January 26th, 2008

Leadership, Bush: not an oxymoron

It’s common knowledge that President Bush’s approval ratings still hover somewhere in the 30th percentile, where they’ve lingered for the last two years, with only short forays into the 40s.

One would think this proves that Bush is a lousy leader. But then again, leadership is not synonymous with popularity. although there can certainly be overlap.

Whatever leadership Bush may or may not exhibit, it is agreed that he is extremely flawed in the all-important matter of communicating with the public. It’s also common knowledge that many people think of Bush as dumb, and almost all agree he is inarticulate.

But glibness and intelligence are not synonymous either—although, once again, there is often overlap. The idea of Bush as stupid extends to the notion that he is some sort of puppet of handlers such as Rove or Cheney, who are the evil intelligences behind the moronic Bush.

The idea that Bush could actually study an issue in depth and make a courageous and informed decision is laughable to people who ascribe to these latter notions, and I doubt anything they could read or learn about Bush would change that opinion. But I nevertheless suggest that everyone—both Bush supporters and Bush opponents—read two recent eye-opening articles about Bush’s management and leadership style and the ways in which he comes to conclusions and sets policy on tough issues.

The first is Fred Barnes’ longish piece that appeared in the Weekly Standard, describing how Bush made the decision to change policy in Iraq and implement the surge. The second, written by attorney and Bush adviser Jay Lefkowitz, appeared in Commentary and is about Bush’s policy on stem cell research.

In both pieces Bush demonstrates what I can only refer to as keen intelligence, attention to detail, and the ability to process information and listen to the views of others, as well as an impressive courage in making unpopular decisions that are grounded in that research and exhibit both thoughtfulness and ethical depth. Not a bad showing for a dummy.

Both articles also describe how much in control Bush was of the process, to an extent to which I had previously been unaware.

I had previously assumed, for example, that the surge decision had been heavily supported by most of his advisers and especially the military brass. But in fact there was a great deal of dissension about it. Although Cheney, some generals, and particularly John McCain (whose role was even greater than I’d previously known) were strongly in support, in the end Bush’s decision was a lonely and largely unpopular one.

Barnes writes:

The 20-minute speech on January 10, 2007 [announcing the surge], was not Bush’s most eloquent. And it wasn’t greeted with applause. Democrats condemned the surge and Republicans were mostly silent. Polls showing strong public opposition to the war in Iraq were unaffected.

But the president, as best I could tell, wasn’t looking for affirmation. He was focused solely on victory in Iraq. The surge may achieve that. And if it does, Bush’s decision to spurn public opinion and the pressure of politics and intensify the war in Iraq will surely be regarded as the greatest of his presidency.

Lefkowitz, writing about an entirely different matter, describes something very similar:

Now that the debate seems to be over, what can we say about Bush’s [stem cell] policy and the long months it took for him to devise it? I think it is fair to look upon it as a model of how to deal with the complicated scientific and ethical dilemmas that will continue to confront political leaders in the age of biotechnology. Bush refused to accept the notion that we must choose between medical research and the principle of the dignity of life at every stage. He sought both to advance biomedical science and at the same time to respect the sanctity of human life. In the end he came to a moderate, balanced decision that drew a prudent and principled line. The decision was both informed and reasoned, based on lengthy study and consultation with people of widely divergent viewpoints. It was consciously not guided by public-opinion polls.

That may not be popularity. But it is leadership.

49 Responses to “Leadership, Bush: not an oxymoron”

  1. expat Says:

    I suspect the born again experience for Bush was a lot more than all the cliches would have you suspect. It seems that he must have wrestled to determine his solid core of values and through that process come to understand some important things about human nature. And he seems to understand the resonsibilities of his office. You won’t find him whining.

  2. Darius Says:

    I always found it odd that someone who, IIRC, got better grades than Kerry was considered the idiot. I’m also sure that only the ignorant would believe that a stupid man could rack up flight time in a 60′s era jet fighter without killing himself.

    Yet many places – like our city’s weekly rag – are festooned with posters about “curious George,” etc.

  3. gcotharn Says:

    I like the way you said Bush exhibited “both thoughtfulness and ethical depth.” Exactly so.

    When Bush came to office, I had the advantage of having watched him as Governor of Texas; and I had the further advantage of not ever, for even a millisecond of a moment, associating Texas twang with lack of intelligence.

    Across America, a twangy or southern drawly accent is commonly assumed as a sign of lack of intelligence. Business persons from Texas, and from the South, use this to their advantage – and this is exactly what George Bush has done from day one of his national candidacy. In a negotiation, in a business deal, in a political maneuver, it’s a big advantage to be underestimated.

    Dumb old George has outmaneuvered the supersmart Democrats again and again and again. It’s testament to the power of assumption that they have never noticed: “Hey, how come that Cowboy President has outmaneuvered us about 50 times in a row?”

    The same could be said about the international arena: the smooth Mitterand, the suave Devillipin, the continental Helmut Kohl: outmaneuvered, outmaneuvered, outmaneuvered. France and Germany now follow Bush’ leadership. It’s not one way either: we are their friends.

    Having had experience of Bush, I literally prayed thanks to God on 9/11 that GWB was our President. I knew that GWB knew
    1) who he was and
    2) what he believed in.

    I knew GWB had the guts and the virtue to make tough calls. He was the right man to be in office at that moment. We in Texas had a big advantage over the rest of the nation in understanding this about President Bush.

    We also knew Pres. Bush made his own decisions. We always knew that stuff about Rove and Cheney and puppets was horse manure. Bush is a reader. He is a listener. He is grounded. When he decides something is important, he is a hard headed son of a buck. And that’s a good thing to be.

    Bush also has Laura on the other side of his pillow at night. That is a very good thing.

    President Bush is actually not conservative enough for me. On economic policy, free speech, affirmative action, immigration, President Bush is too far left for my taste. However, he gets the big things right:

    Win the war
    Cut the taxes
    Confirm the judges (who believe in judicial restraint)

    I’m often frustrated with Pres. Bush. He carefully selects his fights. He believes in giving the other side some political victories in less important areas (Education policy), then in fighting them in more important areas. This is why Pres. Bush doesn’t veto much. He picks his fights. He mostly judged that he did not want to fight over Congressional spending.(Grrr! I wanted him to fight! Dang it.)

    Anyway, thx for the post and the links.

  4. TB Says:

    So the article proves that Bush actually did think that things were going well in Iraq until the Samarra bombing. That of course is nuts; Iraq was in a civil war in 2005 and the Samarra bombing merely kicked the ethnic cleansing and civil war up to a new level. But it explains why Bush thinks the failed surge has succeeded: since violence in Iraq is now at 2005 levels, if you thought Iraq was OK in 2005, then you’ll be fine with the way it is now. But of course since even Barnes admits that the surge failed to accomplish its stated goals (creating the opportunity for actual reconciliation and the formation of a functioning government), and since 2005 levels of violence are truly horrible, the surge has accomplished nothing except to allow Bush to deny that Iraq is in hell.

    Bush is, as people here say, not a stupid man, but he’s a selfish man, and the surge is proof of that: he wasted lives and resources for no strategic purpose, just so he wouldn’t have to admit the invasion was a mistake. Not a dumb man, just a very bad man.

  5. gcotharn Says:

    one more thing:

    My favorite Bush quote is a quirky one.

    When Bush and Condi Rice covertly went to Baghdad for a Thanksgiving Holiday: they dressed in casual jackets, rendezvoused at Baylor University, then rode through holiday highway traffic to a military runway about 10 miles away. They did not take a normal caravan of protection, and they did not stop traffic. They wanted to move in secrecy.

    Describing this, Pres. Bush said, of himself and Condi:
    “We looked like any normal couple.”

    That’s my favorite George Bush quote.

  6. nyomythus Says:

    Unfortunately, ‘leadership’ for many liberals and conservatives, Paulites are not liberals afterall, or should I just say gullible and stupid people, well an example would be, picture the evacuees at the Super Dome, September 2005. Look up in the sky! It’s a Baskin-Robbins … helicopter!? “Now that’s what I’m talking about!” and “Praise the Lord!” can be heard for the people on the tarmac. It comes down, lands, and wow! It’s all the president’s men, passing out fresh delicious ice cream sundaes and bottles of water and a free ride to paradise on the mother ship, wow! LOL

    It just … isn’t going to happen. What I’m saying is there is so much wish-thinking built into the expectation of leadership, yes there are good leaders, and yes they can accomplish extraordinary feats, but it’s a cooperative effort and a lazy and/or gullible constituency is not going to make things happen any easier, if they can even be satisfied at all!

  7. Terrye Says:

    I think Bush has shown leadership. He could have chosen easier policies, but instead he did what he thought was right.

    I am beginning to wonder if it is possible in this day of instant messages and cable news and political blogs for anyone to really be popular for any length of time. It seems like the wolves are always circling.

  8. harry9000 Says:

    TB:
    “Bush is, as people here say, not a stupid man, but he’s a selfish man, and the surge is proof of that: he wasted lives and resources for no strategic purpose, just so he wouldn’t have to admit the invasion was a mistake.”

    Your so right. A more thoughtful man would have left the entire population to what ever barbarian fate would have awaited them. That would have saved the brown people from having to adopt a political system US liberals have a hard time understanding.

  9. gcotharn Says:

    FYIs:

    –the linked Weekly Standard article is by Fred Barnes, not Michael Barone.

    –couldn’t make the Lefkowitz/Commentary link work, but found the article at this url

    https://www.commentarymagazine.com/viewarticle.cfm/Stem-Cells-and-the-President-br–An-Inside-Account-11024?page=all

  10. Occam's Beard Says:

    It’s easy to be popular. Hollywood celebs manage it for years at a time. They just pander and preen. Nothing to it – or to them.

    Being popular and principled is another matter entirely. At least now, in our culture (but probably always, and in all cultures), the two are virtually antithetical.

    The greatest Presidents have always been willing to take the tough decisions. Lincoln going to war to preserve the Union, Roosevelt essentially committing an act of war by helping Britain, a belligerent nation, despite the Neutrality Act, Truman relieving MacArthur (reaffirming the notion of civilian control of the military), to name a few.

    Liberals will have apoplexy when they read this, but I think Bush is in that category. I actually voted for Gore, but was impressed by the way he stepped up after 9/11, and later going after the den of vipers in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    Has he made mistakes? Of course, but many fewer than, say, Lincoln, who went through have a dozen commanders of the Union Army and as many strategies before finally winning the war.

  11. Tim P Says:

    Harry9000,

    Your not going to sway someone like TB (a more descriptive handle, would be hard to come up with). He’s too vested in the liberal defeatist narrative that Iraq is lost.

    People like him do not take into account the fate of those left behind. They conveniently forgot about them in S.E. Asia 30 years ago and they would just as easily forget about them now. For them, democracy is something only they can understand or be worthy of.

    No one can say how our foray into Iraq will finally turn out. Only time will tell. However, thanks to the steadfast leadership of President Bush, the odds of it ending well are good. Though it could still be lost by an inept democrat administration bent on immediate withdrawal.

    One thing we do know however is that Al Qaida and the Islamist forces of terror are far worse off than they were on Sept. 10, 2001. Thanks to the leadership of President Bush and this administration.

    To wit, the Taliban, while still fighting, have been thrown out of Afghanistan and exist only because we have respected Pakistani sovereignty. Libya renounced trying to develop weapons of mass destruction. The Intifada is a memory, though major problems still exist for Israel. France and Germany have elected more right/centrist governments. Iran has been isolated and the rest of the Sunni Persian Gulf nations have been forced to recognize them for the threat they are, as has western Europe. Western Europeans are beginnning to awaken to the threat posed to them by, not the Muslims, but by the Islamist extremists. Even leading Saudi clerics have denounced terror as a weapon of Jihad.

    Ask yourself if the world situation would be better had not the US gone into Iraq.There is no way it would be. Any reasonably intelligent person would have to agree.

    While I don’t agree with all of President Bush’s positions, he has shown the type of leadership and courage that has not existed in the democrat party since John Kennedy faced down the Soviets over Cuba. History will be far kinder to him than the yapping ankle biters who have afflicted him these last seven years.

    Contrast his behavior with those of his predecessor who is presently on the campaign trail for his wife.

  12. Karen Says:

    He was my governor before he was my president. I proudly voted for him. I may not always like the decisions he makes but I never doubted his ability to inspire and lead. He is rock steady and that is exactly what was needed after he was tested on 9/11. History will reflect much more kindly on his presidency than is thought now.

  13. harry9000 Says:

    OT:

    Out of curiosity, I wandered on over to Daily Kos to catch the reaction to Obama’s smoking victory over HRC. One very enthusiastic Obama supporter announces:

    “IT’S AN OBAMANATION!!!”

    Another commenter suggests he come up with a better term! LOL!

  14. neo-neocon Says:

    gcotharn: corrected. Thanks.

  15. Sergey Says:

    Leadership is a neccessary antidote to inherent weaknesses of pure democracy. Popular opinion is always tarnished by popular mythology, and only rare individuals can be free of it. Those who lack principles and from day to day adjust their policy to the results of recent polls, like Hillary does, are not leaders at all.

  16. Perfected democrat Says:

    Tim P Says:

    January 26th, 2008 at 9:22 pm

    “Ask yourself if the world situation would be better had not the US gone into Iraq.There is no way it would be. Any reasonably intelligent person would have to agree.”

    But the dems predominately don’t agree, and certainly not for lack of IQ, it’s less a question of “intelligence”, than a question of honesty…. something the dems have long had a problem with, from the civil war, slavery, and it’s “history” with the kkk to the clintons, and now the manchurian candidate, the real double deal….

  17. Vince P Says:

    Hugh Hewitt interviews authors of history, and the two authors he’s interviewed both said that Bush is on top of the game as far as knoweldge and understanding of history.

    It’s only Leftist hatred that brands him “stupid” etc.. they say that about any Republican president no matter who it is.

  18. Occam's Beard Says:

    Vince,

    Leftists always brand their opponents as stupid. To hear them tell it, every Republican is a moron, every Democrat an intellectual (going back to Eisenhower v. Adlai Stevenson). Bush v. Kerry and Gore is classic in this respect, since by any objective measure Bush outdid both academically.

    We don’t generally hear that Bush’s grades at Yale were better than Kerry’s, or that Gore flunked out of law and divinity school. Somehow those little nuggets weren’t newsworthy.

    Nor do most people know that FDR received “gentleman’s C’s” at Harvard, i.e., he skated. That doesn’t fit the narrative: two legs bad, four legs good, and all that.

  19. Synova Says:

    I want to try to be fair by saying that I’m sure people on the right do it too, but I have to admit that I think it’s pretty clear that people on the left do it more.

    When there isn’t an assumption that intelligent and honest people can disagree then the only option is that people who do not agree with you are stupid or dishonest.

  20. Synova Says:

    And I’ve long felt that most of the criticism of Bush’s communication ability was essentially, “I hate everything about him and I’m going to oppose anything he wants just because he suggests it and if he doesn’t do my homework for me and convince me that he’s right, then it’s his fault for not being better at leading me by the hand.”

    Very much “no possible win.”

    And too smooth an ability to persuade would be viewed as government manipulation or propaganda.

    Also very much “no possible win.”

  21. TB Says:

    Ask yourself if the world situation would be better had not the US gone into Iraq.There is no way it would be. Any reasonably intelligent person would have to agree.

    Yes, I totally agree that overthrowing an anti-Islamist dictator is the best way to fight global Islamism.

    Since Iraq is worse off than under Saddam (the war, and the failed surge, killed many more Iraqis than Saddam did in the years 1998-2002) and since Bin Laden was undoubtedly happy that Bush let him live and instead went after Bin Laden’s enemy Saddam, I’m not sure how you get the idea that anybody’s better off now, unless you believe a bunch of things that aren’t true (Saddam was a pal of the Islamists, the Iraq violence is not being caused by native Iraqis, etc).

    The fact is that Bush, after 9/11, was stuck in a pre-9/11 mentality. Having abandoned Clinton’s effective anti-terror programs (the ones that prevented an attack on U.S. soil after the ’93 WTC bombing) to focus instead on “rogue states,” he should have seen 9/11 as an indication that Clinton was right about the threat of Bin Laden, and gone after Bin Laden’s organization. Instead Bush was stuck in the pre-9/11 world where Saddam was more important than the threat of Islamism. So Bush overthrew Saddam and helped the Islamists win by showing them that there would be no consequences for an attack (since he said that he wasn’t concerned about punishing Bin Laden).

    Perhaps “history” will judge Bush well for this; after all, the judgment of history is sometimes wrong. But Bush’s duty is to do what’s right for America, not what’s right for his historical legacy, and this is his dishonor: he knows (being an intelligent man) that it’s right for America to pull out of Iraq, but instead he ordered the surge, thereby killing many more Americans and Iraqis in 2007, because he’d rather hurt America than damage his historical legacy.

  22. Synova Says:

    TB, I don’t know what planet you live on.

    “The grim question of how many people have died in Iraq has sparked heated debate over the years. The controversy dates from 1995, when researchers with a Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) study in Iraq wrote to The Lancet, the journal of the British Medical Society, asserting that sanctions were responsible for the deaths of 567,000 Iraqi children.”

    567,000 Iraqi children died under Saddam’s rule. The Lancet reported it so it must be true. (But people like Bin Laden believed it, so in some respects it was as good as true.)

    This doesn’t count the fact that there were children’s prisons in the Kurdish north and that Saddam used chemical warfare there. This doesn’t count mass graves dug up that included women and children. This doesn’t include the systematic genocide being carried out against the Marsh Arabs. This doesn’t count that, when US forces took over Abu Ghraib the commander ordered one building razed because it was so soaked in human blood it would have been too psychologically traumatizing for US troops to have to clean it.

    At one time liberals cared about individual human dignity.

    No more.

  23. Synova Says:

    Actually… conservatism isn’t a set philosophy. It changes over time. And what is being “conserved” today is interventionist classical liberalism.

    It would be more accurate to call the conservatives, liberals, and the liberals, progressives.

    Because the concepts of human value and human rights don’t seem to apply on the left any more. It’s just a different culture and we should respect their ways even if their ways include the mistreatment of women and the genocide of minorities. After all, life was good for the majority.

  24. Truth Says:

    where Saddam was more important than the threat of Islamism.

    This true Saddam more important than OBL, but let be prices in this IRAQ it’s more important to Bush that OBL, who cares running after F* gangster nothing coming from killing him?

  25. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

    ooh, TB, I want to hear about all those Clinton effective anti-terror programs!

    When did AQ start planning 9-11 again? How much was in place before Bush took office?

  26. Synova Says:

    You might want to try that again, Truth. (And please know that I respect, greatly, anyone who knows more than one language.)

    Saddam was important for a number of reasons. He was a rally cry to extremists like Bin Laden who with the help of most of the world (including our allies) laid the blood price for 567,000 dead Arab Muslim children at the feet of the United States. He was also a rally cry because he had defied us and continued to do so. That fact and our shameful behavior in Somalia convinced Bin Laden (with the help of many of our own politicians) that our reaction to an attack such as the one on 9-11 would be despair rather than resolve. That we were decadent and weak and would fall in terror.

    And I agree very much with this statement, “who cares running after F* gangster nothing coming from killing him?”

    It would be emotionally satisfying to get Bin Laden but other than that there is nothing to be gained from killing him. (And more to be possibly lost from making him a martyr too soon.) Bin Laden is effectively emasculated. He must hide from us and can do nothing against us.

    The people who get so very upset that we haven’t got Bin Laden yet aren’t thinking strategically. They’re excited about having a seemingly unassailable criticism of Bush.

  27. njcommuter Says:

    Bin Laden should go like Saddam, not with a bang but with a whimper.

  28. harry9000 Says:

    “Anti-Islamic” Saddam Hussien?

    The fact that Saddam Hussein worshiped himself did not make him “Anti-Ialamic”.

    “Failed surge”.

    Funny, thats not how it is being viewed in Iraq.

    “…the war, and the failed surge, killed many more Iraqis than Saddam did in the years 1998-2002.

    But then TB, you’re the one advocating abandoning those same people to religious and ehtnic based civil blood shed. How do you reconcile that?

  29. Occam's Beard Says:

    Having abandoned Clinton’s effective anti-terror programs

    Thanks for that one, TB. We don’t get many laughs around here.

    But to be fair, his policies did ensure that there would be no terrorists under the desk in the Oval Office, unless he got a bigger desk, of course.

  30. nyomythus Says:

    It was after 2000, I think, that Saddam ordered that “Allah is great” be stitched on the Iraqi flag — he was making an appeal to move closer to the international Jihadist gathering in Iraq.

  31. Ymarsakar Says:

    One would think this proves that Bush is a lousy leader. But then again, leadership is not synonymous with popularity. although there can certainly be overlap.

    It is not that Bush is unpopular and that makes him a bad leader. What makes Bush a bad leader, if you accept such an argument, is that Bush is unable to convince people that they should believe Bush rather than the media. When Bush appears on the networks and does his speeches or answers questions, it is really really hard to “convince people” that the media is lying and exaggerating and being defeatist.

    Leadership has the critical component that you must convince people to back you or believe in you. Bush doesn’t have anything in that department in the world of media and communications technology. Bush, because he is a successful “politician” has it spades personally. But not EVERYONE gets to meet Bush personally.

    That’s why people continue to believe, young or old, that all Bush is accomplishing in Iraq is enriching himself. Forget Qods Force, forget the Iranian suffocation of hundreds of Marines in Lebanon, forget the women, children, and men of Iraq. People forget because the leaders don’t slam down a sledgehammer on their fingers to make them Pay Attention, Neo.

    It’s also common knowledge that many people think of Bush as dumb, and almost all agree he is inarticulate.

    That’s what you get for trying to send your message through disloyal couriers.

    In both pieces Bush demonstrates what I can only refer to as keen intelligence, attention to detail, and the ability to process information and listen to the views of others, as well as an impressive courage in making unpopular decisions that are grounded in that research and exhibit both thoughtfulness and ethical depth.

    Unfortunately for Bush and us, his enemies have thousands of people working to pick up and produce propaganda, while Bush only has himself. As for the people Bush counts on, they ain’t all that effective if you ask me. For example, it wasn’t until Petraeus that he found somebody that could win the war for him.

    Bush’s loyalty issues, like with Tenet, is also troublesome and a defect when it comes to processing and analyzing data.

    I had previously assumed, for example, that the surge decision had been heavily supported by most of his advisers and especially the military brass. But in fact there was a great deal of dissension about it. Although Cheney, some generals, and particularly John McCain (whose role was even greater than I’d previously known) were strongly in support, in the end Bush’s decision was a lonely and largely unpopular one.

    Like I said before, Bush would do much better if he stopped listening to his incompetent “advisers”. When Bush has time to listen to his advisers, like in 2003, bad things happen. When he has no time to do that, like after 9/11 and 2001 in Afghanistan, good things happen. Course Bush has to listen to someone, but the length of time really pays dividends in how good Bush’s decisions inevitably come out to be. Bush is the kind of person that operates well under pressure. Give him too much time and he bungles things. I don’t know why that is, but that’s just the general trend I have observed. Shorter time=more effective action on Bush’s part.

    The decision was both informed and reasoned, based on lengthy study and consultation with people of widely divergent viewpoints. It was consciously not guided by public-opinion polls.

    All of that goes down the tubes when Bush works with Democrats like Ted Kennedy on legislation.

    Weeks earlier, when Bush aides had asked them to draft a plan for what a surge would look like militarily, the Pentagon had dawdled. Now, with Bush doing the asking, the chiefs agreed to produce a surge plan. Bush had gotten all he needed from them–acquiescence. The surge was on.

    Bush has got to take a more proactive and “micromanagement” style of leadership, if he ever wants something done. He just can’t send out surrogates to do what he wants, probably because his surrogates are incompetent, even if they are loyal. But primarily because his surrogates don’t have the power of the US President. Nobody elected one of Bush’s “aides” to the most powerful office in the land.

    For an unpopular president facing a Democratic Congress ferociously opposed to the war in Iraq, it was a risky and defiant decision.

    It was a Bush decision. Stubborn to the point of no return. For good and bad.

    It called for adding troops, protecting Iraqi citizens,

    People are going to look back on this war and ask “wasn’t protecting Iraqi citizens a goal from day one”. And the answer would be… not really. Everybody was expecting somebody else to crush violence, crime, and lawlessness. State dumped it on the warmongers. The Marines logically wanted civilian authority to handle civilian stuff. The Americans wanted the Iraqis to do it. The iraqis expected great and powerful America to do it.

    “One of the most important jobs of a commander in chief, and particularly in a time of war, is to be thoughtful and sensitive about the U.S. military,” he said.

    Which is totally opposite what the Left and Democrats think of the relationship that should exist between civilian and military leadership in war. The Democrats think they are the masters and that the military are the dogs, which must obey every command.

    At the White House, officials began to question the military strategy in Iraq and the assumptions behind it. American forces had been pursuing a “small footprint.” Its rationale was that Americans were an occupying force whose presence stoked the Iraqi insurgency. So the strategy was to keep U.S. troops out of Iraqi neighborhoods as much as practicable.

    That’s what people, who buy into the “imperialism is bad” meme, inevitably starts thinking. Such tunnel vision produces some rather interesting negative consequences.

    Wasn’t the goal, from day one, to project American might so that Iraqi civilians could be protected? Not really.

    You know why people thought that, right? It was due to the 24/7 pummeling from the media about Imperialistic America and how that is why they hate us. That’s not why they hate us. They hate us because we have power but refuse to use it, whereas they don’t have power and are getting eviscerated by their enemies. That’s why they hate us, the big fat cats that can afford to be politically correct while they suffer.

    White House thinking about Iraq changed quickly, at least at the staff level. The reigning assumptions about the conflict were discarded. American troops weren’t seen as targets and catalysts for violence anymore. Iraqis wanted their protection.

    Bing the light goes on in the heads of the rich fat cats. That’s what you get for listening to the Democrats and the media.

    Iraqis wanted the protection of America from day one. But if that little bit of self-deception helps people out with the surge, then go ahead.

    Rather than a turning point, the events of June prompted a fleeting moment of optimism. The week before Camp David, Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the al Qaeda leader in Iraq, had been killed. (Cheney has a piece of the house where Zarqawi died on display at his residence.)

    That definitely sounds like Dark Lord Cheney alright.

    Another recurring theme was the consequences of defeat for America, Iraq, and the Middle East. “I was constantly trying to think about what do we need to do to succeed, what was it that was necessary,” he said.

    This is an interesting reference to Shrinkwrapped’s post about guts and determination trumping social advantage, intelligence, or wealth. Bush has many problems, but his stubborness showed its rewards here.

    The other one was kind of the burnout strategy–step back, let it burn out, contain it, go to the borders, encampments outside the city, let them fight it out, and eventually it will fade out, and then we’ll make sure it doesn’t get totally out of hand, but out of hand albeit to a certain extent.

    That’s what Ralph Peterson favored back before 2007. Partition Iraq, then wait in Kurdistan for the civil war to die down.

    On his return, Hadley sent a memo to Bush and his war cabinet that criticized Maliki, but also pointedly hinted at a surge of additional troops in Iraq. The memo was leaked to the New York Times.

    Ack, who cares about leakers?

    The leakers should, since I favor hammering them into dust if I can’t get the New York Times.

    Maliki claimed the Iraqi army could handle the job of securing Baghdad alone. His attitude, the president said, was, “We need you there for a while, we can do this, we’ll take care of it.” But “after the meeting, General Casey said they can’t.” Bush believed Casey.

    That was a great example of Arab promises and shame culture there. Even if Maliki knew the Iraqi Army was incapable, could he have admitted it to Bush, essentially the senior in the partnership?

    No.

    nstead of a surge, the State Department favored a strategy of pulling troops out of Baghdad and allowing the Sunnis and Shia to finish their bloody struggle.

    That sounds like State Department boyos having stripper parties in Washington DC all right.

    “I don’t believe you can have political reconciliation if your capital city is burning,” he said.

    So long as DC isn’t burning, why should the DoS give a damn?

    The Pentagon was on Bush’s side, arguing that American troops shouldn’t be ordered to stand by while people were being massacred.

    That is because the Pentagon, even though a bureaucracy, still has a conscience.

    And Eliot Cohen talked about civil-military aspects of the Iraq war and said Bush should talk to younger officers, not just the generals.

    Yeah, Bush, it is time to micromanage and bypass some of your so called “advisers”.

    By this time, Petraeus was a factor in the decision-making. Both Gates and Rumsfeld had recommended him. He was already a favorite of Cheney, who’d spent a day at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, with Petraeus while the general was writing the new Army counterinsurgency manual. Petraeus gave a pre-publication copy of the manual to Cheney.

    Hell, Bush should have just listened to Cheney like the Left stated, it would have been better than all his other advisers surely.

  32. Webutante Says:

    Wonderful post on Bush and the difference between faux leadership based on shifting sands and public opinion, and real leadership grounded on deeper principles which come from within.

    Bush has never taken the easy road which many of his detracters have demanded and castigated him for. History will be much kinder to him than the tantrum prone masses of Bush haters.

    God help us all if/when a weak president takes the helm and sways in the winds of public opinion and outrage. I shudder to think.

  33. Did Bush Kill the GOP and other questions -UPDATED | The Anchoress Says:

    [...] interesting questions and links around ’sphere: Neo-neocon thinks some more about Bush and leadership Dennis Clayson Two things to think about re Bush’s war and [...]

  34. Americaneocon Says:

    Thanks for the heads up on Barnes!!

    Here’s my lates on McCain and Juan Hernandez:

    http://americanpowerblog.blogspot.com/2008/01/john-mccain-irrational-right-and.html

  35. Truth Says:

    “From owner of the Texas Rangers to Pres¬ident of the United States, these principles have propelled George W. Bush to the top and can do the same for you:”

    • Identifying core values

    • Building alliances

    • Having a vision

    • Communication

    • Building trust

    • Discipline

    • Bringing in the right people

    • Intuition

    • Allowing those hired to do their jobs

    • Getting results

    Iraq surge

  36. john Says:

    laughable to people who ascribe to these latter notions,

    I could be wrong, but I think there’s a typo or mis-wording in this sentence…

    fwiw.

  37. Jeff Landaw Says:

    William Saletan parsed the same articles on slate.com and concluded that Bush listens, makes up his mind and doesn’t change it _ even when the facts on the ground change. That’s the bad part, and nothing I’ve seen so far on this post disproves it.
    I’ll honestly be delighted if Barnes, the posters etc. turn out to be right and I turn out to be wrong. But I’m not that optimistic.

  38. Tom Grey - Liberty Dad Says:

    Bush has leadership — but he has repeatedly made the mistake of assuming the MSM actually does want democracy and freedom in Iraq & ME … MORE than they want to make Bush fail.

    In a war, there is news that is positive & negative for each side. Propaganda is to have only positive for your side, only negative for the other side. The MSM is mostly propaganda — against the US because they want to be against Bush (and Reps, and capitalism, and pro-life Christianity)

    Inevitably, to be against the ones fighting terrorists means to be for the terrorists.

    Obama wanted Saddam to stay in power. That’s only the position of a leader if he’s honest about what his policies would achieve, and accepts that.

    Bush’s “stubborness” is not so clearly a real problem, as much as an emasculation of the MSM & elite ability to fan Public Opinion one way (or the other) and get the President to react. Bush does fail to make the case for not being so hasty.

  39. SteveH Says:

    Isn’t it hightime we redefined the term “intellectual”? That or call it to task for the short sighted but well articulated morons identified with it, that wouldn’t know an original thought to articulately express if it hit em upside the head?

    I actually feel a sense of pride in todays environment of not being able to say that very well.

  40. Danny Lemieux Says:

    OK – I’ll take the bait:

    Intellectual (In*tuh*leck*shull orig. Western academia) – one capable of articulating the concept of a shoe without having a clue about how to tie it.

  41. Truth Says:

    Propaganda is to have only positive for your side, only negative for the other side.

    • Fallujah is more difficult to enter than any city in the world. On the road from Baghdad I counted 27 checkpoints, all manned by well-armed soldiers and police. “The siege is total,” says Dr Kamal in Fallujah Hospital as he grimly lists his needs, which include everything from drugs and oxygen to electricity and clean water.
    “Every day 20 children die here,” said one. “Seven in this very room.”

    Return to Fallujah

    By Patrick Cockburn
    Monday, 28 January 2008

  42. Vince P Says:

    Check out the bottom-most video on my website.. there were ties between Iraq and OBL that were being reported on going back to 1999 at least.

  43. N. O'Brain Says:

    Read Bill Whittle’s essay “SEEING THE UNSEEN Part 1″ at:

    http://www.ejectejecteject.com/archives/000136.html

    and if after that you still think President Bush is stupid, you’re an idiot.

  44. Truth Says:

    Iraq and OBL that were being reported on going back to 1999 at least.

    Check out your candidates links to Al-Qaeda terrorist!!

    In other words, as incredible as it might seem,Rudy Giuliani — whose presidential candidacy is steeped in 9/11 iconography — has been doing
    business with a government agency run by the very man who made the attacks on 9/11 possible.

    Giuliani’s Ties Giuliani’s Ties to a Terror Sheikh

    Rumsfeld questions Saddam-Bin Laden link

    Mr Rumsfeld was asked by a New York audience about connections between Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden.

    “To my knowledge, I have not seen any strong, hard evidence that links the two,” he said,

    MSNBC staff and news service reports
    June 16, 2004

    WASHINGTON – The commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks reported Wednesday that Osama bin Laden met with a top Iraqi official in 1994 but found “no credible evidence” of a link between Iraq and al-Qaida in attacks against the United States.

    In a report based on research and interviews by the commission staff, the panel said that bin Laden made overtures to toppled Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein for assistance, as he did with leaders in Sudan, Iran, Afghanistan and elsewhere as he sought to build an Islamic army.

    Vince P need to be added to that list of liers,
    Vince P, your stuped a nd an idiot.

  45. Ymarsakar Says:

    T just proved TOm’s point even more.

  46. ic Says:

    Do you know the super intellectual Harvard educated Democrat JFK actually plagiarize the dumb as a log high school graduate Republican Warren Harding in his most remembered “don’t ask what the country can do for you …yada yada…”?

    Do you know the super intellectual’s book “Profiles in Courage” was actually ghost-written?

  47. Tim P Says:

    H.L. Menken once made this quote about idealists. I find it also fits today’s so-called intellectuals.

    An idealist intellectual is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.

  48. Vince P Says:

    Truth: Did you see the ABC News story on my webpage, the bottom-most video?

    It’s from 1999 way before the Bush Administration , about links between OBL and Saddam.

    How can I be lying about what the story contains?

  49. Sammy Sullivan Says:

    check mine out……

    keep up the good work man…….

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About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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