Don't cry for me, George Bush, Senior. Analysis
A BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
by Christine Bowman
Actually, George Bush Senior did cry for us all. In fact, he broke down and bawled, as this video clip reminds us. But what was that all about?
When it happened last December, most reports ascribed Bush's tears to the father's affection and respect for his son Jeb. The ex-President was complimenting Jeb on being resilient after an electoral defeat. Okay. Plausible. Maybe. As all parents know, pride in our kids is a powerful force.
But in a new BuzzFlash Interview with investigative reporter Craig Unger, a better interpretation is offered. Unger cites Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan, who was a speech writer for Reagan and Bush Senior. Unger concurs with Noonan's opinion that Bush Senior's emotional outpouring was all about George Bush, Junior.
Here's the context.
Late 2006 was not Dubya's finest hour. Iraq was especially bloody and chaotic. The mission was not accomplished. The Bush/Cheney administration was facing defections and investigations. The Iraq Study Group, headed by Bush 41's close friend James Baker, had prepared its report urging a change in strategy and troop withdrawal. The report would be released online the very next day.
Isn't it logical that buddy Jim had laid the cards on the table for his old friend, the day before the report was to hit Capitol Hill and the nation's front pages?
If your best friend were publishing a critique of your child -- a critique that laid the blame for an international debacle at his or her feet -- how would you feel? Consider, too, how it must feel when your kid has ignored your counsel (for that of a higher father, with whom he claims to speak), and charted an opposite course, only to fall flat on his face with the whole world watching? You might feel damned helpless. Add to that any love of country or humanitarian impulses one might have, and bring on the hankies.
They wrote an opera about Richard Nixon. This tale, too, has the makings of tragedy. Personal failure, hubris, Oedipal themes, civilizations clashing, lies and intrigue. Timeless stuff. Only, this sad epic is our national tragedy. And George Herbert Walker Bush isn't the only one shedding tears.
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Following: Excerpts from Craig Unger and Peggy Noonan.
Craig Unger on the Fall of the House of Bush: How Radical Extremists Came Together and Undermined America -- A BuzzFlash Interview (12/11/07)
BuzzFlash: In relation to the father, we had the Baker report, which seemed to offer some promise for a time. This was going to allow George W. Bush some wiggle room to look at some alternative ways to get out of Iraq with some degree of honor and some degree of restoring stability to the Middle East. When it was completed -- and, clearly, Baker being a close friend of his father's, and representing the father's kind of kitchen cabinet -- George W. Bush, and one can assume, Cheney, just dismissed it out of hand, basically. They just threw it in the garbage can. That must have been stinging to George Herbert Walker Bush.
Craig Unger: Absolutely. I can't corroborate it entirely, but George W. Bush supposedly called the report a hanging turd. And in truth, it eviscerated his policies.
Why is Junior so fascinated with feces? Everything and everyone, to him, seems to have something to do with it.
In many ways, I think it was James Baker's finest hour -- that it was a realistic, cost-minded assessment of what had really happened and the political mess that had been created in Iraq. So I'm not surprised that he rejected it.
But it's precisely here that you see the conflict. The report was presented to Bush on December 6 of 2006. The day before that, on December 5, the other George Bush was in Tallahassee, Florida delivering a speech before the state legislature, where his son, Jeb, was governor.
Keep in mind that Bush Senior had to know what was in the report. One of his best lifelong friends, James Baker, was the co-chair of the Iraq Study Group. Bush senior was to deliver a rather innocuous speech about leadership, and he talked about Jeb Bush's defeat in 1994. And suddenly, he broke down in tears.
A lot of people who were friendly with him, such as Peggy Noonan, who'd been a speech writer for Bush Senior, said: Look, in this breakdown -- and it's quite striking -- you can find it on YouTube -- he's not just breaking into tears -- he is really, really breaking down. Peggy Noonan was saying he really wasn't crying for his son Jeb. He was crying for the other son, whose presidency was in such dire straits.
Peggy Noonan, Opinion Journal, Friday, December 8, 2006
Surely Mr. Bush knew--surely he was first on James Baker's call list--that the report would not, could not, offer a way out of a national calamity, but only suggestions, hopes, on ways through it. To know his son George had (with the best of intentions!) been wrong in the great decision of his presidency--stop at Afghanistan or move on to Iraq?--and was now suffering a defeat made clear by the report; to love that son, and love your country, to hold these thoughts, to have them collide and come together--this would bring not only tears, but more than tears.
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