Barack Obama likes to keep things simple.
Stylistically, he's no drama Obama. Operationally, the rule for the day, every day, is “Don't do stupid stuff.”
Our most recent Republican President George W. Bush, who has taken an active role in support of his brother, was sorely in need of a “Don't Do Stupid Stuff” Rule (“The Rule”) in his own administration. Likewise, the assorted collection of food fighters and mud wrestlers who make up the Republican field for 2016 should investigate strategic use of The Rule.
The Administration of George W. Bush
1. In October of 2000, while Bill Clinton was President, the USS Cole was attacked by suicide-bombing terrorists in the waters near Aden, Yemen. The fact that the ship was there, unprotected, operating under inadequate rules of engagement, was Bill Clinton's fault, no doubt about it. A clear violation of The Rule.
On January 20, 2001, George W. Bush was inaugurated President. On February 4, 2001, his administration was briefed by the CIA to the effect that the Cole was a Bin Laden Al Qaeda operation. According to then National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Bush made the decision not to retaliate, saying, “He didn't want to swat flies.”
President Bush's inaction after being briefed on the fact that the Cole was a Bin Laden Al Qaeda operation was a colossal failure of leadership … fecklessness at its worst … and a clear violation of The Rule. Bush stupidly did nothing when he should have retaliated.
2. On August 6, 2001, President George W. Bush was on vacation on his ranch in Crawford, Texas. On that day he was visited at his ranch by a CIA briefer, who handed him a document titled, “Al Qaeda Determined to Attack in the United States”.
The Cole incident could not help but have put Bush on notice regarding Al Qaeda's reach and capabilities. Now, he was handed a document outlining a level of urgency that would cause even the most feckless of leaders to arouse himself from historic torpor.
Not so for President George W. Bush. Bush continued his vacation in Crawford for 24 more days … fecklessness at its worst … a clear violation of The Rule. Bush stupidly did nothing when he should have returned to Washington.
Anybody who has been in government for six weeks could not help but know that the proper action was to go back to Washington, convene and preside over daily meetings of the heads of all intelligence agencies, demand they share information, and give him new information every day on the Bin Laden threat. If he had done that, history could have been altered.
3. After 9/11, Vice President Cheney made repeated trips to the CIA that had the effect of skewing the intelligence towards a finding of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. As soon as Bush heard the in-house neocons pushing for an Iraq war, Bush should have gone personally to the CIA and told the leadership and the rank and file that they were under no pressure to produce any specific result.
Their only duty was to give the President the facts with regard to the 9/11 attack as best as they could discern them. The failure of President Bush to take command of the intelligence-gathering function was a clear abdication of his leadership responsibilities.
The 2016 Republican Candidates
The Republican Party treats September 11, 2001 as if a gigantic asteroid hit the Twin Towers in New York City and the Pentagon just outside of Washington. Nobody could have possibly foreseen it (certainly not the sitting President George W. Bush) therefore nobody was at fault … except possibly Bill Clinton, who had been out of office for almost nine months, or Barack Obama, who was teaching law in Chicago.
September 11, 2001 makes Republicans act crazy. FOX News host Eric Bolling once uncorked this beauty, “I don't remember any terrorist attacks on America when George W. Bush was President.” Tell us what else is on your mind, Eric. It won't take very long.
South Carolina, where the Bush family remains popular with white voters and where there is a substantial Evangelical Christian population and where the Republican primary will be held on February 20, is becoming combustible. Anybody who can get near a microphone or a camera immediately goes into wholesale violation of the “Don't Do (or Say) Stupid Stuff” Rule.
Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina got us started when he introduced President George W. Bush at a rally for Jeb saying, “Thank you for keeping us safe, Mr. President.” At the debate in South Carolina, Jeb kept talking about how his brother “kept us safe”. And Marco Rubio, who at one time or another has claimed membership in a number of different Christian denominations, blurted out that he “thanked God every day that George Bush was President on 9/11”.
Personally, I don't know how to thank Marco for sharing that with us.
You have to know you're in a funny place when Donald Trump is the sanest guy in the room. To his credit, Trump has not gone along with the sappy “Bush kept us safe” crapola. He has no problem reminding Jeb that his brother was President on 9/11. When Jeb hears this, he complains that Trump is attacking his family.
I guess if we don't want Jeb to have hurt feelings, we can't talk about 9/11 again. After all, what's good for the Bush family is what's really important.
I will post again on Wednesday March 2, 2016 or before if the news flow dictates.
Comments are welcome at tomc[at]wednesdayswars[dot]com. Comments will be addressed in subsequent posts.