I always enjoy listening to conversations with any President of the United States. So there was no way I was going to miss Matt Lauer’s hour-long interview with President George Bush concerning the former leader’s book “Decision Points”.
So there I was primed for an interview that I hoped would grant the nation some insight into how things went so wrong in America during Bush’s two terms in office. I was trusting that with some distance from the White House there might be less swagger and more substance . I was hoping for a man bigger in reflection than we was while in office.
In the end I was disappointed with the interview as it only confirmed what I already knew.
President Bush is folksy, but he was only a mediocre president at best, who did great damage to the nation.
The verbal swagger and facial sneers were all back for the NBC cameras. The lies and spin from those eight years that took the nation to war were ramped up again in an effort to promote his legacy and sell some books.
One of the biggest lies from the interview concerned 9/11.
LAUER: Did you ever ask yourself the question, “What more could I have done,” to prevent this from happening?
BUSH: Well, we just didn’t have any solid intelligence that gave us a warning on this. We didn’t have any clear intelligence that said you know, “Get ready. They’re gonna fly airplanes into New York buildings.”
No, Mr. President, you are not being totally upfront with the American public.
President Bush liked to vacation during his time in office. In fact almost half of his presidency was either at Camp David or in Texas. While on one of those trips (August 6, 2001) he would have received a Presidential Daily Briefing (PDB) from CIA director George Tenet. The title of this 10-page document revealed: “BIN LADEN DETERMINED TO STRIKE U.S. “Tenet reported warnings that terrorists connected to Osama Bin Laden were planning to hijack passenger planes in the United States.”
A more engaged president would have thought about the information that was placed in front of him for reading. But with so much vacation time to be had, even starting early in his first term, there was no time for the hard work of leading the nation. Even after two years out of office, and time to reflect and come to terms with what happened, we are left with the same spin from President Bush.
There were times last night in the interview I almost choked on my pretzels, just to be in kinship with the great comedian that is President Bush.
Read this excerpt.
LAUER: The intelligence is. So by the time you gave the order to start military operations in Iraq, did you personally have any doubt, any shred of doubt, about that intelligence?
BUSH: No, I didn’t. I really didn’t.
LAUER: Not everybody thought you should go to war, though. There were dissenters.
BUSH: Of course there were.
LAUER: Did you filter them out?
BUSH: I was– I was a dissenting voice. I didn’t wanna use force.
President Bush was a dissenting voice on the war?!
And Hitler only thought it would be nice to give the Jews a chance for a train trip.
When it came to waterboarding President Bush was not able, or willing, to consider the effect his bad decisison might have on American soldiers who might face the same torture.
LAUER: So if– if it’s legal, President Bush, then if an American is taken into custody in a foreign country, not necessarily a uniformed–
BUSH: Look, I —
BUSH: I’m not gonna the issue, Matt. I, I really–
LAUER: I’m just asking. Would it be okay for a foreign country to waterboard an American citizen?
BUSH: It’s all I ask is that people read the book. And they can reach the same conclusion. If they’d have made the same decision I made or not.
This lack of introspection and ability to think in broader terms was one of the main reasons I found Bush unworthy of the White House. There was never an intellectual interest in delving into issues and really coming to grips with them, or better understand the full ramifications of any policy. The swagger was always the answer for Bush.
There is spinning for a better place in the pages of history and then there is just a plain disconnect from reality.
What we witnessed last night on NBC is the shortcomings not only of a president, but also of a man. History will show not only that events spiraled out of control while he was serving as president, but that he continued to distort and twist the record years later in an effort at shaping a legacy. And for making money on his book.
Mediocre is the best we can say about President Bush.