Category Archives: President Bush

Not surprising that country is divided on Obama, Bush

bushmissmeNearly as many people wish President Bush were still in office as favor President Obama, according to a survey by Public Policy Polling. The results likely are more a reflection of a politically divided country and frustration with Obama than a rehabilitation of Bush’s image. Not surprisingly, the surveyed Republicans overwhelmingly now prefer Bush, while the Democrats overwhelmingly prefer Obama. Independents favor Obama over Bush by 12 points.

Obama’s trouble fueling Bush nostalgia

bushmissmeThe “Miss me yet?” billboard starring George W. Bush along I-35 in Minnesota is only one visual example of the 43rd president’s rehabilitation, which New York Times blogger Stanley Fish notes is officially under way. The March 8 of Newsweek added the cover line “Victory At Last” to a photo of Bush’s 2003 “mission accomplished” moment on the aircraft carrier. President Obama’s embrace of versions of Bush policies in Iraq and Afghanistan and inability to close Gitmo or deal decisively with terrorist detainees have fueled pro-Bush sympathies, as has the health care battle. As for history’s judgment of Bush, Fish writes: “I will venture to say that it will be more nuanced than anything the professional Bush-haters — indistinguishable in temperament from the professional Obama-haters — are now able to imagine. He will not go to the top of the list, but neither will he be the figure of fun and derision he seemed destined to be only a year ago.”
Meanwhile, here is a photo slideshow of alternative slogans for the billboard, such as “My bad.”

Obama more successful at cutting than Bush

obamathumbsupConservative fans of the Washington Times likely were surprised by an article last week on how President Obama has been significantly more successful than President Bush at cutting spending. It reported that Obama “notched substantial successes in spending cuts last year, winning 60 percent of his proposed cuts and managing to get Congress to ax several programs” that Bush was unable to cut.
As the article noted, such discretionary spending is a small portion of the federal budget, and because of the severe recession and the cost of the stimulus bill, the budget deficit has skyrocketed. But Ezra Klein of the Washington Post argues that Obama has also been more fiscally responsible than Bush on big policy issues. “Bush cut trillions in taxes without paying for it and added trillions in Medicare spending without paying for it,” Klein wrote, while Obama’s health care bill “actually raises more money than it spends, and reduces the deficit in both its first and second decades.”

‘What ifs’ about Bush

bushhandonhead“What would have happened right after Sept. 11th (if) President Bush had called for . . . a Manhattan Project for independence from Middle Eastern oil? What if he’d called for a lot more people to join the Army? We wouldn’t have had these same soldiers going back three and four times. What if we’d had a tax increase, as we’ve done in every other war, to fight a war? We wouldn’t be facing the deficits right now.” — Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, on NBC’s “Meet the Press”

Appropriate that ‘Dow 36,000′ author will head Bush Institute

glassmanColumnist and author Thomas Frank finds it “cosmically correct” that James K. Glassman (in photo), the co-author of “Dow 36,000,” will be the executive director of the George W. Bush Institute at the George W. Bush Presidential Center. “This great Wall Street optimist will oversee the remnants of an administration whose members once pooh-poohed the ‘reality-based community,’ who thought voluntary compliance was a good way to regulate industry, who took almost no action to deflate the mortgage bubble, who anticipated being greeted in Iraq as liberators,” Frank wrote.

Bush finds new calling

BushThe Bushes have joined the “Get Motivated” seminar program. Asked about George W. Bush’s first speaking gig — today in Fort Worth, on a bill including Colin Powell, Rudy Giuliani, Terry Bradshaw, Zig Ziglar and Robert Schuller — University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato suggested the country is beyond asking whether such top-dollar talks should be beneath former presidents. But “Bob Dole selling Viagra — now that lacked dignity,” Sabato told the New York Daily News.

Cheney continues war of words

cheneyFormer Vice President Dick Cheney is back at it, calling the Obama administration’s abandonment of a missile-defense program in Eastern Europe “a strategic blunder,” criticizing diplomatic outreach efforts to Iran, and disparaging complaints about torture as “a libel against dedicated professionals.” During a speech Wednesday to the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C., Cheney also accused President Obama of “dithering” on Afghanistan “while America’s armed forces are in danger.” Cheney said that Obama “seems afraid to make a decision, and unable to provide his commander on the ground with the troops he needs to complete his mission.”
But retired Gen. Paul Eaton, who used to oversee training of the Iraqi military, responded that Cheney and other Bush administration officials were “incompetent war fighters” who left a mess that Obama must clean up. He said they “ignored Afghanistan for seven years with a crude approach to counterinsurgency warfare best illustrated by: 1. Deny it. 2. Ignore it. 3. Bomb it.”

Where was outrage about Bush’s czars?

czarsMany of those complaining about President Obama’s “unelected and unaccountable czars” seem to have a bad case of amnesia — or at least selective outrage. After all, President Bush had more such “czars” than President Obama supposedly has. Yet during the Bush years, columnist Dick Polman noted, “there was nary a cry about imperial Russia from the president’s congressional cheerleaders, nor from his fans on Fox.”

Gonzales’ unraveling set to music

GONZALES PROSECUTORSFirst came a Rumsfeld song cycle. Now there’s the Gonzales Cantata, a 40-minute work for soloists, chorus and orchestra based on the transcripts of two 2007 Senate Judiciary Committee hearings and former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ 2007 resignation statement. Melissa Dunphy wrote the piece while still a student; it was performed at the Philadelphia Fringe Festival last weekend. “It’s about a man who made some mistakes and is facing the music. It’s also an exploration of how a man could so brazenly politicize the Department of Justice without really standing up for the reasons he went into politics in the first place,” Dunphy told the Wall Street Journal. Unpredictably, Dunphy uses female voices for the men in the story and vice versa. Predictably, the phrase “I don’t recall”  is frequently heard.

Bush administration tried to protect secret prisons

The Bush administration spent from 2003 to 2006 quietly trying to relax the draft language of a treaty meant to bar and punish “enforced disappearances,” the Washington Post reported. Why? Because the treaty aimed at ending official kidnappings and detentions in Latin America, Russia, China, Iran and other countries — a treaty that the United States has long supported — could expose the CIA to possible punishment because of the secret prisons it was operating to hold terrorism suspects. Foreign governments opposed the proposed wording change, and the Bush administration ended up not endorsing the ban, which has since been signed by at least 81 countries.

Torturing harmed us

cheneymccain2Former Vice President Dick Cheney said on “Fox News Sunday” that the attorney general’s decision to investigate prisoner abuse by the CIA “offends the hell out of me.”But many Americans, including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., are offended that the United States, at Cheney’s urging, violated U.S. and international law prohibiting torture and set aside its own values and moral leadership. Though McCain doesn’t support a CIA probe, he said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that “torturing harmed us.” McCain said that the interrogations were “in violation of the Geneva Conventions and the convention against torture that we ratified under President Reagan,” and that the interrogations “helped al-Qaida recruit” and harmed our ability to work with our allies. “The damage that it did to America’s image in the world is something we’re still on the way to repairing,” McCain said. And as for the effectiveness of the tactics, McCain noted that, according to the FBI and others, the information gained by torture “could have been gained through other methods.”

Hard for Holder not to investigate torture, abuse

Attorney GeneralThe Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility reportedly is recommending that the department open investigations of CIA abuse and torture of terrorism suspects. President Obama already has said that he doesn’t want to focus on the past, but it will be difficult for Attorney General Eric Holder to overlook violations of U.S. law and the recommendation of the department’s ethics office, which has spent several years reviewing the cases. That said, Jeffrey Smith, a former general counsel for the CIA, makes some good arguments for why the investigations might do more harm than good, including that the techniques reportedly were authorized by President Bush and approved by the Justice Department (albeit using shoddy legal reasoning).

Cynics correct about terrorism warnings

ridgeTurns out the cynics were correct in saying that the Bush administration manipulated terrorism threat warnings for political gain. Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge’s wrote in his new memoir, “The Test of Our Times,” that the weekend before the 2004 presidential election, Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld and Attorney General John Ashcroft pushed him to raise the color-coded warning for political reasons. “I consider the episode to be not only a dramatic moment in Washington’s recent history, but another illustration of the intersection of politics, fear, credibility and security,” wrote Ridge, who resigned shortly after the incident. Some other claims by Ridge that don’t reflect well on the Bush administration: Ridge wasn’t invited to sit in on National Security Council meetings, was “blindsided” by the FBI in morning Oval Office meetings because the agency withheld information from him, and tried to block Michael Brown from being named to lead FEMA.

Rove says role was ‘entirely proper’

rove2Recent news accounts about information gathered by the House Judiciary Committee have drawn a clear and political link between Bush adviser Karl Rove and the firings of a number of U.S. attorneys during President Bush’s second term. Rove dismisses his critics in his Wall Street Journal column, saying the facts “show that my role in the U.S. attorneys issue was minimal and entirely proper.” He also brushes off allegations that he was behind the 2004 prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman. Far from admitting any mistakes, Rove suggests that the New York Times’ and Washington Post’s editorial boards should admit they got it wrong about him. “It would be the responsible thing to do,” Rove concluded.

Rove involved in firings of U.S. attorneys

rove23Congressional testimony and e-mail messages released Tuesday showed that Bush administration political adviser Karl Rove and other senior aides played an early and active role in the 2006 firings of a number of federal prosecutors, the New York Times reported. “This basic truth can no longer be denied: Karl Rove and his cohorts at the Bush White House were the driving force behind several of these firings, which were done for improper reasons,” said Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich.

Hard not to investigate Cheney, torture

cheney8President Obama wants Congress and the country to focus on the future, not the past. But that’s getting tougher to do with the new allegation that former Vice President Dick Cheney ordered the CIA to withhold information from Congress.
CIA Director Leon Panetta reportedly told the Senate and House intelligence committees that the CIA withheld information about a secret counterterrorism program for eight years on direct order from Cheney. That could be a violation of a law requiring the president to make sure the intelligence committees “are kept fully and currently informed of the intelligence activities of the United States, including any significant anticipated intelligence activity.”
Meanwhile, Attorney General Eric Holder is leaning toward appointing a criminal prosecutor to investigate whether the CIA tortured terrorism suspects, the Washington Post reported.

The ‘Daily Show’ defense against open records?

shhhh4The Obama administration is supporting a goofy legal claim previously put forward by the Bush administration that it shouldn’t have to release statements that Dick Cheney made to a special prosecutor about outed spy Valerie Plame because it could become fodder for “The Daily Show.” Even the judge hearing the open records lawsuit couldn’t believe it.

Bush speaks

BushEven as he said he would not directly criticize his successor, President Bush told a business crowd in Erie, Pa., on Wednesday some things that sounded critical, including:

– “I know it’s going to be the private sector that leads this country out of the current economic times we’re in.”

– “I’ll just tell you that there are people at Gitmo that will kill American people at a drop of a hat and I don’t believe that — persuasion isn’t going to work. Therapy isn’t going to cause terrorists to change their mind.”

– “I worry about encouraging the government to replace the private sector when it comes to providing insurance for health care.”

– “When I look in the mirror, I say, ‘He did not sell his soul for short-term politics.’”

And when asked whether President Obama’s policies were “socialist,” Bush said: “We’ll see.”

Torturing the wrong person

Some Americans are willing to overlook or justify the torture of terrorism detainees. But what if we torture the wrong person? President Bush said in 2002 that Abu Zubaydah was “al-Qaida’s chief of operations.” The CIA held him in a secret prison and waterboarded him 83 times. But officials eventually determined that Zubaydah, though a “fixer” for radical Muslim ideologues, was not a member of al-Qaida and not one of its leaders. According to a transcript of Zubaydah’s hearing that was released this week, he said that officials told him, “Sorry, we discover that you are not No. 3, not a partner, not even a fighter.”
In 2007, the Canadian government agreed to pay $9 million to a Canadian engineer who was seized by U.S. officials and taken to Syria, where he was tortured before officials realized they had the wrong man.

Several attorneys thought torture was legal

comeyThree top former Justice Department attorneys have received most of the criticism for providing legal cover for torturing suspected terrorists. But e-mails and additional information show that other Justice Department attorneys agreed with them that the “enhanced interrogation techniques” were legal, though several objected to their use, reported the New York Times. For example, James B. Comey (in photo), the former deputy attorney general who balked at the Bush administration’s secret wiretapping program, concluded that the interrogation techniques were legal, though he said in e-mails that “some of this stuff was simply awful” and warned then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales that “it would come back to haunt him and the department.”
The fact that several attorneys thought the techniques were legal makes it difficult to press ethics or legal charges against former Justice Department attorneys John Yoo, Jay Bybee and Steven Bradbury, as some have called for. Still, Brian Tamanaha, a St. John’s University law professor who has studied the interrogation memorandums, contends that concluding that waterboarding was legal required “extraordinary contortions in language and legal analysis.”

SEC policies thwarted investigations

Former Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Christopher Cox “adopted practices that undermined the enforcement division’s efforts to investigate cases of corporate wrongdoing and punish those involved, according to interviews with 19 current and former SEC officials,” the Washington Post reported. For example, Cox required investigators to get the commission’s approval before subpoenaing documents, compelling interviews or approaching a company about a civil settlement. The cumbersome process resulted in long delays and had a chilling effect on investigations, according to current and former agency officials.

Paulson was worst ever, Tiahrt says

Fed OverhaulRep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Goddard, thinks that former Bush Cabinet member Henry Paulson should go down as the worst Treasury secretary ever and that current Secretary Timothy Geithner is the next worst. Tiahrt told The Eagle editorial board that if the United States focuses on growing the economy from the ground up, rather than the government taking over much of the economy, the recession could be over in six months.

Cheney should take cues from Bush

bushclinton“I want you to understand that anything I say is not to be critical of my successor,” President George W. Bush said last week. “There are plenty of critics in American society.” That, unfortunately, includes his former vice president, Dick Cheney, who should take cues from the civility and respect shown by Bush and President Clinton when they shared a stage in Toronto on Friday. Not only did the two presidents avoid criticizing President Obama, they defended each other’s actions on Rwanda and Darfur.

Cheney running in 2012?

cheneypress1Maybe Dick Cheney is everywhere because he wants to be president after all. As a GOP leader, wrote Roger Simon of Politico, the 68-year-old former vice president “has many pluses. He is very, very good on TV. (People who don’t like what he says overlook how good he is at saying it.) He is calm, articulate and often courageous.” And, Simon added, “the Republicans need a person who knows how to attack. John McCain never seemed comfortable in that role.” He concluded: “Dick Cheney is the voice, the face, the spirit and the guts of the Republican Party today. He’s tanned, he’s rested and his approval ratings can only go up. The Republicans could do worse in 2012. And probably will.”

Already weary of Sebelius-speak

Sebelius HHSPeggy Noonan is unimpressed by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ way with words, as exhibited by our former governor when asked about health care reform on MSNBC. Noonan wrote: “Ms. Sebelius began to answer in that dead and deadening governmental language that does not reveal or clarify but instead wraps legitimate queries in clouds of words and sends them on their way. I think I heard ‘accessing affordable quality health care,’ ‘single-payer plan vis-a-vis private multiparty insurers’ and ‘key component of quality improvement.’ In any case, she didn’t answer the question, which was a disappointment but not a surprise. No one answers the question anymore.” Casting beyond Sebelius-speak, Noonan said: “Do members of the administration speak obscurely because they can’t help themselves, or do they speak the way they speak because they really aren’t all that keen to have people understand them? Maybe they calculate that lack of clarity ensures maximum ability to maneuver. But maybe they should think less about maneuvering. They’re not helping the prevailing sense of national anxiety by speaking in a special lingo all their own.”