9/9/2007 – Printed in the PERSPECTIVE section of The St Petersburg Times Newspaper
Robert Draper’s new book, Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W. Bush, is interesting fodder for those with the stomach to read yet another treatment of Bush’s failed leadership.
While many of my colleagues are correctly mining Bush’s untruths and dissembling, the rarely discussed behind-the-scenes machinations and rivalries that defined day-to-day operations in the White House and the 43rd president’s confessions that he obsesses over his legacy, I am struck by Bush’s “vision thing,” like the one his father lacked, for the world.
During their final interview, Draper asked Bush – a man known for not looking too far into the future and hypothesizing – to imagine “himself retired.”
To Draper’s surprise, Bush opened a vein: “I’m gonna build a fantastic Freedom Institute. And today, the news got out that we’re negotiating with SMU (Southern Methodist University). I would like to build a Hoover Institute, but with a different feel to it. I want a place where young leaders – you know, the prime minister of Mongolia, it’d be cool to pay him a stipend, have him live in Dallas and write and lecture.”
Continuing, he said the facility would be “an institute that really, you know, just kind of imparts knowledge and deals with big issues.”
In short, America’s most-incompetent-president-ever wants to subject the world, especially Arab nations in the Middle East, to his fantasy of spreading democracy.
Thus far, Bush’s effort to spread democracy has flopped. The world should be afraid, very afraid, of this man’s half-baked ideas.
Let’s start with the biggest flop at spreading democracy: Iraq. Remember, Iraq was run by a secular, al-Qaida-hating dictator when we invaded in 2003. The futile hunt for weapons of mass destruction and the “global war on terror” aside, Bush believed that he could give Iraqis democracy hypodermic injections and spread the spirit of American-styled freedom throughout Islam.
That didn’t happen: Al-Qaida and al-Qaida wanna-bes have made the sectarian-torn nation their staging area. Many intellectuals, professionals and ordinary citizens are fleeing by the tens of thousands.
Then there’s Iran, which isn’t adopting the U.S. Bill of Rights any time soon. Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia are going about their autocratic business as usual. The authoritarian Hosni Mubarak still calls the shots in Egypt. In Afghanistan, Bush’s fantasy of democracy is mocked by Taliban fighters who refuse to be chased out of their birthplace.
In Lebanon, Hezbollah, or the Party of God, and other militants are tamping down the democratic zeal Bush extolled during his second inaugural address. In August, Amin Gemayel, former president of Lebanon, lost his election bid for a coveted seat in Parliament to a relative unknown. The dynamics of the election were simple: Gemayel was heavily backed by the Bush administration, and the winner was Hezbollah’s choice, a man who opposed U.S. policies in the region.
Regarding Gemayel’s defeat, a Muslim analyst cited the association with Bush’s policies: “It’s the kiss of death. The minute you are counted on or backed by the Americans, kiss it goodbye. You will never win.”
Alain Aoun, a political adviser to the Opposition Free Patriotic Movement in Lebanon, told the International Herald Tribune: “We call on the U.S. to learn from this experience; they should not take part in any internal conflict or take sides. They should support all Lebanese.”
A shining example of Bush’s taking part in internal conflict and taking sides occurred during, and after, the January 2006 Palestinian legislative elections. Against the advice of his key regional allies, Bush insisted on keeping to the schedule in holding the elections between Hamas and Fatah. Bush backed Fatah with cash and arms.
To the administration’s dismay, Hamas routed Fatah at the polls (and later militarily). To exact revenge, Bush and the European Union cut off funding to Gaza. Israel illegally withheld – and continues to withhold – tax revenues that belong to the duly elected Palestinian government. Democratic fairness in Palestine will have to wait for another day.
The last thing the nation and the world needs is Bush’s “Freedom Institute,” his “Hoover Institute.” The real Hoover Institution, founded in 1919 by future President Herbert Hoover at Stanford University, his alma mater, is one of the most influential think tanks in shaping libertarian, conservative and neoconservative thought.
Most recently, it helped Bush concoct his failed nation-building scheme that landed us in the Iraq quagmire. It has given us Thomas Gale Moore, author of the book Climate of Fear: Why We Shouldn’t Worry About Global Warming. It fed Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld many of their bankrupt visions. Its major issues include education reform that centers on school vouchers and charter schools, privatization of social services and deregulation of industry. It played a key role in developing Bush’s economic policy.
In writing Dead Certain, Draper has warned us all: If Bush, an incurious person who ambled into history, builds his “institute” and deals with “the big issues” he has in mind, the United States and the rest of the world are in for many more years of Bush-inspired disasters.