George Bush’s announcement last summer that he would come out of seclusion in October to promote a book about his presidency written in his name titled “Decision Points” sent Republicans into a panic. Within days of the announcement, word came that Bush had delayed his press junket until after the elections.
Bush [interrupting]: “Don’t care.”
Republicans panicked because they suspected, rightly, that having Bush out doing press would remind voters about the bad old days when he and his cronies in Congress, including Speaker-in-Waiting John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, were in charge. His presence would have disrupted their campaign to shift blame for the crises Bush created and/or ignored to Pres. Obama — a campaign that ultimately worked out remarkably well for them in the midterm elections.
The election is over, and Bush is back and, well, badder than ever. The first soundbite from his book tour proves that Republicans were right to keep him under wraps.
In an interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer set to air next week, Bush offers a glimpse of just how disruptive he could have been to his party’s midterm campaign:
[The] former President is very passionate on the subject of [Kanye] West’s criticism of the way Bush handled the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. NBC has released some quotations from the interview.
“He called me a racist,” Bush tells Lauer. “And I didn’t appreciate it then. I don’t appreciate it now. It’s one thing to say, ‘I don’t appreciate the way he’s handled his business.’ It’s another thing to say, ‘This man’s a racist.’ I resent it, it’s not true.”
Lauer quotes from Bush’s new book: “Five years later I can barely write those words without feeling disgust.” Lauer adds, “You go on: ‘I faced a lot of criticism as President. I didn’t like hearing people claim that I lied about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction or cut taxes to benefit the rich. But the suggestion that I was racist because of the response to Katrina represented an all-time low.’
President Bush responds: “Yeah. I still feel that way as you read those words. I felt ‘em when I heard ‘em, felt ‘em when I wrote ‘em and I felt ‘em when I’m listening to ‘em.
Lauer: “You say you told Laura at the time it was the worst moment of your Presidency?”
Bush: “Yes. My record was strong I felt when it came to race relations and giving people a chance. And it was a disgusting moment.”
Lauer: “I wonder if some people are going to read that, now that you’ve written it, and they might give you some heat for that. And the reason is this — ”
Bush [interrupting]: “Don’t care.”
Lauer: “Well, here’s the reason. You’re not saying that the worst moment in you’re Presidency was watching the misery in Louisiana. You’re saying it was when someone insulted you because of that.”
Bush: “No, and I also make it clear that the misery in Louisiana affected me deeply as well. There’s a lot of tough moments in the book. And it was a disgusting moment, pure and simple.”
“Don’t care” is an ironic response considering what West said about him, or would be if George Bush understood irony. Hurricane Katrina was devastating, but while his administration’s mishandling of it ought to be on his list of the worst moments of his presidency, it does not rank at the top.
The worst moment of Bush’s presidency was his decision to invade and occupy Iraq on false premises. This was not only his worst moment, it was the worst decision ever made by a U.S. commander in chief. Beyond the strategic errors, Bush’s misbegotten war resulted in the unnecessary deaths and maiming of thousands of U.S. military personnel and tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis, including infants and children. It also drained the Treasury of at least $900 billion, so far, much of which went to line the pockets of his and Dick Cheney’s cohorts at Halliburton, Blackwater and other government contractors.
Tied for the worst moment of Bush’s presidency is his decision not to act on the warning “Bin Laden determined to strike in U.S.” in late August of 2001. Most of the travesties that followed during the rest of his term would have been prevented if he had heeded that warning.
Then there is Bush’s decision to authorize his top staff, including Cheney, Condoleeza Rice and others, to draft a how-to manual on torture that gave detailed instructions to CIA interrogators on which torture techniques were allowable. In that decision, Bush undermined America’s standing as beacon of human rights and reduced it to just another torture state.
Similarly, Bush’s decisions to spy on Americans and ignore laws passed by Congress via “signing statements” made a mockery of his oath to protect and defend the Constitution.
Bush also ignored signs of the looming financical crisis and even abetted the crash by deliberately defanging financial regulations and borrowing billions from Communist China to fund his misadventure in Iraq, his badly bungled occupation of Afghanistan and the expansion of Medicare.
And then, yes, there was Katrina. Bush was the first president to lose an American city since Madison fled of Washington in advance of the British during the war of 1812.
The book Bush is hawking is, of course, propaganda — the first major rollout of the $500 million campaign to rewrite the history of his presidency. In reality, George Bush made decisions that wreaked havoc at home and abroad, that he created crises that are still ongoing two years later and for which there is no end in sight. In the book, he purportedly takes us behind the scenes as momentous decisions are made but then omits or glosses over the universally negative consequences of the decisions.
In fact, it’s likely that there is more insight into Bush’s character in the interview with Matt Lauer than there is in the book he’s selling. In the interview, he confesses that none of the bad outcomes his egregious decision-making created for other people rank among his “worst moments” as president. Only someone as devoid of introspection as George Bush would fail to grasp that he wouldn’t have nurtured resentment about Kanye West’s comment for five years if it were not true.