Semi-Daily Journal Archive

The Blogspot archive of the weblog of J. Bradford DeLong, Professor of Economics and Chair of the PEIS major at U.C. Berkeley, a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Tim Rutten on "State of Denial"

Tim Rutten reviews Woodward's State of Denial:

calendarlive.com: BOOK REVIEW - Secrets, and the obvious, revealed: Less wishfully hagiographic than "Bush At War," less credulously detached than "Plan of Attack," this book's analysis essentially mirrors the shift in opinion on the administration's conduct of the war that has occurred in the foreign policy establishment's broad middle ground....

This is the darker Woodward — disquieting scene follows chilling bit of dialogue succeeded by secret memo. The administration he now portrays is a grimly feckless assemblage of dysfunction and division, disillusion and self-delusion. Yet... the overwhelming impression... is that much labor has gone into establishing that, when it comes to the Bush White House and its war in Iraq, things are pretty much what they seem....

In an interview Sunday on CBS' "60 Minutes," Woodward went to the substantive heart of his appraisal: The president and his surrogates have consistently misled the American people and Congress about what's going on in Iraq, insisting that the situation is improving, while the insurgency continues to strengthen and violence escalates....

In "State of Denial," Woodward demonstrates that although disinformation has been part of the administration's approach to Iraq from the start, the pace picked up — unsurprisingly — during Bush's 2004 reelection campaign....

One of the more troubling subplots running through "State of Denial" involves Prince Bandar, the long-time Saudi ambassador to the United States. By Woodward's account, when then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush decided to run for president, his worried father enlisted Bandar, an old family friend, to tutor the son on foreign policy. When Bandar arrived in Austin, the younger Bush blithely observed that while he had lots of ideas about domestic policies he didn't have a clue about foreign affairs. The Saudi took him under his wing, but he proved a trying pupil, who addressed his mentor as "asshole" and "smart aleck."... At one point, the younger Bush peevishly demanded to know why he needed "to care about North Korea." Bandar pointed out that, if he became president, he would have 35,000 American troops sitting on the DMZ.

Oh, right....

Later, with a Bush back in the White House, Bandar bullied the president into explicitly endorsing a two-state solution to the Israeli-conflict by threatening a total cutoff of Saudi support.... During a meeting in the Oval Office, according to Woodward, Bush personally thanked Bandar because the Saudis had flooded the world oil market and kept prices down in the run-up to the 2004 general election.

You don't have to be Michael Moore to find all this unsettling. Equally disquieting, Woodward's source for all this has to be Bandar or one of his intimates, acting at the Saudi's behest. What that suggests is that, after decades of arduously cultivating the Bush family, one of the shrewdest operators on the world stage has written off George W. Bush.

Unlike the previous books in this series, Bush and Cheney -- both of whom declined to be interviewed for this volume -- are remote figures in this narrative. The president informs Bandar that he prays daily and receives guidance from God and tells others that he intends to stay in Iraq, even if his supporters dwindle to his wife and dog. Cheney, meanwhile, broods obsessively on unfound weapons of mass destruction...

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