George W. Bush

This is the entire GOP plan: Credibility destroyed after Bush debacle, their only strategy is to scare us

This is the entire GOP plan: Credibility destroyed after Bush debacle, their only strategy is to scare us

(Credit: Zdorov Kirill Vladimirovich via Shutterstock)


Under the presidency of George W. Bush, the so-called “Daddy Party” failed spectacularly on all major adult-male-gender-stereotyped fronts.

On the economic front, its record was terrible, even before it brought us the worst economic catastrophe since the Great Depression; on the military/national security front, its failure to prevent 9/11—the worst foreign attack on American soil since the War of 1812—was only compounded by its fighting-fire-with-gasoline response, turning both Iraq and Afghanistan into incubators for new generations of jihadists. On the science front, it presided over a widening war on science. In short, the entire framework of the “Daddy Party” construct fell into disrepute by the time Bush left office in 2008.

But now—thanks to the terrorist attacks in Paris—there’s a full-on rush to try to resurrect it. Only of course it’s an incoherent mess, with more focus on spreading fear than countering it. Donald Trump has benefited most on the GOP side, with his quick-draw tough talk, but it was similarly mindless, fact-free tough talk that made such a mess of things post-9/11 in the first place, and this time there’s not even a hint of an actual plan—it’s all just heated bluster, and denouncing Democrats for not frothing at the mouth just like them.

The panic over Syrian refugees is particularly revealing in this regard. Not one American has died at the hands of a refugee either during or since 9/11, although there have been 745,000 of them. Yet, irrational fear of these refugees has defined the only “coherent” policy response the GOP has come up with—both among myth-driven governors and in the shutdown-happy Congress. But when it comes to actually confronting ISIS, they’ve got nothing unified except a PC rampage against Democrats not using the phrase “radical Islam;” aside from that it’s a smorgasbord of proposals ranging from basically endorsing Hillary Clinton’s position (John Kasich) to cutting off their money (Paul and Fiorina) to grandstanding in Congress (Cruz), to reinvading Iraq, with a side of Syria (Bush, Graham and Santorum), to total war (“destroy them”—Carson) or multi-front bellicosity (Trump).

Overall, it skews heavily toward an amped-up front-line war, which is exactly what the terrorists want. It’s what they wanted from the 9/11 attacks, and it’s just what we gave them, and we only got a vastly stronger terrorist enemy as a result. So the “Daddy Party” script is already a proven failure. It’s done. It has no foundation in the adult world of facts, only in infantile, fear-filled imaginations, which is why there’s been so much GOP focus on circulating discredited scare stories.

In fact, the only time that such an all-out-war strategy genuinely has worked in modern American history was World War II—in part because our enemies were ruled by the same kind of flawed hypermasculine ideology, and in part because we made a just peace afterwards with the surviving populations, so that the enmities that led to war in the first place were not reborn.

It’s the remarkable post-war peacemaking process we need to pay far more attention to—and a truly adult attitude, male and/or female, would clearly recognize that. But what stands in our way most dramatically now, like an 800-pound gorilla, is the GOP’s wild-eyed phantasy of omnipotent male power. And if we want to understand that, we need to dig deep into early childhood psychology, exemplified by the work of Melanie Klein, who used that spelling—’phantasy‘ with a ‘ph’ to distinguish unconscious cognition from conscious daydreams. That phantasy world is profoundly dichotomous—me/not-me, omnipotence/powerlessness, bliss/despair, or even terror—and ruled by its own internal logic, confused and contradictory as it may appear to us, that has nothing to do with the outside world, and everything to do with managing imaginary hopes and fears.

As Kleinian therapist Chris Minnick writes, “It is often said that if Freud discovered the ‘child’ in the adult human personality, then Klein discovered the ‘baby’ in Freud’s child.” The tendency for fearful conservatives to posture as strong and attack liberals as weak is sometimes seen as an example of projection, a Freudian defense mechanism where an unwanted feeling or quality is defended against by projecting it onto another. But Klein—discovering the “baby” in Freud’s child—uncovered something more primitive, what she called “projective identification,” which is not directed onto another, but into them, opening the doorway to a much deeper, richer, more complex world of psychodynamic relationships. Minnick’s website contains a wealth of information about Klein’s approach, but before delving into it, it’s helpful to review some other findings first.

I’ve written before about advances in understanding liberal/conservative differences in terms of conservatives’ higher levels of threat sensitivity or “negativity bias” at the physiological level, summarized in the paper “Differences in negativity bias underlie variations in political ideology,” by lead author John R. Hibbing of the University of Nebraska. According to this line of research, liberal/conservative differences represent a normal range of human cognition, which has proven itself through evolution.

I quoted part of the paper which advanced the notion that population mixtures of different sensitivity levels had a group adaptive purpose, similar to how “groups of spiders benefit from having a mix of social and asocial members and virtually all species benefit from having individuals with different immune systems.” Consequently, “If this were true, the polarization that afflicts many modern democracies may be a vestige of the mixes of the behaviorally relevant, biological predispositions that worked well in small-scale societies.”

But that doesn’t mean that ideological polarization today is similarly benign, much less helpful. Threat level responses that may be in a normal range when surrounded by a diverse mix of people can quickly become pathologically abnormal if a group is surrounded by others who are equally sensitive to threat, and who feed off of each other’s fears, creating a dynamic based on shared phantasy, rather than any actual real-world threat. Something akin to this is clearly at play in societies where racial or ethnic hysteria breaks out into sustained episodes of mass violence, ethnic cleansing, or genocide, and while political leaders in such situations doubtless posture as strong protectors, their actual base of support is wildly out-of-control fear, fear of a sort that is normally only found in helpless infants who have no ability at all to provide for their own needs.

In America today, this is where “Daddy Party” politics now stands. Which is why Kleinian insights need to be drawn into our discussions in order to fully grasp what’s going on. Gone are the days of actual policies, however deeply flawed they might have been, and we only further confuse ourselves by insisting on trying to understand things in policy terms, when something much darker and more primitive is actually going on.

Minnick’s website is called “Minnick’s Klein Academy: Melanie Klein’s Models for Understanding the BabyCore of Personality,” and a subsection, “The ‘Baby Core’ of the Personality,” takes us right to the heart of what all the “Daddy Party” posturing desperately tries to avoid: “Although most adults behave much of the time in a ‘mature and rational manner,’ ALMOST NOTHING WE ADULTS THINK, FEEL, OR DO IN THE COURSE OF OUR DAILY LIFE IS LEFT UNTOUCHED BY ‘BABY’ STATES OF MIND.” Minnick isn’t normally given to the use of all caps. He really wants to drive that point home. So what are “baby” states of mind? For one thing, they’re something we’d rather not think about:

Being helpless, understanding almost nothing, being utterly dependent on of others for one’s very survival (which depends on these “others’” willingness and capacity to “sacrifice” on behalf of an infant) hardly represents a state of affairs that anyone would stand in line for a chance to experience again.

As a result of this painful state, Minnick notes, there is “a need in early infancy to bring order to the chaos of life outside the womb. This order is achieved by trying to hold ‘good’ experience (i.e. pleasurable) separate and apart from ‘bad’ experience (i.e. painful).” This is where the most basic psychological processes emerge: “This separation leads to a division or partitioning of ‘self’ and ‘objects’ (in psychoanalytic parlance, ‘objects’ refers to people, not things), in which self and object are quite literally divided into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ aspects or ‘parts’.”

This process, commonly referred to as “splitting,” is one of two terms often associated with Klein—along with projective identification. Minnick goes on to say:

This division into ‘parts’ that are generally held separately in the mind, will usually include the evacuation of the ‘bad’ versions of self and object, into the outside world, on a semi-permanent basis, via projective processes, and this whole process will continue to be active throughout the lifespan.

“Projective processes” is Minnick’s preferred alternative for projective identification, which he calls “simultaneously the single most important concept in all of psychoanalysis and simultaneously the most confusing and misunderstood.” In fact, “projective processes” include introjection (imagining another—or aspects of another—inside oneself) as well as projection—or even both, simultaneously.

As Minnick points out, the first example Klein herself ever gave of projective identification was precisely along these lines, in a case of “envious reversal.” Elsewhere he explains:

In this envy driven “role reversal” (or ‘envious reversal’ for shorthand), two processes take place instantaneously and simultaneously. The first is that the projector rids himself of the unwanted baby state, by projecting it into the ‘container’ [the recipient of the projection]. Simultaneously, the projector steals the desirable state of affairs (i.e. some aspect of the “container’s” identity) from the container and takes it in for himself.

Situations like this, in which “the projector’s unconscious motive has a large component of a desire to exchange positions in life with the container,” are “also so common in infancy with mom,” Minnick notes—an indication of their primal power.

Now let’s consider the situation of the “Daddy Party” post-Bush. Everything they once pretended to be had gone bust. The first time since Herbert Hoover that they controlled the White House, Congress and the Supreme Court had ended in utter disaster—disaster so bad that they no longer even knew what conservatism was. On the theory that “conservatism cannot fail, it can only be failed,” many conservatives simply stopped counting Bush as one of their own. And yet, although they adopted that conscious dodge, a deeper part of them, subconsciously, could not escape the sting. Which is part of why there was so much animosity toward Obama, and such eagerness to lay blame on him for things that were actually Bush’s responsibility, or the fault of conservatism more broadly, such as rising debt/GDP ratios, a trend dating back to Ronald Reagan.

The fact that Obama tried to reach out and work with conservatives only made matters worse for them at this deeper level of subconscious animosity, intensifying the driving need for an envious reversal. Projecting blame for conservatism’s failures into Obama as the liberal “other” was a move made more difficult by every act he took to try to court cooperation—by including tax cuts as more than one-third of the stimulus, for example.

Such actions by Obama, clashing with their original projections, required more follow-on phantasies to rearticulate the envious reversal. The simplest involved flat-out negating what Obama had done, the more imaginative reinterpreted his actions as deceptive—”setting up Republicans” or conservatives, one way or another. Of course, there was already a phantasy template at hand to help generate these as needed—the birther phantasy, which held that Obama himself was entirely a fraud.

Conservatives had always been comfortable with blacks as other, as containers for their most unwanted projections. But before blacks were demonized, the pattern was initiated with Native Americans. Another Kleinian theorist, Robert Young, has written about racism and projective identification (here and here, for example), noting that “the price of admission into a culture is the acquiring of its projective identifications.” Young cites the example of a 1503 decree by Queen Isabella citing Native Americans’ purported “hard habits of idolatry and cannibalism” as justification for authorizing slavery:

The European charge of cannibalism was unfounded. Harmless and helpful natives were bad-mouthed as wild and bestial, thus legitimating the activities of a master race. The savagery of the conquistadors was projected onto their victims, who could then be seen as subhuman and could be treated in subhuman ways — which they extravagantly were.

A similar dynamic applied to enslaved blacks, regardless of the colonizing power involved. The savagery of conquest was projected into the conquered. However, when situations allowed, there was often a place for a few “respectable” tokens who served a variety of different functions for white slaveholders, and later white leaders who followed them—to endorse their views, make them seem more reasonable, provide pacifying “leadership” for the masses, etc.

Obama was threatening for a number of reasons, not least that he adopted a form of respectability politics, while remaining relatively loyal to the black base, and running as a Democrat, whose policies were anathema to movement conservatives. Hence, at the overt level, he disarmed the demonizing projective processes, particularly in courting conservatives outright—praising Ronald Reagan, inviting Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration, reaching out to conservative opinion writers,dining with them within weeks of taking office, etc.—but he would not validate the projection of otherness onto other blacks as a whole, which is a core purpose of the “respectable black” figure. And thus the need to otherize him (and project white evil acts, impulses, phantasies, etc. into him), as blacks had always been otherized, needed to find a new form, a new rationale. Which is precisely what the birtherphantasy did. It said that everything about him was a lie, so nothing he did could make any difference. It invalidated any action he might take, leaving it to be reinterpreted by those who most despised him, without any regard to the facts.

Once established, the core birther phantasy could be applied in any situation. It took the place of a totalizing ideology to unify the conservative base, even as they remained adrift with the wreckage of the “Daddy Party” legacy. But in a sense, this move only made matters worse, deeping the hold of negative partisanship on the GOP. Defeating the monster Obama effectively took over the space where some semblance of a positive policy agenda ought to have been—if only conservatives had a clue what that might be. “Repeal and replace Obamacare”… with what, exactly?Romneycare? Really?

The more obviously hollow the the GOP’s policy side became, while Obama’s wonkish side was increasingly on display, the more compelling the projective dynamic became—all the conservatives’ incoherence, cluelessness and destructive rage were repeatedly projected into their image of him, and the more reasonable he acted, the more adult he tried to be, the more intense their infantile rage became. Nothing made them feel more like helpless infants than seeing Obama act presidential—especially when he reached out to them, inviting a mature response, which they were utterly incapable of, boxed in by their own intricate structure of lies about him, prisoners of their own dark projections.

In 2011, Donald Trump made his first serious play for a presidential run, using birtherism as his calling card. It ended disastrously, when Obama released his long-form birth certificate, and then teased Trump in public at the White House Correspondents dinner, while secretly preparing the raid that killed bin Laden. And yet, some nine months later, more of the GOP base than ever believed in the birtherphantasy. It had absolutely nothing to do with empirical evidence.

Fast-forward to this year, when Trump almost accidentally stumbled onto his new ticket to the top—demonizing immigrants—just one of several topics he vaguely rambled on about, but the one that immediately caught fire, and the one that’s really still dominant in a very real sense, since anti-immigrant policies—this time directed against Syrian refugees—are the only consistent form that GOP anti-ISIS politics has taken since the Paris attacks. This is yet another sign of the “Daddy Party” decay: anti-immigrant phantasies run wild, driving actions by Congress and dozens of governors, but there’s no sign of any coherent anti-terrorist strategy aimed at actually defeating ISIS.

The driving force of anti-immigrant animus is racism, of course. But it’s intensified by the size of the demographics trends involved. After losing the 2012 election, GOP elites saw the need for a work-around, a way to blunt the inevitable political impact, give themselves space and time for repositioning. But the phantasy life of their base simply left no room for that.

Once again, the “Daddy Party” had no actual policies to offer, and it fell back ontophantasy-based fearmongering instead. Also, once again, Obama had played the role of adult, bending over backwards to meet Republicans halfway. Deportations evenreached record highs under him—causing a fair amount of anger from his base. And so, once again, Republicans responded with an envious reversal, painting Obama as eagerly flooding the country with “illegal immigrants,” and utterly denying their own lack of responsible action.

That was the field on which Trump built his phantasy-fueled racist campaign, propped up by his ludicrous claim to be a builder, rather than someone who hiresbuilders, and his equally ludicrous claim that building a 95-story building (there are more than 30) is more difficult than building a 2,000-mile wall (there’s just one).

The situation with fighting ISIS that erupted after the Paris attacks was strikingly similar in several ways. The envious reversal to place blame on Obama moved on two main levels. First, the problem was created by Bush’s invasion of Iraq, but Obama is evil, so he had to be blamed for that. Ergo, erase the fact that Obama was only following Bush’s blueprint when he withdrew forces from Iraq, the thread that’s used to try to shift the blame to him.

Second, last year, after the explosive spread of ISIS, Obama began trying to craft an adult response, balancing the need for military action with the realization that deploying substantial U.S. ground forces was both counterproductive and politically unsustainable. There are problems with Obama’s plan, to be sure. But it is an adult plan, and can be debated as such. In February, after months of delay, Obama asked Congress for authorization of military force to support his plan. Two months later,GOP leaders said forget about it! They didn’t come up with their own counter-plan. They didn’t do anything adult at all. They just—as almost always—did a big fat incoherent nothing.

Here, then, is the substance of the second envious reversal: Obama has a plan, the GOP does not; Obama cares a great deal, and has put a lot of thought and effort into it, the GOP has not. Suddenly, the Paris attacks happen, and it’s envious reversal time: Obama’s the one with no plan, and no interest, no effort fighting ISIS, the GOP—heck, they’re the “Daddy Party,” remember?

Every day it seems there’s a new wave of over-the-top GOP claims, mostly inflating fears and attacking others who won’t do the same. This is not a matter that’s open to debate. It’s not a matter of “opinions may differ.” It’s not even a matter of fact-checking individual fact-claims. It’s not a case-by-case kind of situation. Their entire framework of thinking is grounded in deeply-buried phantasies of helplessness and omniscience; it has no relationship whatever to the real world.

At the Washington Post recently, Daniel Drezner wrote a piece, “Donald Trump is constantly lying.” There’s nothing new about this, of course. He’s been lying constantly all along. But it’s gotten more acute, more noticeable since the Paris attacks. At the conclusion of his piece, Drenzer writes:

Trump has lied so many times about so many things during the past week that it’s difficult to keep track of all of them. But it doesn’t matter whether one focuses on Trump’s attitudes about crime or American Muslims or trade policy. He lies about all of these issues. And he will continue to lie as long as it works for him.

That’s what liars do.

True enough. But it’s not the heart of the matter. Closer to the heart is something Drezner said earlier, that “Trump’s MO on this ever since he’s become a candidate has been a simple five-step plan,” to wit:

  1. Say/tweet/retweet outrageous thing;
  2. Dominate the next news cycle;
  3. Bully the media that focus on the outrageous statement;
  4. Backtrack/claim misinterpretation;
  5. Sustain polling advantage.

In a sense, lying is basic to this—his outrageous statements all flow from lies. But the dynamic itself is much more important for us to focus on. It focus attention on how Trump uses lies—on what he does, rather than what he says. Which, in turn can be described as how he acts out and mobilizes Kleinian phantasies. Make no mistake, he’s a master at it. But he’s not the only one in the game. The entire “Daddy Party” is. Watch what they do, not what they say.

What they do: They couldn’t govern their way out of a paper bag. In fact, they’re really the baby party. All they can do is finger-point and fear-monger. That’s it.

What they say: If they can just pull off one more master envious reversal, convincing everyone it’s the Democrats who are helpless, clueless idiots, then they recapture the White House once again.

We’ve been warned. We’ve seen the “Daddy Party” fail spectacularly. Now, will we really believe it wasn’t them?

H/t: DB



These 5 Facts Show How Decisions By President George W. Bush Led To ISIS



As the world again looks in horror at the carnage left by yet another apparent ISIS attack, it’s worth retracing how ISIS came to power in Iraq and the Middle East, thanks to several decisions made by George W. Bush’s administration.

  1. The decision to invade Iraq, which had been contained by the no-fly zone created by the George H.W. Bush and Clinton administrations and unable to threaten its neighbors or the West, created a power vacuum in the Middle East which had been filled by Saddam Hussein until the invasion in March o 2003.
  2. The Bush administration believed it could install Ahmed Chalabi – part of the public relations campaign to sell the Iraq War to America – as leader of the new government, but he had been outside of the country so long they never accepted him. He was viewed as a “western stooge.”
  3. Almost all of the leaders of ISIS have connections to the former Iraqi government, mostly coming from the military of the Saddam Hussein regime:

Abu Hamza, who became the group’s ruler in a small community in Syria, never discovered the Iraqis’ real identities, which were cloaked by code names or simply not revealed. All of the men, however, were former Iraqi officers who had served under Saddam Hussein, including the masked man, who had once worked for an Iraqi intelligence agency and now belonged to the Islamic State’s own shadowy security service, he said.

  1. Paul Bremer, who was the appointed head of Iraq by the Bush administration, passed the de-Baathification law which sent Iraqi army members into the populace, eventually becoming insurgents and terrorists:

The de-Baathification law promulgated by L.­ Paul Bremer, Iraq’s American ruler in 2003, has long been identified as one of the contributors to the original insurgency. At a stroke, 400,000 members of the defeated Iraqi army were barred from government employment, denied pensions — and also allowed to keep their guns.

The U.S. military failed in the early years to recognize the role the disbanded Baathist officers would eventually come to play in the extremist group, eclipsing the foreign fighters whom American officials preferred to blame, said Col. Joel Rayburn, a senior fellow at the National Defense University who served as an adviser to top generals in Iraq and describes the links between Baathists and the Islamic State in his book, “Iraq After America.”

  1. ISIS leaders’ training as part of Hussein’s regime gave them the knowledge they’ve needed to be deadly:

Even with the influx of thousands of foreign fighters, almost all of the leaders of the Islamic State are former Iraqi officers, including the members of its shadowy military and security committees, and the majority of its emirs and princes, according to Iraqis, Syrians and analysts who study the group.

They have brought to the organization the military expertise and some of the agendas of the former Baathists, as well as the smuggling networks developed to avoid sanctions in the 1990s and which now facilitate the Islamic State’s illicit oil trading.

The Bush administration created a power vacuum in the Middle East, then made it worse with wrongheaded decision making while occupying Iraq. Those dispersed fighters formed the insurgency which killed thousands of Americans until 2009, and then the backbone of ISIS, which now has killed thousands.

Oliver Willis

While Blair offers ersatz apology for Iraq War, Bush offers none at all



In the coming weeks, the U.K. is certain to be rocked by the Chilcot Inquiry, the years-overdue investigation into the planning, marketing, and execution of the Iraq War under former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair.That timing explains the preventive public relations war Blair launched over the past week to soften the coming blows. On the airwaves and in the op-ed pages, the mastermind of New Labour repackaged some old apologies to defend—not atone for—his decision to join U.S. President George W. Bush in ousting Saddam Hussein. Acknowledging that there are “elements of truth” to the well-documented history that the invasion and occupation of Iraq fueled the rise of ISIS, Blair nevertheless countered that, “I find it hard to apologize for removing Saddam.” Speaking to Fareed Zakaria of CNN, Blair made the historical strategic catastrophe for his country and ours sound like an ill-timed fart:

“I can say that I apologize for the fact that the intelligence we received was wrong. I can also apologize by the way for some of the mistakes and planning and certainly our mistake in our understanding of what would happen once you remove the regime.”

If that script sounds familiar, it should. After all, that kind of finger-pointing was behind Jeb Bush’s short-lived talking point that “knowing what we know now” he “would not have engaged” in the preventive war against Iraq. Or as his fellow Floridian and 2016 White House wannabe Marco Rubio put it in May:

“Not only would I not have been in favor of it, President Bush would not have been in favor of it.”

But that statement is simply not true. And we know this because George W. Bush repeatedly told us so.Continue reading about the unrepentant George W. Bush, below.

That’s right. Bush didn’t just declare in 2013 that “I’m confident the decisions were made the right way,” decisions that directly led to the needless Iraq war that killed 4,500 American soldiers, wounded 30,000 more, converted Baghdad into an Iranian satellite and birthed ISIS. To the degree Dubya admitted to any mistakes it all, it was limited to his use of his “bad language” and “gun-slinging rhetoric”about the war.

That Bush was unrepentant, unaware, or both became apparent in April 2004. Thirteen months after the start of “shock and awe” in Iraq, President Bush could not acknowledge that ousting Saddam—or anything else—constituted a mistake. During a White House press conference, President Bush could not think of a single error he had made during his tenure in the White House:

“I’m sure something will pop into my head here…maybe I’m not as quick on my feet as I should be in coming up with one.”

On August 30, 2004, Bush43 confessed that his only failure in Iraq was being too successful:

“Had we had to do it [the invasion of Iraq] over again, we would look at the consequences of catastrophic success – being so successful so fast that an enemy that should have surrendered or been done in escaped and lived to fight another day.”

But by January 2007, just days after he announced the surge in Iraq, Bush admitted to Scott Pelley on 60 Minutes that he had made mistakes, if only semantic ones:

PELLEY: You mention mistakes having been made in your speech. What mistakes are you talking about?BUSH: You know, we’ve been through this before. Abu Ghraib was a mistake. Using bad language like, you know, “bring them on” was a mistake. I think history is gonna look back and see a lot of ways we could have done things better. No question about it.

(Mary Kewatt, whose nephew Jim was killed by a sniper in Baghdad in 2003, doubtless agreed. As she lamented to Minnesota Public Radio that summer, “President Bush made a comment a week ago, and he said, ‘bring it on.’ They brought it on and now my nephew is dead.”)Bush’s most jaw-dropping statement of regret about his tough talk came in June 2008. In London as part of his final swing through Europe before leaving the White House, President Bush told The Times of London that his cowboy rhetoric was perhaps his greatest regret:

President Bush has admitted to The Times that his gun-slinging rhetoric made the world believe that he was a “guy really anxious for war” in Iraq.[…] In an exclusive interview, he expressed regret at the bitter divisions over the war and said that he was troubled about how his country had been misunderstood. “I think that in retrospect I could have used a different tone, a different rhetoric.”

Phrases such as “bring them on” or “dead or alive”, he said, “indicated to people that I was, you know, not a man of peace.”

Of course, many Americans struggled with the notion that George W. Bush was a “man of peace” after he had repeatedly bragged to them that “I’m a war president.” Bush doubtless made matters worse by joking about the bloodbath he inaugurated in Iraq. On March 24, 2004 (the same day his former Counter-Terrorism Czar Richard Clarke told the 9/11 Commission, “Your government failed you, those entrusted with protecting you failed you, and I failed you”), President Bush regaled the audience at the Radio and Television Correspondents’ Association Dinner in Washington. As David Corn recalled:

Bush notes he spends “a lot of time on the phone listening to our European allies.” Then we see a photo of him on the phone with a finger in his ear. But at one point, Bush showed a photo of himself looking for something out a window in the Oval Office, and he said, “Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere.” The audience laughed. I grimaced. But that wasn’t the end of it. After a few more slides, there was a shot of Bush looking under furniture in the Oval Office. “Nope,” he said. “No weapons over there.” More laughter. Then another picture of Bush searching in his office: “Maybe under here.” Laughter again.

Bush’s punchlines about the missing “smoking gun that could come in the form of the mushroom cloud” was no laughing matter to the families of the Americans killed and maimed in Iraq. And over the years, it was no laughing matter to President Bush’s closest aides, either.In his 2010 memoir Courage and Consequence, Karl Rove blamed himself for not lying more about the war. As Baker wrote at the time (“Rove on Iraq: Without W.M.D. Threat, Bush Wouldn’t Have Gone to War”):

“Would the Iraq War have occurred without W.M.D.? I doubt it,” he writes. “Congress was very unlikely to have supported the use-of-force resolution without the W.M.D. threat. The Bush administration itself would probably have sought other ways to constrain Saddam, bring about regime change, and deal with Iraq’s horrendous human rights violations.”He adds: “So, then, did Bush lie us into war? Absolutely not.” But Mr. Rove said the White House had only a “weak response” to the harmful allegation, which became “a poison-tipped dagger aimed at the heart of the Bush presidency.”

After Jeb’s “knowing what we know now” imbroglio, Dubya’s former press secretary Ari Fleischer lamented, “No, it was not handled well by Gov. Bush. I don’t know why he said what he did.” But this is how Fleischer himself recently addressed the “knowing what we know now” question on Iraq:

“I just don’t think he would have gone to war. I think he would have turned up the heat on Saddam, but I don’t think he would have gone to war.”

Then again, that’s not what Ari Fleischer was saying before. As he put it to Chris Matthews in March 2009:

After September 11th having been hit once how could we take a chance that Saddam might strike again? And that’s the threat that has been removed and I think we are all safer with that threat removed.” [Emphasis mine]

As his presidential library was about to open in 2013, Bush declared he was “comfortable” with life and his legacy. And that included the legacy of his war of choice in Iraq. “It’s easy to forget,” he said, “what life was like when the decision was made.”And in Bush’s own 2010 memoir Decision Points, the decision to remove Saddam over his non-existent weapons of mass destruction was an embarrassment, but not a mistake. As Peter Baker documented for the New York Times in May 2015 (“Unlike His Brother, George W. Bush Stands by His Call to Invade Iraq”):

“No one was more shocked or angry than I was when we didn’t find the weapons,” Mr. Bush wrote. “I had a sickening feeling every time I thought about it. I still do.” The false intelligence proved to be “a massive blow to our credibility — my credibility — that would shake the confidence of the American people,” he concluded…”Imagine what the world would look like today with Saddam Hussein still ruling Iraq,” Mr. Bush wrote. “He would still be threatening his neighbors, sponsoring terror and piling bodies into mass graves.”

“Instead,” he added, “as a result of our actions in Iraq, one of America’s most committed and dangerous enemies stopped threatening us forever.”

As it turned out, not so much. Last November, the former president used the press tour for his biography of his father to once again defend the rightness of his March 2003 invasion of Iraq. If “bad language” had been his only regret while in office, by the end of 2014 Bush’s lone misgiving was the rise of ISIS:

“I think it was the right decision. My regret is that a violent group of people has risen up again. This is al Qaeda plus. I put in the book that they need to be defeated. And I hope they are. I hope the strategy works.”

Unfortunately, as Jeb Bush learned from 19-year-old college student Ivy Ziedrich, “Your brother created ISIS.” As I summed up Team Bush’s culpability for the birth and rise of the Islamic State in May:

Ms. Ziedrich’s is a bold claim. After all, for her to be right, ISIS–the dangerous movement combining Saddam loyalists, former Al Qaeda members and disgruntled Sunni fighters–would have to have emerged as a direct result of the war Bush launched in 2003. The disbanding of Saddam’s 400,000 man army would have to be laid at the feet of “The Decider.” Foreign fighters must have flocked to Al Qaeda–a non-factor in Iraq before the U.S. invasion–specifically to target American troops. And while those unlikely allies forged ties in U.S and Iraqi prisons, Sunni tribesmen once paid by American forces would have to have become alienated by a sectarian Shiite strongman in Baghdad beholden to Iran. The inevitable outcome of such U.S. mismanagement of post-Saddam Iraq, as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld privately warned his boss on October 15, 2002, would be that “Iraq could experience ethnic strife among Sunni, Shia, and Kurds” with the result that “it could fracture into two or three pieces, to the detriment of the Middle East and the benefit of Iran.”Unfortunately for Jeb Bush, and to Ivy Ziedrich’s credit, that is precisely what transpired. Or to put it in terms even Republican myth-makers can understand: ISIS? George W. Bush built that.

It’s with good reason that even the ever-smarmy Tony Blair had to admit this week, “Of course, you can’t say that those who removed Saddam in 2003 have no responsibility for the situation in 2015.” Of course, George W. Bush had in his  own way admitted as much in his December 2008 exit interview with Martha Raddatz of ABC News:

BUSH: One of the major theaters against al Qaeda turns out to have been Iraq. This is where al Qaeda said they were going to take their stand. This is where al Qaeda was hoping to take–RADDATZ: But not until after the U.S. invaded.

BUSH: Yeah, that’s right. So what? The point is that al Qaeda said they’re going to take a stand. Well, first of all in the post-9/11 environment Saddam Hussein posed a threat. And then upon removal, al Qaeda decides to take a stand.

Before and since, George W. Bush has taken a stand on his decision to go to war in Iraq. As he explained in that 2014 hagiography of his dad (41: A Portrait of My Father), Dubya proclaimed:

“One thing is certain: The Iraqi people, the United States and the world are better off without Saddam Hussein in power,” Mr. Bush wrote. “I believe the decision that Dad made in 1991 was correct — and I believe the same is true of the decision I made a dozen years later.”

History, as both he and Jeb are fond of saying, will judge the 2003 Iraq war. Sadly for them both, it’s already clear that history’s judgment won’t be kind. Alas, being a Republican apparently means never having to say you’re sorry.

Daily Kos Staff

George W. Bush unleashes on Ted Cruz


While Jeb Bush’s campaign is spending far more time of late pushing out information that contrasts favorably with Marco Rubio, his oldest brother seemed to see Ted Cruz as the biggest threat in the end. | Getty


‘I just don’t like that guy,’ the former president tells donors.

Inside a sleek Denver condominium, George W. Bush let a hundred donors to his brother’s campaign in on a secret. Of all the rival Republican candidates, there is one who gets under the former president’s skin, whom he views as perhaps Jeb Bush’s most serious rival for the party’s nomination.

It isn’t Donald Trump, whose withering insults have sought to make Jeb pay a political price for his brother’s presidency. It isn’t Marco Rubio, Jeb’s former understudy who now poses a serious threat to his establishment support.

It’s George W. Bush’s former employee — Ted Cruz.

“I just don’t like the guy,” Bush said Sunday night, according to conversations with more than half a dozen donors who attended the event.

One donor in the room said the former president had been offering mostly anodyne accounts of how the Bush family network views the current campaign and charming off-the-cuff jokes, until he launched into Cruz.

“I was like, ‘Holy sh-t, did he just say that?’” the donor said. “I remember looking around and seeing that other people were also looking around surprised.”

“The tenor of what he said about the other candidates was really pretty pleasant,” another donor said. “Until he got to Cruz.”

Bush took a harsh view of Cruz’s apparent alliance with Trump, who stood with the senator at a Capitol Hill rally last month in opposition to the Iran deal. While Trump, the current GOP poll leaders, has attacked most of his competitors in the 2016 field, he has avoided criticizing Cruz.

One donor, paraphrasing the former president’s comment in response to a broad question about how he viewed the primary race and the other Republican candidates, said: “He said he found it ‘opportunistic’ that Cruz was sucking up to Trump and just expecting all of his support to come to him in the end,” that donor added.

George W. Bush is well acquainted with his home-state senator, who served as a domestic policy adviser on his 2000 campaign before rising to national prominence by distancing himself from — and often going out of his way to antagonize — the GOP establishment. In his book published earlier this year, Cruz ripped Bush’s record, criticizing elements of his foreign policy and faulting the administration for enabling “bigger government and excessive spending and new entitlements.”

While Jeb Bush’s campaign is spending far more time of late pushing out information that contrasts favorably with Rubio, his oldest brother seemed to see Cruz as the biggest threat in the end. According to several donors, the former president said not to doubt Cruz’s strength.

“He said he thought Cruz was going to be a pretty formidable candidate against Jeb, especially in Texas and across the South,” a donor said.

A spokesman for the former president pushed back at the takeaway that he views Cruz as his brother’s main obstacle in the 15-candidate primary field.

“The first words out of President Bush’s mouth last night were that Jeb is going to earn the nomination, win the election, and be a great president,” said Freddy Ford, George W. Bush’s spokesman. “He does not view Sen. Cruz as Gov. Bush’s most serious rival.”

Cruz’s campaign, after initially declining to comment for this story, provided a statement from the senator Monday night.

“I have great respect for George W Bush, and was proud to work on his 2000 campaign and in his administration,” Cruz said. “It’s no surprise that President Bush is supporting his brother and attacking the candidates he believes pose a threat to his campaign. I have no intention of reciprocating. I met my wife Heidi working on his campaign, and so I will always be grateful to him.”

The donors at the event were a mix of establishment stalwarts like former Gov. Bill Owens and business executive Larry Mizel as well as a number of young professionals, who were offered reduced $250 tickets at the last minute in an effort to fill the room, according to an email the organizer circulated among potential supporters and obtained by POLITICO.

The former president was softer in critiquing Rubio, whom many view as the biggest threat for establishment support and, by extension, the nomination itself. After recognizing Rubio’s political and rhetorical skills, George W. Bush reprised the common criticism of the first-term senator — experience. But then, jokingly, he undercut himself.

“He’s a young, first-term senator; I’m not sure if that qualifies you to be president,” Bush reportedly said, according to two people in the room. “Of course, if he wins [the nomination], I’ll be back here next year telling you that doesn’t matter.”

Bush also cast Cruz’s candidacy as an exercise in personal gain, not service. “He sort of looks at this like Cruz is doing it all for his own personal gain, and that’s juxtaposed against a family that’s been all about public service and doing it for the right reasons,” a donor said. “He’s frustrated to have watched Cruz basically hijack the Republican Party of Texas and the Republican Party in Washington.”

The former president, who lives in Dallas, was appearing at his fourth fundraiser in less than a month for his brother’s campaign, which is hoping to capitalize on the family legacy and donor network without allowing the 43rd president’s controversial record to become a distraction. He will also be appearing along with his father, former President George H.W. Bush, at an event in Houston this weekend that was set up to reward new donors to Jeb Bush’s campaign with the rare opportunity to see two former presidents and, potentially, a third in the same room.

During some 35 minutes of unscripted remarks inside billionaire industrialist Lanny Martin’s condominium adjacent to the Daniel Libeskind-designed Denver Art Museum, Bush never addressed his own record, even as his brother was defending it in another war of words with Trump. The developer and entertainer blamed the former president in part for the 9/11 terrorist attacks because they happened on his watch and for the Iraq War.

Instead, George W. Bush offered the same “long haul” view of the race espoused by his brother’s Miami-based campaign and sprinkled in several colorful family anecdotes. He spoke movingly about Jeb’s courtship of his eventual wife, Columba, whom he met when he was just 16 and a student in Mexico.

“Let’s just say it was a surprise for our family,” Bush reportedly said of his brother’s wedding at the age of 21 to the former Columba Garnica de Gallo.

In touting his brother’s experience and qualifications to be president, Bush acknowledged their differences, emphasizing his younger brother’s thoughtful, deliberative nature. He asserted that Jeb’s more inclusive tone on immigration would make him the party’s best hope of drawing Hispanic voters back to the Republican Party. (George W. Bush was the last Republican to win a large percentage of the Latino vote.)

Bush gave further definition to the brothers’ contrasting personalities by showing off a self-deprecating sense of humor.

“He was talking about the need to reach out to immigrants and he said, ‘There’s a lot of people in this country who speak broken English,’” a donor recounted. “And then he paused and said, ‘Well, I’m one of them.’”

Despite his lasting appeal to a large swath of establishment Republicans, the former president told donors it’s unlikely he would hit the campaign trail for his brother at any point. Jeb Bush, asked in Iowa two weeks ago if he’d been grappling with how to best employ his oldest brother, was noncommittal but emphatic that “there’s no grappling going on.”

That seems to be the case.

“He emphasized that he’s not going to be out on the campaign trail doing public events,” one donor said. “He wants to be helpful and supportive like any brother would be. But he said, ‘You’re not going to see a lot of me.’

“Actually, he said that a couple of times.”


Was George W. Bush President On 9/11? An Investigation Into The Controversy Tearing The GOP Apart



On Friday, Donald Trump generated substantial controversy when he asserted that George W. Bush was president at the time of the 9/11 attacks.

“When you talk about George Bush, I mean, say what you want, the World Trade Center came down during his time,” Trump said. “He was president, O.K.?

Jeb Bush immediately pushed back, calling Trump’s comments “pathetic” and insisting “my brother kept us safe.”

The media jumped on to the burgeoning controversy. According to The New York Times the idea that Bush was president on 9/11 and failed to stop the attack is a “break from the GOP.”

Was George W. Bush president on September 11, 2001? It’s time to settle this once and for all.

It’s true that, in the presidential election held on November 7, 2000, George W. Bush received fewer votes than Al Gore.

But according to the Associated Press, this is a photo of George W. Bush being sworn in as president on January 20, 2001.




That still doesn’t settle the question of whether Bush stopped being president sometime before September 11.

According to ABC News, George W. Bush spent the entire month of August 2001 on vacation at his ranch in Texas, which is not typical behavior for someone who is president. Other reports, however, reveal Bush continue to recieve the “Presidential Daily Brief” at the ranch, strongly suggesting he was still president.

This is the briefing he received on August 6, 2001:


Taking into account all the evidence, it seems more likely than not that George W. Bush was president on September 11, 2001.


Dick Cheney Caught Out in a Lie Too Brazen Even for Fox News


This weekend, Chris Wallace asked Dick Cheney whether he and George Bush had any responsibility for the growth of Iran’s nuclear program. Not really, Cheney said. That’s all on Obama:

“But the centrifuges went from zero to 5,000,” Wallace pressed.

“Well, they may well have gone but that happened on Obama’s watch, not on our watch,” Cheney replied.

“No, no, no,” Wallace said. “By 2009, they were at 5,000.”

“Right,” said Cheney, who seemed to be losing air from somewhere in his lower back. “But I think we did a lot to deal with the arms control problem in the Middle East.”

These guys wreck the economy, and then complain that Obama hasn’t fixed it fast enough. They blow a hole in the deficit, and then complain that Obama hasn’t quite filled it yet. They pursue a disastrous war in Iraq, and then complain that Obama ruined it all by not leaving a few more brigades behind. They twiddle their thumbs over Iran, and then complain that Obama’s nuclear deal isn’t quite to their liking.

It’s hard to believe that even their own supporters still listen to a word they say. And yet, somehow, conservative rage toward Obama for wrecking the country continues unabated. Truly, conservatism can never fail, it can only be failed.


Jeb Bush Said The Iraq War Was A ‘Good Deal.’ Here’s Exactly What It Cost.



In recent days, Jeb Bush has decided to focus his campaign on Iraq. Earlier this week he pinned the blame for the current instability in the country on Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Speaking at a national security forum yesterday in Iowa, Jeb Bush asserted that “taking out Saddam Husseinturned out to be a pretty good deal.”

In his remarks, Bush also refused to rule out the use of torture as an interrogation tactic and mimicked his brother’s famous declaration, saying that the “mission was accomplished.” Many of the architects of the Iraq War are currently advising Jeb Bush on foreign policy.

Jeb’s remarks appear to be another shift on his assessment of the war. Early in the campaign he said that, knowing what he knows now, he would still have launched the Iraq War. Then he claimed he misunderstood the question and it would be a disservice to families of the fallen. Under heavy criticism, he switched his position, saying, “I would not have gone into Iraq.” By saying the ouster of Saddam — and, by extension, the Iraq War — was a “good deal,” he appears to be reverting back to his initial position.

But just what was the cost of the Iraq war?

More Than 4,424 American Lives

Counts vary but according to the Department of Defense there have been at least 4,424 U.S. military fatalities connected to Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The Watson Institute at Brown University notes that “[o]fficial Pentagon numbers do not include the many troops who return home and kill themselves as a result of psychological wounds such as PTSD.”

There is no centralized reporting but, according to the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, hundreds of Americans — including contractors and U.S. military — were killed while involved in reconstruction efforts.

About 319 Coalition Lives

As part of the Iraq invasion, George W. Bush assembled a small “coalition of the willing” which included the UK and a few other countries. About 319 people from those countries died in the Iraq war.

More Than 115,000 Iraqi Lives

Iraq Body Count, a UK based group that aggregates news reports, morgue records and other data, estimates that 115,000 civilians were killed as a direct result of violence. A group of public health researchers, taking into account indirect causes of death, estimates that about 500,000 Iraqis died as a result of the war.

More Than $1.7 Trillion

The Iraq war has cost American taxpayers $1.7 trillion in direct expenses. It owes an addition $90 billion in benefits to war veterans. Ultimately, expenses could grow to more than $6 trillion, including interest.

Zero Weapons Of Mass Destruction

The public justification for the Iraq war was to eliminate the country’s weapons of mass destruction. Despite searching for years, the U.S. did not find any such weapons.


Donald Rumsfeld comes to Jesus — 12 years later: Now he admits George W. Bush was wrong about Iraq

Donald Rumsfeld comes to Jesus -- 12 years later: <em>Now</em> he admits George W. Bush was wrong about Iraq

(Credit: Twitter)

There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.

Donald Rumsfeld


Donald Rumsfeld is finally admitting that the spread of democracy in Iraq following the war was “unrealistic.” But don’t get too confused, Rumsfeld doesn’t regret the initial decision to invade Iraq, he just blames President George W. Bush for setting an unattainable agenda of nation building in the war ravaged nation.

In a new interview with The Times of London, the former Department of Defense head under George W. Bush, signaled that he had been against the goals laid out by the Bush administration beyond the seizure of WMDS all along, claiming, “I’m not one who thinks that our particular template of democracy is appropriate for other countries at every moment of their histories.” Rumsfeld made clear, “the idea that we could fashion a democracy in Iraq seemed to me unrealistic. I was concerned about it when I first heard those words.”
But this isn’t the first time the former Iraq war architect has copped to “mistakes” in Iraq. In 2011, while promoting his memoir, ”Known and Unknown,” Rumsfeld cautioned against the U.S. military’s role as nation builder, calling it “silly,” and said he took responsibility for the abuse scandal at the Iraqi prison, Abu Grahib, but denied it was his fault. From an interview with CBS News’ David Martin:

MARTIN: Did you feel it was your fault?


MARTIN: You were responsible, but it wasn’t your fault?

RUMSFELD: Sure … Exactly

Rumsfeld’s direct jab at the Bush administration (of which he was a crucial part) is a departure from other recent attempts to revise the history of the Iraq war by Republicans. Some Republicans, namely the executed neocons, have seized upon the rise of ISIS in Iraq to attack President Obama and critics of the war. In an effort to defend his brother, expected GOP presidential hopeful Jeb Bush, slammed President Obama for following the Status of Forces agreement set by former President Bush to withdrawal U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011. Bush ignored the agreement to argue that Obama “could have kept the troops in and he could have had an agreement,” adding “the United States had enough influence to be able to deal with the immunity issue.”

For his part, it was Rumsfeld’s understanding all along that Iraq was meant to be invaded by the U.S. but not rebuilt by the U.S. Former commander of the Army Transportation Corps, Brig. Gen. Mark Scheid claimed that Rumsfeld threatened to fire any Pentagon officials planning for the rebuilding phase of the war.

H/t: DB

New Poll Claims People Like Bush More Than Obama, Here’s Why These People Are Imbeciles


According to a new poll that just came out from CNN/ORC, former President George W. Bush is apparently viewed more favorably than President Obama.

It’s really unfortunate that these people who view Bush favorably are suffering from such severe amnesia. Luckily, they can’t be denied healthcare under Obamacare, and will be able to receive all the services they require.

I know that tweet is from Fox “News,” but rest assured the numbers are accurate and do line up with the poll. Unfortunately, that means several Americans don’t remember much between the years 2000 and 2008, so let’s have a little refresher course.

President George W. Bush was inaugurated in January of 2001 after being appointed the victor by the United States Supreme Court. (Emphasis are mine – ks)  It was then when he began his journey to become the one of the worst, if not THE worst president in the history of the republic. So bad, in fact, that his own party wants to keep him as far away from RNC events as possible.

Over the course of 2001, his first year in office, Bush decided this would be a terrific time to do most of his work from his ranch inTexas. It was during this year that he decided he would ignore intelligence that said Osama bin Laden was determined to attack in the United States. Later that year, on September 11, the United States suffered its greatest attack and loss of life on domestic soil when bin Laden followed through with his plans — plans Bush ignored.

If such an attack were to have happened under Obama, a Democrat would never be seen fit to hold the office of president again. They would be seen as not being able to keep the country safe. However, seamlessly, Republicans used the worst attack in American history to their advantage and Bush won a second term after starting a war that should’ve never happened in the first place. But hey, it was a nice distraction from being the guy who let 3,000 people die on his watch on American soil.

Speaking of the war in Iraq, even Bush admitted there were no “weapons of mass destruction.” Oh, but please… admire Bush, the man who sent over 4,000 of our troops to die for no reason whatsoever. (cough cough Oil)

Also, with the invasion of Iraq, it eliminated a strong-handed leader who, while not ideal, was able to keep extremists at bay. After the removal of Hussein and the failed implementation of a successful government structure, Bush left Iraq and neighboring regions open to extremists as a power vacuum unfolded before our eyes. ISIS was then able to grab hold of major key cities, and Iraq, to this day, is still in horrific turmoil.

Then there was the Hurricane Katrina response. After one of the worst and most deadly hurricanes to hit American soil, Bush failed to effectively respond. Thousands were left stranded without food or water for days on end.

Let’s also not forget one of the worst economic recessions in United States history happened under President George W. Bush. He also managed to turn a budget surplus into a horrendous deficit, and cut revenue while starting two unpaid for wars.

These things, among countless other reasons make George W. Bush one of the worst presidents in history.

Enter, President Barack Obama in 2009, left with the disaster made by President Bush. He’s left to clean up two wars, a recession, and find Osama bin Laden — all of which he has done.

The economy under President Obama has remarkably turned around. Home prices are back or better than they were before the recession. The stock market is hitting record highs. Both wars that began under Bush are drawing to a close, albeit we are still dealing with the enabling of ISIS that Bush created. Osama bin Laden has been killed. Historic health care reform has been implemented, and now people can no longer be denied care for pre-existing conditions. It’s a health care system that is far from perfect, but a step in the right direction. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has been repealed. Marriage equality is sweeping the nation, and unemployment is back to pre-recession levels. Which, among countless other things, proves Obama has kept his promise to bring forth positive change.

To put it simply, the country is on a trajectory to be better than it’s been in a very long time. Young people are actually believing they may have a future. A future that was dimmed and almost extinguished after a long eight years under President George W. Bush.

We still have a long way to go as a nation, but we are headed in the right direction, and a lot of how we are getting there is due to President Obama.

So, when poll results show people favor President Bush over President Obama, I’m forced to believe that either they are suffering from amnesia, or are complete and utter imbeciles.

George W. Bush: Freedom To Worship Or Not ‘Is Not Your Government’s Choice’


Former President George W. Bush during his commencement address at Southern Methodist University Saturday

Nor is the freedom to love whomever you choose or the freedom to marry whomever you choose.  Just sayin’. (ks)


Former President George W. Bush defended religious freedom during his commencement address at Southern Methodist University Saturday– his first commencement address since leaving office in 2009.

“You can be hopeful because there is a loving God. Whether you agree with that statement or not is your choice. It is not your government’s choice,” Bush said to applause. “It is essential to this nation’s future that we remember that the freedom to worship who we want and how we want, or not worship at all, is a core belief of our founding.”

Bush’s speech at the school that houses his presidential library and where his wife, Laura Bush, is a trustee, comes as his brother Jeb is on the verge of a likely White House run. Jeb, the former Florida governor, faced difficult questions over his brother’s invasion of Iraq this week, including one from a college student who claimed that George W. Bush was responsible for the rise of the Islamic State.

In his speech Saturday, the 43rd president said he was optimistic about the future.

“Some say America’s best days are behind us,” he said. “I say, given our strengths — one of which is a bright new generation like you — these are not dark days, these are great days.”

Bush, who graduated from Yale with a C+ average, also made fun of his mediocre academic record, telling graduates that they shouldn’t let grades limit them.

“Those of you who are graduating this afternoon with high honors, awards and distinctions, I say well done,” he said. “And as I like to tell the C students: you too can be president.”

~Sam Levine


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