Thursday, December 7, 2006

Two Images, Three Bushes

I have been thinking of two images in the news this week: (1) George H.W. Bush (41)'s emotional breakdown in Florida on Monday; and (2) the look on George W. Bush (43)'s face when discussing the Iraq Study Group (ISG)'s report on Wednesday (tip of the cap to old friend Josh Marshall).

A few thoughts the images bring to mind:

1. Although most of the recommendations had been leaked (via trial balloons) over the past few months, the report was more negative than expected. As the Times writes today (12/07), "the independent panel rocked Washington with its bleak assessment of conditions in Iraq."

2. The report, although 'delivered' to the President yesterday (12/06), was surely completed earlier (to allow for printing, binding, etc.)

3. The co-author of the report, James Baker, is a close political ally of the President's father, 41. Baker ran 41's presidential campaigns in 1980 and 1992, and led the effort in Florida on behalf of W in 2000. It seems reasonable to assume that 41 had read much of the report by Monday.

4. Both 41 and Baker must have known in advance the political pain that the ISG's conclusions would bring to 43. In the same way, 41 must have been pained by the report's bottom line conclusion: the US policy is Iraq is failing. (Obviously this comment is not intended to minimize the real pain endured by those who are serving, have been injured, or who have lost a loved one, in Iraq.)

5. 41 broke down in tears Monday when speaking in Florida about Jeb Bush's close loss (51-49%) in 1994 to Lawton Chiles.

6. Prior to 1994, Jeb Bush was the 'next great hope' for the Bush family, and was expected to be elected Governor in 1994.

7. On Election Night in 1994, both 41 and Barbara Bush were in Florida with Jeb.

8. Indeed, in a congratulatory telephone call between 41 and W that evening, W was quoted as saying: "'Why do you feel bad about Jeb? Why don’t you feel good about me?'"

9. It is reasonable to believe that if Jeb had won in 1994, and had been re-elected in 1998, he, rather than W, might have been the Bush running for President in 2000.

10. Bob Woodward reported earlier this fall that 41 does not speak to 43 about foreign affairs.

"Are we right to be worried about this Iraq thing?" Mrs Bush asked [Former Senator David Boren]
"Yes, very worried," he said.
"Do you think it's a mistake?"
"Yes, ma'am. I think it's a huge mistake if we go in … "
"Well, his father is certainly worried and is losing sleep over it. He's up at night worried."
"Why doesn't he talk to him?"
"He doesn't think he should unless he's asked."

Bob Woodward, State of Denial

11. Just as Brent Scrowcroft (who co-authored a book with 41) warned against the invasion in 2002, another 41 confidante is using a public forum to mark, in effect, the 'end' of the Iraq adventure.

12. And finally, if you allow that Baker is a political brother-in-arms to 41, the ISG report is, so-to-speak, a public intervention, in front of 300 million Americans. No wonder 41 was crying. Why couldn't have Jeb have beaten Walkin' Lawton?

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