Sunday, November 12, 2006

Andrew Sullivan on Dubya

Andrew Sullivan is a journalist I often agree with. He's a Brit who's made it big in the US but still writes a Sunday Times column each week. This week he's written a long article for the Sunday Times News Review on the relationship between George W Bush and his father. You can read it HERE. A good friend of mine from Washington DC, Daniel Forrester (a Republican) thinks Sullivan is on the money. He just emailed me this...

It is about as clear an interpretation to the reality that is the Bush family that I have seen. It is biting, sets context, connects many dots, offers balance and in the end left me thinking thank God my father was a decent and good man who I need only emulate as a father, friend and husband. In other words, thank God my dad was never President.

W's relationship with his father is as complex as any in US history-- at the root of their relationship we see dysfunction that helps bring the world the "wisdom" of Rumsfeld. The only thing that Andrew misses is Cheney who is the yang to the yin of Rumsfeld. Those two collectively promoted empty reasoning and governing madness that failed to offer the intellectually non curious president many options as to how he should govern. If I wrote a book on the Bush Presidency my title would be "The Echo Chamber" with a picture of Rumsfeld and Cheney briefing the President.

I was blown away by what Andrew wrote. Couple this article with Maureen Dowd this week and you get a picture that shows the arrogance, pain, boldness and missed opportunity that is this Presidency.

I beg to differ. This is my response...

Daniel, you and I rarely disagree on political issues, but on this one we must. Sullivan’s article is a few thousand words of mindless psycho-babble. I am by no means Dubya’s greatest fan, as you know, but Sullivan’s analysis really doesn’t stand up to examination. He makes great play of all the leading people from Bush 1 who W appointed as if it were in some way a plea for approval from Daddy. He then undermines his own argument by making clear that Daddy hates Rumsfeld. So I suppose sacking Rumsfeld was also a plea for approval? Bizarre analysis.

The only piece I found interesting was the supposed conversation between Barbara Bush and the Senator. If it is true that GHWB was so concerned about Iraq, it ought to have been through a feeling of guilt that had he done his job properly, the current conflict would never have happened.

IMHO Dubya showed great wisdom by appointing a strong Cabinet in 2001, full of people who made up for his own shortcomings, especially in foreign affairs. His greatest strength has been that the world has regarded him as stupid. Sure, one or two of his decisions may have been daft, but what President hasn’t made daft decisions.?

His administrations’ greatest failure was to conduct a military conflict without planning for what came after. And that can be laid at Rumsfeld’s door, but not his alone. But this single failure of policy has led to a situation from which it is difficult to forecast how we can extricate ourselves. That has absolutely nothing to do with the relationship between Dubya and his Daddy. And Sullivan should know that.


Anonymous said...

Iain you wrote:

He then undermines his own argument by making clear that Daddy hates Rumsfeld. So I suppose sacking Rumsfeld was also a plea for approval? Bizarre analysis

No he doesn't! He just says it's ironic. It is an admitance of defeat on Bush Jr's part, clearly there is a complex relationship at play in the Bush household. He both wants to be his daddy and wants to be different from his daddy!

Anonymous said...

IMHO Dubya showed great wisdom by appointing a strong Cabinet in 2001

You're missing the point. His cabinet chose him. It just doesn't look that way until you know how American politics really works. W is unintelligent. It's a fact. He got to his postion through contacts and manipulation. His father who was a disaster running for democratic power was also aided into power and effectively ran the reagan presidency. The cold war was a war of words with skirmishes in third party states. Bush who has exactly the same intellectual pedigree as Reagan did the same thing (speaking from the heart and not the brain) while manipulated by those who know exactly what they are doing.

Anonymous said...

Andrew Sullivan has turned into a silly old self-righteous blether.

I,too, admire Mr Bush for his intellectual courage in surrounding himself with highly intelligent people,Iain. This is bold and argues great self-confidence.

The story is, before he won his first term, he and George Schultz went to Stamford University for some engagement or other. Of course, the proctor of Stamford at that time was Condeleezza Rice, who they had never met and was not a national name.

After whatever purpose of the visit was, they spent quite some time talking with Ms Rice. when they left, on the way back, Mr Bush said to Schultz, "If we get in, I want her on our team." He's astute and decisive.

I think he was brave to go into Iraq, and I agree with Iain that the bad planning came after the victory. There should have been a schedule for leaving, i.e., victory, honest elections, new president of Iraq, leave.

GW Bush is a self-confident and courageous man. I do not think for one instant that he had any more issues with his father than most of us have with one parent or another at one time or another. I certainly don't think his relationship with his father is what drives him or weakens him.

George W is a man who plays his cards close to his chest and keeps his mouth shut. That silly nellies like Andrew Sullivan take it upon themselves to make something of this is irrelevant.

George W was such a brilliant Governor of Texas that he was elected for two successive terms - the first ever in the history of the state of Texas.

Andrew Sullivan's turned too viperish. He used to be a very cool logical writer. Now I don't even bother to read him.

Anonymous said...

Well Andrew Sullivan definitely contradicts himself but that's only because he isn't enlightened and it's fine article otherwise but here goes. He writes:

Poppy himself had been CIA director — manoeuvred into the shell-shocked institution after Vietnam by a wily young Donald Rumsfeld in the Ford administration.

..he then goes on to write...

The irony last week was even worse for the 43rd president. By firing his defence secretary, Bush was also firing his dad’s old enemy.

Sheesh when are you guys gonna stop being so binary about this group of people. They are all in bed together. They get to choose who has power and like any group they have shifting dynamics.

The Democrat party may have won the mid term elections but surely nobody can fail to notice that real power has remained in a circle of power that stretches from Nixon, Ford, Rumsfeld, Bush senior (CIA head), Bush Junior, Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, James Baker and now the new Secretary for Defense, Robert Gates who himself was a CIA director. These guys pass power on to each other or nominate people to head up power as if it's a quasi monarchical line they control because, they actually do.

It doesn't matter if the Democrats win the next election. Clinton's second term was an aberration that the GOP fought dirty, low politics to the tooth and nail to secure and when they failed they crucified him and took politics to the depths where it is now. That Bush Jr is in difficult straits now makes no difference. He has two more years, and the oil is what really matters.

Charles - Bangkok

Anonymous said...

Ian you wrote
He then undermines his own argument by making clear that Daddy hates Rumsfeld. So I suppose sacking Rumsfeld was also a plea for approval? Bizarre analysis

You misunderstand. The writer says he hired Rumsfeld because his father disliked him, and hung onto him for the same reason. As a wannabe alpha male he wanted to prove himself to be his own man. Perhaps this was how he thought he woul get approval. Not such a wacko analysis, but opredicated on a number of assertions for which we have little proof.

James Higham said...

The certificates issued to servicemen after the first Gulf conflict stated, below the name of the soldier, that he had been fighting for George Bush's New World Order. That says a certain amount about the man. A sad family.

Anonymous said...

"He then undermines his own argument by making clear that Daddy hates Rumsfeld. So I suppose sacking Rumsfeld was also a plea for approval? Bizarre analysis."

You miss the point. Rumsfeld was sacked a) because of the election outcome, and b) to avoid a Pentagon clash with the probable Iraq Strategy Group recommendations. Sullivan's brief account was an accurate part of the story. But there's much more to come, including Cheney's full role, and the causes of "W's" relative inflexability.

dearieme said...

His administrations’ greatest failure was to conduct a military conflict without any clear purpose related to a vital American interest.

CityUnslicker said...

Bush has also manged to create a much bigger government that the US had before. Which is some achievement. This point hugely undermines his credentials as a conservative.

I believe Bush has failed ot provide the correct leadership or planning in Iraq and against Al-Qaeda.

However, his domestic record will not stand up to the mark either when he is gone.

Oh how like Blair he is!

Anonymous said...

dearieme - I believe you're wrong. America's, (and the 'free world's) interest now means a muslim-terrorist-free world. Bush was clear about this from the start: we must get rid of these terrorist-supporting theocracies/dictatorships in the ME.

Iraq was a secular state and open to democracy, which is why it was chosen. That democracy is now a fact of life. Syrians can see that it is working. So can Saudi Arabians (the new Great Satan, as far as I'm concerned), who have recently granted women permission to drive! (- be still my foolish heart! - But they're dragging their ass out of Dark Ages tyranny because they have no choice. People voted, with their purple fingers in Iraq and chose their own government. And that is now known all over the theocratic ME.

That is what is in America's - and I would add the Free World's, except the EUSSR is not free - interests.

That was always the idea. Bush and his team were always diamond sharp on that. What was not so good is the exit strategy. When the Iraqis elected their president and agreed on the rules of their new parliament, that should have been the cue for our withdrawal.

I believe we should have been out by now. But I believe what we went in to do has been accomplished. There is a burgeoning democracy in the ME and it is being watched.

Anonymous said...

I got an email from a friend yesterday in which he explained that global warming wasn't melting the ice, but just liberating the water.

I replied after reading your post that I usually agree with him on far from our bed issues, but that I had to disagree on this one.
After that I went to the up to cure the whisky from alcoholism, by separating the water from it. It was a convincing argument when I listened to it in the privacy of ...


Anonymous said...

"Stamford"? Surely, "Stanford"