tv Book Discussion on Bush CSPAN September 2, 2016 3:45am-4:48am EDT
>> this must be a crowd of presidential history enthusiast. [laughter] or some video are just looking for a distraction from the presidential story happening before a sunday the basis. and to be a very distinguished berger for. and also profiling john marshall. and the say professor with several universities the dozen years that marshall university pet then on the
york times", a comprehensive and compelling narrative with the sense of history. but one of the most interesting tidbits that i learned with the knowledge and is that he still composing is in an longhand with uh yellow legal pad. if the totals 800 pages and branch. please join me to welcome. [applause] >> as part of my right biography at politics & prose is of pleasures to
return to washington where went to elementary school. i was not permitted to interview george bush and to set up in interview with the bush library in dallas. as one of bush's aides that the president does not want to see you laugh laugh you have written a book critical of his father and for that reason he does not wish to see you. in 1992 and that was critical of the decision in iraq. >> to put that into zero
context. and was absolutely in charge all the decisions were his command was the decider after 9/11 was the commander in chief and then was a chain of command was not a tool of dick cheney or connolly's a rice or anyone else. but uh driving force but these are all personal decisions made by the president so in that context i will say what about the national security council. it was established by the republican 80th congress
1947 the idea behind it that this happened under fdr will 42. and was designed to bring the secretary of state and the military and leadership with national security issues. eisenhower, truman, and met every week tuesday at 10:00 the preside over those meetings but it came with kennedy with george bundy as the national security advisor neither truman nor eisenhower had a national security advisor. under truman and eisenhower
there were basically note takers but under kennedy the size increased at 20 to handle policy issues than doubled again when kissinger maintained the national security advisor to nixon by the time bush took office it was well over 100 these were professional experts in specific areas and in many respects the national security act of 1947 was turned on its head so the body that coordinated government policy has intended the national security council staff became a policymaking tool to the president bush ran policy from the white house the national security staff allowed him to do so. the second point is bush is
a born-again christian who saw the world in biblical terms. especially after 9/11 he defined the battle against terrorism as a struggle between good and evil he saw himself as god's agent place on earth to defeat the forces of satan. that religious fixation is a common denominator behind the excesses' of the bush and administration and the foreign policy decisions that he made. in many respects contrast of abraham lincoln is interesting in 1861 after the battle of bull run was visited by a delegation of protestant ministers with a spokesman for the group told lincoln he had division from the 94 that he was on link
and at the time admitting 52%, 52% for the legacy applicants. princeton and harvard were admitting 15%. >> he became president of yale during the freshman year and changed the rules. from that point on, they would take the same amount of students at princeton and harvard took. his three brothers and sisters had the same legacy credentials and none of them got in. he did better at yale and spend the next five years in the wilderness.
it deferred him from service in vietnam as the courier and at ththatthe guard has become a maf controversy. it was during the five years that bush drank heavily and used drugs he was admitted to the harvard business school in september of 1973 and was one of the few graduates of harvard business school is not the only one not to have a job offer when he graduated. they did not receive a job offer. one of the classmates at the harvard business school told me the classmates considered him dynamically ignorant. with no job offer bush returned to texas like his father in the business with leases on property
hoping to strike oil. in 1977 he married laura welch and ran as a republican nominee to succeed democratic congressman. during this time bush became a born-again christian and in his memoirs he credits billy graham with his rediscovery of god. but the lesser-known evangelist it's true at this time he gave
up drinkan celebration at the hotel in colorado springs bush began subverting his birthday and became hopelessly intoxicated and woke up the next morning with an incredible hangover and resolved to drinking. he recognized his father was running for president and he didn't want to embarrass him in anyway so hany way so he stoppe. it was 1986 and the longer they were in the business, george and his family moved to washington for the presidential campaign in the election. he was given an office headquarters near the white house in his office was between
lee atwater and roger ailes handling the publicity into the next two years george learned about the electoral politics. he ran against michael dukakis and saw firsthand how t first-hn the presidential campaign. when it was over in november of 88, george declined an appointment to work in his father's administration and returned to texas to run for governor but at the same time help organize the texas rangers baseball team. as you recall the washington senators expansion team that had been formed a moved to texas in 1972.
they were contenders and the deal to buy the team came through. bush stepped back and for the next four years was the public had of the texas rangers. he owned only 2% of the stalk sk and build a new stadium and basked in the globe. they assisted in 1992 but from a distance he stayed in texas and when clinton won the election set his sights and for the same time decided to run for governor of florida. bush was running again. could against the incumbent and richards was heavily favored. he was favored to defeat the incumbent lawton childs but it was an upset and he won in one n texas, jeb lost in florida and
from that point on he became the likely successor to his father. texas is the second largest state in the union and second largest in population that reflects the constitution 1876 but stripped power from the governor. the governor of texas is essentially a symbolic figure a little like the queen of engla england. it's the weakest in the united states. the governor of texas cannot issue pardons. in accepting bush thrived. [laughter] as a symbolic leader of texas he
was reelected in 1998 and also built a very effective political machine led by karl rove and was exploring the possibilities of running for president in 2,000. bush announced the candidacy in june of 1999 and defeated john mccain in the primaries. al gore was a democratic nominec nominee and was heavily favored to gore fumbled almost immediately when he chose to run with the most conservative democrat as his running mate. he's not bill clinton throughout the entire campaign and then poured into the television debates. the choice gave third party candidates he would pull about
3 million votes in the election came down to florida he carried ten states that put him over the top. he was superb. he had little knowledge of affairs and traveled abroad. the extensions believed he was god's agent put here on earth. with the exception of appointing colin powell as the secretary of state, donald rumsfeld secretary of defense and his friend don evans secretary of commerce.
condoleezza rice as the chief of staff. if you think about it it's inconceivable franklin roosevelt would have turned up a selection of the cabinet over to john garner were dwight eisenhower would have allowed nixon to do that especially after the scandal. as a result of the input, bush took office in the subcabinet appointees that are powerfully motivated and equipped to provide the intellectual justification for the president's policies. conservative outlook and articulate, these like-minded ideologues scooter libby, paul wolfowitz, elliot abrams, cheney
played an important role in the first two years. he had an office in the white house, they were all white house staff. the energy from the revisio, the tax code in 2001 and after 9/11 the presidential directive to the al qaeda members by military commissions reflected dick cheney's input. they voted himself to the domestic issues. they had run the last three and a half year years and in the cln applied to reduce the national debt. it's your money he said frequently on the trail ended urging them the largest tax cuts in history.
he also pressed education reform the first year and in this case no child left behind which congress helped. they also touched foreign-policy issues but it is in the determination to assert the supremacy. the clinton administration and south korea had worked since 1994 to bring them back into the family of nations. the united states said south korea would provide assistance in return for which north korea would have banned the program. madeleine albright visited pyongyang in december of 2000. the south korean president came to washington in march of 2001 to put the final seal of video. north korea was on the verge of
the nuclear weapons into signing a peace treaty in the south. bush rejected the idea. this wasn't something that bubbled up from any of the white house staff. they were evil he believed and the government must be replaced. this was his personal position. the attacks were a surprise but reinforced the view of good versus evil. the attacks have been a defining moment in american history by conflating the attacks with saddam hussein he led the united states into a 3 trillion-dollar war in iraq and promulgated the preventive war and alienated muslim american allies and begins its alliances and inspired young muslims the
hysteria released in the civil liberty eroded the rule of law and tarnished the respecting the traditional american values of tolerance and moderation is. september 12, he assume total responsibility and total authority as the commander in chief. that morning, he offered to lead a group of officers to policy and bush rejected the offer. any isolated incidents rather than handle them through the political process which depicted them as acts of war by the forces of evil. i don't really tonight go into the assault on american civil liberties. and the book i devote to
chapters to the nsa spying and the torture trail and the record is clear. he was fighting the forces of satan as a result if you're doing that, no holds are barred whether it is enhanced interrogation techniques, extraordinary rendition or the intercepted united states he thought he was in the final fight to rid the war of evil. let m me say a few words about e war in iraq. from the beginning, bush was determined to remove saddam hussein. the intervention in afghanistan. he instructed the department of defense to prepare to invade iraq and ignored the findings of the u.s. weapons inspectors that they had no weapons of mass destruction.
planning began early in 2002 and the military assumed purpose was to remove saddam hussein and whatever mass distraction might be found and leave as soon as possible. rumsfeld and general franks. 90 days should be sufficient. and that's what the military plan for. the invasion took place. the search for military weapons began and the military began to withdraw leaving it to them to work things out. as both the state department and the defense department saw it was up to them to move ahead on their own. the party remained in control and the army remained in place under the american tutelage and the senior leadership
established by general jay garner was developing plans for the government that was still a secular state. speaking on the flight deck under the banner that read mission accomplished, bush said the purpose was to bring democracy to iraq that the united states forces would remain there after that was accomplished. bush changed the mission without counsel thing anyone. the decision was unilateral into the liberators. rumsfeld, powell were all dumbfounded by this change acquiesced and in retrospect we probably shouldn't have been so. let me digress between being
liberators and occupiers. liberators said the country free. occupiers impose their will. in world war ii as the day approached, franklin roosevelt didn't want to be bothered in occupied france. and so instead, over the objections, they brought him into north africa and six days after he landed and took over liberated france. the united between british and canadian troops moved ahead without regard for what is happening in france. and with his responsibility. but when they crossed into germany and the whole government was suspended. france was liberated and germany was occupied. it was an important distinction and as for iraq, the defense department, the state department and all of the military assumed
that they were liberating from saddam and they would work things out for themselves. then on may 1 on the flight, bush unilaterally changed directions. instead of the coalition forces that would become occupiers it was downhill from there. the party was outlawed and the army was disbanded. most offices were closed. bremmer reported physically to the white house fo or the state department, the coalition forces in many respects became the enemy. busbush bears sole responsibiliy to the decision. and if i may say a word or two about the situation. we all saw the photographs of the atrocities committed.
what we didn't know at the time was that the military police on duty as guards in the prison were not acting on their own. they were not simply hillbillies from cumberland maryland. thethey had been urged by the ca and military intelligence to abuse the prisoners before they were being interrogated to set them up to confess in the interrogation that would follow. for subsequent military investigations for the first by a major general documented that the outrage as we saw was a deliberate effort to break them before they were interrogated. by 2006, bush became deeply distressed about the situation in iraq and authorized the search to regain the initiative
and found general petraeus to command. he is an interesting figure. the army passed him over in 2003 and among other things he was promoted a three-star rank on the recommendation to george w. bush who promoted him and his career took off. when he was head of the cia the princeton alumni wanted him to become president of princeton. just as eisenhower had done, don't forget, when he was president of columbia in 1952,
that failed when a is became public and the obama administration really cut off his head. it wasn't the fact that there was any number of factors that were more important. at the end of our awakening in which the leadership decided they wanted no part of the leadership and the decision of the disbandment in the army which they told them to do. but by the end of 2007, the assembled lens order had been achieved. and in late 2008 in the withdraw by the end of 2011 that was when
the disgruntled iraqi took off his shoes. let me suggest that the decision was the worst foreign policy decision ever made by an american president and if anyone can think of anything worse please let me know if. that doesn't necessarily mean that he was the worst president. herbert hoover. bush did well domestically as president. no child left the has been invaluable contribution to the educational program particularly for children from disadvantaged families. the amendment of medicare to provide prescription drugs for seniors is a remarkable achievement. bush also took the lead in the global fight against aids particularly in africa and under his leadership that has been brought under control.
bush remains active in the fight and also expanded american free trade when bush took office the united states said free-trade agreements with israel, canada and mexico has free-trade agreements with 16 countries. bush also concluded in his early term to produce a nuclear arsenal but each country maintained and he and improved relations with china. i think the most important achievement was to contain the economic meltdown in 2008 against all of his instincts and deeply held beliefs, he bailed out wall street and the american auto industry and avoided another great depression. unlike the war in iraq or the fight against terrorism at home this time he listened to his advisers.
hank paulson was the secretary of treasury and ben bernanke at the federal reserve carved out a strategy of support and bush adopted. from bailing out the subprime se mortgage lenders and conglomerates to us giving the market itself with a massive trouble that such relief program, t.a.r.p., bush deserves credit for taking the necessary actions. it was a remarkable achievement and probably saved the world economy. when they failed to rescue lehman brothers, that was paulson more than bush. i haven't said anything about his personal life. let me be very brief he was always an early riser he got about 4:45 in the morning, goes to bed shortly before ten. exercises for two hours a day in the white house jim. but he wanted to short descriptions and brief memos.
they were close into the white house could entertainment a minimum. i haven't said anything about laura. she was a major source to the president and took that responsibility seriously. she usually accompanied bush on his trips abroad and provide great comfort for him. paul sarbanes, the long serving senator from maryland as you know and a staunch democrat told me he thought florida was the best first lady ever and became a member of congress when pat nixon was the first lady. as the ex- president, bush has been exemplary. unlike most of his predecessors he doesn't miss the office, doesn't try to second guess obama. curious if you can believe this but after the election after
obama was sworn in, bush told friends in dallas free at last. [laughter] in many respects, he's a model for what the next president should be. as i said, i don't think bush is the worst president but i do believe that his decision to attack is the worst foreign policy decision ever made by an american president and it gets worse as time goes on. thanks very much. plus the >> thank you very much for your time. i think that your presentation is quite timely with the inquiry report in the uk today. the question i have is you seem to present an individual who may be unqualified to assume the
position of president and i noticed to kind of pivotal historical points that might have changed the course of history. the first was how george w. bush was selected as the republican nominee in the primary over john mccain. and if things were different otherwise, that would have changed the course of history, and second, al gore is fresh off of bill clinton and the democratic race as well. so i guess the question i have is as a historian looking back, with lessons in your work do you find we can learn as far as picking qualified leaders? [laughter] >> i'm not sure. i don't think that is a question i can easily answer. i will let it sit that if you don't mind.
>> i just have one question. and one of the books he mentioned george w. bush's drinking in defense he stopped but it didn' did take them at ts very steps to grow up and i look around and i think sometimes they can be very dangerous because they are running around unimpaired and still thinking and acting on impulse and doing all sorts of stuff like what you imagined on abraham lincoln's words like saying i know what's neat what do this. i was asking if there's any reflections on that. >> i think you are absolutely right. >> i am a college student here
in the washington, d.c. area and several years ago i read your biography. are you able to hear me? several years ago i read your biography of president eisenhower which is one of the most interesting meaningful books that i've read. my question is as follows. i know for example that you serve. >> i can only say about the service in berlin [inaudible]
[laughter] it really goes back to my childhood here in washington, d.c.. my grandmother lived with us before i started school. my grandmother always read biographies to me. so i've always been interested in biographies and when i was a graduate student at columbia before i took my orals, the chairman of the department wanted me to bring him a list of all the books i've read, which i did and he said there's a lot of biographies here. so i followed it for years. >> just to pick up a little bit on the last question. how do you see bush in the light of eisenhower, how would eisenhower have assessed the record and in the light of what's been going on in the
republican party how do you see eisenhower dealing with that? >> don't forget he was elected by his promise to win the war in korea. he came back and immediately made peace with fo the remaining eight years of the term. having seen it first hand don't forget when he won the nomination against taft in 1952 he represented the wing and the republican party and maybe longer than that. taft was the candidate of the conservative wing of the party and he lost. eisenhower had no use for them. i don't think it is generally well known but it was eisenhower
behind the scenes who conducted the operation against mccarthy. eisenhower picked david welch to be the council in those hearin hearings. jimmy carter called it an oligarchy. >> republican party leadership to those 40 or 50 years ago and i think that this view comes naturally to. >> but they're acting more like
republicans. >> you can see the whole spectrum has moved to the right. >> i've read your biography of fdr and i would like to say that we are fortunate that a canadian scholar will tackle so many of the questions in american history. i look forward to reading the book. >> i have to confess a in that department it was a very large department, 100 some faculty members. i was the first american on board. and they wanted me there because they wanted to teach american government. so in my entire exposure i
taught american government. >> you see the statement in the policy discussion. it has unleashed a the war in iran into this theme and my question is do you think it's fair to argue that we can blame the iraq war largely for the arrival of isis? >> so long as they remain in power they kept a lid on the secular state.
i have been thinking a great deal about is there another foreign policy position that one might outrank the decision to go to war in iraq. the only one i can possibly come up with his hairy trumans besids decision to drop the atomic weapon on hiroshima and nagasa nagasaki. that's the only thing i can think of. >> thof. >> the lbj decision in vietnam i don't put it at the same level. >> but the point you made earlier in being on there is no carryover that came out of the vietnam war as there is here. i think that is the principal distinction between the two. >> another question about colin powell.
i just want to ask what your thoughts are. to me he seems like a tragic hero that may have a lot of remorse and yet his story, no one has really shown the light on the story. >> there's a very good biography about colin powell written by the reporter for the "washington post" and he is a tragic figure. he was the first cabinet appointee but he was quickly shelved by the white house to. >> held directly involved was he in the decisions to disband, did bush give the order?
>> nocona bremmer gave the order it was his decision that he was instructed to bring democracy to iraq. when bremmer did make the order, bush immediately approved it so there was no tension. but bush didn't order it. >> we have a few mentions of the current nominee for president in the republican party and i noticed among the democrat and republican there tends to be a great deal of sympathy or renewed positive feelings towards the george w. bush presidency in wake of the current nominee. what do you think of that?
>> really? [laughter] >> my dad fo dad for instance in old-school democrat and thinks that among his group of people, he feels like i will draw a parallel as an example of. the views on barring muslims from entering the country versus perhaps george w. bush's repeated mention that islam is a culture of peace and things like that. >> i am surprised that the belief that is pursuing. if you look at the image of the investigation of bush and blair, it's not going to improve. both simon and schuster wanted me to write an op-ed comparing
bush and trump and i said no. going to iraq was the worst foreign policy and i would ask what else is in the top five but you touched on that with someone else's question. what are some of the best foreign-policy decisions. certainly it is the decision to make peace in korea that was a breakthrough. eisenhower was working closely with improving the relations and
weakened by the decision to go into iraq. i'm going to take a minority position on this. the accidents that happened on 9/11, four planes were hijacked. that isn't a reason to go to w war. you handle that as a legal issue in the courts if you find anyone else involved but you don't go to war for something like that. i may be in the minority position on that but that's what i believe. >> bush welcomed the possibility to be a war hero. >> i'm not sure he welcomed it i'm sure he responded to it. thank you. >> richard clarke has suggested
perhaps george bush be tried as a war criminal. yoif you have any comments on that? >> yes. i don't think presidents are guilty of war crimes, period. >> you give bush a lot of credit for handling the financial crisis. there was an hbo movie about it that portrayed paulson, bernanke that maybe we should consult the white house. >> i think they did make policy but they didn't say the last minute was canceled the white house. they knew they had to and i think they did an extremely good job of bringing bush a loan thae contrary to all of his views. but i also think that he realized this earlier that he had messed up.
and i think he was much more inclined to listen to paulson and bernanke. >> would you like to discuss the renewal of the saudi arabia concessions during this time? >> i'm not sure that i'm qualified to do that but i think it is certainly a very important consideration but i don't know the details sufficiently to give you an answer. [applause]