdad and take Saddam Hussein down. Bush concludes: “Terrorists had interpreted our lack of a serious response as a sign of weakness. . . . I was determined to change that impression.” So he made a serious response.  A pugnacious determination to be taken seriously is about half an inch below the surface of “Decision Points.” It’s poignant that even as a former two-term president, Bush should feel the need to strut the way he does. The book is full of maxims and advice. “I prided myself on my ability to make crisp and effective decisions,”

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