tv Book Discussion on Bush CSPAN August 20, 2016 10:00am-11:01am EDT
that's because most of them did it. that's why they plead guilty. the government is right to go after them. now that i know more, i realize that's not the case. the government has ways of making innocent people plead guilty. it's unbelievable. essentially, it's the plea bargain system. they come to a doctor. let's say they want to get a doctor. he's done nothing wrong. our federal statutes are so voluminous and accordion-like that they can find something if not from your tax return, they'll find something like didn't you administer pain medicine to mrs. smith? we're going to charge you with the illegal administration of illegal drugs. and you say, but she was in pain, i'm a doctor. they go, i know, but you exceeded the allowable dose of pain medicine. we're going to charge you with a crime that will put you away for five years. but you plead guilty, you'll get three months, and you can practice medicine again. so what's your choice, ruin your entire life, be known as a federal criminal, be locked up for five years and destroy your
beginning it spreads out. go see it this week or this coming weekend. if you see it now you are putting fuel into our rocket. what you should do is use your influence. most of a few little of our actual influence. i only have 300 friends on facebook but they have 300 friends, you are like a little publisher and if you use influence to get information out you are to change the way people think. the beauty of a movie changes you a little on the inside. movies have the power to do that. books have the power to change minds by providing information and information is power. i urge you to be not apathetic but be very dangerous americans and go out there, change
society. thank you very much. [applause] >> you are watching the tv on c-span2, top nonfiction book and doctors every weekend, booktv, television for serious readers. booktv is live this weekend for the mississippi book festival that starts at 11:00 am eastern time and six author panel to discuss issues such as civil rights, education, the election and much more. on afterwards investigative journalist seymour hersh talks about the events surrounding the killing of osama bin laden.
that is just a few of the programs you will see this weekend on booktv. for complete television schedule go to booktv.org. you can also follow us on twitter,@booktv, facebook.com/booktv, to get schedule updates throughout the weekend. booktv, 48 hours of nonfiction books and office, television for serious readers. [inaudible conversations]
[inaudible conversations] >> good evening. i am bradley graham, holder of politics and prose, on behalf of the entire staff, welcome. quick administrative note, please turn off your cell phones if you haven't already. when we get to the q and a part of the session, c-span booktv is filming and we are filming for our own youtube channel. if you have a question, find your way to that microphone so that not only everybody watching the film can hear you, everybody in the store. would appreciate being able to hear you.
please be considerate of him and everybody else if you have a question. at the end before you come to get your book signed, staff would ask you fold up the chairs and lean them against something that looks like it won't topple over. this must be a crowd of hard-core presidential history enthusiasts. either that or some of you are just looking for a distraction from presidential history happening before us on a daily basis. in any case it is a pleasure to introduce jean edward smith who has proven himself to be a distinguished biographer of a president and other notable american figures. he has written about eisenhower and grant and profiled the lives of john marshall and lucius clay, all this while holding down a day job as a professor at
several universities, the longest at the university of toronto for 35 years and at marshall university, he has been at princeton, columbia, virginia and several other schools, probably leaving out. now he zeroed in on the presidency of george w. bush and is very critical of our 43rd president, no question, whether it is the misguided invasion of iraq, the torture tactics, the fumbled response to katrina, there is much to be critical about. he places responsibility for the administration's failures firmly on the former president. notwithstanding the influence
wielded by such major figures as cheney and donald rumsfeld. a review in the new yorker said his book doesn't feel like a hatchet job. in the words of the new york times, quote, a comprehensive and compelling narrative. usa today said gene rights with a sense of history. speaking of how gene rights, the most interesting tidbit i heard from the acknowledgments in "bush" the book is he still composes in longhand on yellow legal pads. he then has someone type up what he has written. when you consider a finished book totals 800 pages in print, that is a lot of legal pad. please join me in welcoming jean edward smith. [applause] >> thank you very much.
this is my third biography at politics and prose. earlier i did fdr and eisenhower. always a pleasure for me to return to washington, where i was born 83 years ago, i went to elementary school, high school, i was not permitted to interview george bush for the biography. dick cheney, whom i interviewed a number of time set up an interview for me with the president at the bush library in dallas, just before i went out i got a call from one of bush's aids who said the president doesn't want to see you. you have written a book critical of his father. for that reason he does not wish to see you. which was true.
in 1992 i wrote george bush's war dealing with the first iraq war and it was critical of the book the -- the decision to invade iraq. before i begin, let me make two remarks to put the biography in context. when it came to national security policy, george w. bush was absolutely in charge. all the decisions were his. he was indeed the decider as he calls himself. after 9/11 he relished his role as commander in chief and everything became chain of command. bush was not a tool of cheney or condoleezza rice or anyone else. he was the driving force, whether it was cia renditions or nsa snooping or the war in iraq, these were all personal decisions made by the president.
everyone in the administration fell into line. in that context, let me say a word about the national security council. the nsc was established by the republican 80th congress in 1947. the idea behind it was to prevent the concentration of power in the white house that happened under fdr in world war ii, it was modeled after a british war captain and was designed to bring the secretary of state and secretary of defense and military leadership into conference with the president on security issues. truman used the nsc that way, eisenhower used the nsc that way, eisenhower met with the nsc every week, thursday at 10:00 and eight years in the white house, presided over 314 meetings of the nsc. the change came with john
kennedy. kennedy appointed mc george monday as his national security advisor. these that is truman or eisenhower had a national security advisor, the size of the staff mushroomed. under truman and eisenhower staff of the nsc were notetakers and minute seekers, they never three or four. under kennedy the size of the staff increased to 20 and began to handle policy issues. it happened again when kissinger became national security advisor to nixon. for the time george bush took office, numbered well over 100. these were experts in specific areas. in many respects the national security act of 1947 had been turned on its head. instead of a body that coordinated government policy as was intended the national security council staff became a policymaking tool. bush ran policy from the white
house, national security staff allowed him to do so. the second point i would like to make is bush is a born-again christian who saw the world in biblical terms. that was especially true after 9/11. bush defined the battle against terrorism as a struggle between good and evil. he saw himself as god's agent placed on earth to defeat the forces of satan. that religious fixation is the common denominator behind the domestic accesses of the bush administration and foreign policy decisions they make. in many respects the contrast to abraham lincoln is interesting. lincoln in 1861 after the battle
of bull run was visited by a delegation of protestant ministers and spokesman for the book told lincoln he had a vision from heaven the night before and the president said he was on lincoln's side. lincoln replied, i hope the lord is on my side, but what i really need is kentucky. [laughter] >> today is george bush's birthday. he was born in newhaven connecticut on july 6, 1846, and upon his father at graduation from yale, the family moved to texas where senior bush went into the oil business. george w grew up in midland, when it came time for high school he went to andrew where he finished near the bottom of his class. the dean of students told george
not to bother to apply to yale because his grades were so low he could not get in but george did so. george was a fourth-generation legacy at yale, his grandfather, his father, his great-grandfather had gone to yale and at the time george applied yale was admitting 52%, 52% of the legacy affluence. princeton and harvard were admitting 14%. brewster became president of yale during the freshman year and changed the rules. from that point on yale would take the same amount of students princeton and harvard took, 14%. bush's three brothers and sister had the same legacy that he did, none of them got in because the
rules were changed. bush didn't know better at yale, than he did at handover, returned to texas and spent the next five years in the oil business. he was commissioned in the texas air national guard which secured him from service in vietnam and his career and the guard has become a matter of controversy. it was during these five years that bush drank heavily and used drugs. he was admitted to the harvard business school in september 1973, one of the few graduates of harvard business school if not the only one not to have a job offer when he graduated. [laughter] >> bush had 53 interviews with fortune 500 companies and did not receive a job offer. one of his classmates at harvard
business school told me classmates considered him dynamically ignorant. with no job offer bush returned to texas, and like his father went into the oil business, buying leases on property hoping to strike oil. in 1977 he married laura welch, the following year ran as a republican nominee to succeed retiring democratic congressman george mayhan. those as old as me will remember he was chairman of the appropriations committee for 12 years and senior member of the house. bush lost the election, returned to the oil business, prospered several years in family connections but the downturn in oil prices is hard. and eventually sold out. during this time bush became a born-again christian. in his memoirs, he credits billy
graham with rediscovery of job but it came a year earlier by a lesser-known evangelist who it is true at this time at this time bush gave up drinking. the occasion was his 43rd birthday celebration in colorado springs. bush, celebrating his 43rd birthday became hopelessly intoxicated, woke up with an incredible hangover and resolved to quit drinking. laura said that because of the previous night's celebration. actually it was because george recognized his father was running for president and didn't want to embarrass him in any way so stuck to him. in 1986 in the oil business george and his family moved to washington to assist in his
father's presidential campaign in the 88 election, george was given an office, campaign office in the woodward building near the white house. 's office was between lee atwater who is managing the campaign and roger ailes who was handling the publicity, head of fox news and for the next two years george learned about electoral politics from two gifted practitioners. up he ran against michael dukakis, george saw firsthand how to run a presidential campaign. when the election was over in november 1988 george declined an appointment and returned to texas, started an informal campaign to run for governor but at the same time helped organize a syndicate to buy the texas rangers baseball team, the
rangers are the old washington senator expansion team that had been formed in 1961, moved to texas in 1972, they were contenders, bush sent back money for governor and the next four years was the public head of the texas rangers, only 2% of stock, build a new stadium, basked in the glow of an improving baseball franchise. bush assisted in his father's election in 1992 but from a distance state in texas and when clinton won the election set his sights on running for governor of texas. jeb decided to run for governor of florida. bush was running against incumbent and richards in texas who was heavily favored.
in florida jeb was favored to defeat the democratic incumbent lawton giles but the election was upset, george won in texas, jeb lost in florida and from that point george became successor to his father. the second largest state in terms of area and the second largest in terms of population but the governor of texas has no executive authority. that reflects the post reconstruction constitution, 1876 which took power from the governor, the governor of texas is a symbolic figure a little like the queen of england. most political science dollars consider the texas governorship the weakest in the united states the governor of texas cannot even issue pardons, cannot even
issue pardons and that setting bush thrived. as a symbolic leader of texas he was overwhelmingly reelected in 1998, also built an effective political machine led by karl rove and karen hughes and was quietly exploring possibilities of running for president in 2000. bush announced his candidacy in june 1999, defeated john mccain in the primaries, was nominated almost unanimously at the republican convention. out gore was democratic nominee heavily favored to win the election. gore fumbled almost immediately when he chose lieberman who was the most conservative democrat in the senate as his running mate. ostentatiously snubbed will
clinton throughout the campaign and did poorly in the television debates with bush. the choice of lieberman and snubbing of clinton gave third-party candidate ralph nader an opening on the left, and he would pull 3 million votes in the election came down to florida. gore failed to carry 10 states that clinton had carried in the 1996 election, any one of which would put him over the top. the supreme court decided the election which became president and bush was superb as a politician seeking votes but he had no executive experience, little knowledge of international affairs, had really not traveled abroad. a short extension, short attention span, genuinely believed he was god's agent put
here on earth, with the exception of appointing colin powell as secretary of state, donald rumsfeld as secretary of defense and his friends as secretary of commerce, delegated the selection of his candidate and top federal officials to dick cheney and cloistered himself in the white house from texas, condoleezza rice as national security advisor and andy card as chief of staff. it is inconceivable franklin roosevelt would turn the selection of his cabinet to john garner or dwight eisenhower would have allowed nixon to do that especially after the scandal. as a result of cheney's input bush took office with a phalanx of subcabinet appointees who were powerfully motivated and already equipped to provide intellectual justification for the president's policy.
conservative outlook, and articulate, like-minded ideologues, scooter libby, paul wolfowitz, elliot abrams, cheney played an important role in bush's first two years, had an office in the white house, staff became part of white house staff, they were all white house staff. administration's position on energy, revision of the tax code in 2001 and after 9/11 the presidential directive to try al qaeda members by military commissions reflected cheney's input but over the years, initially bush devoted himself to domestic issues. the united states had run a budgetary surplus under clinton for the last three years, clinton applied the surplus reducing the national debt.
bush insisted the surplus money should be returned to the taxpayers, it is your money, he said frequently, and urging congress to elect one of the largest tax cut in american history and education reform, in this case no child left behind which congress also enacted. bush rarely touched foreign policy issues in his first month in office but when he did so it was with a determination to assert american supremacy. the clinton administration and south korea had worked since 1994 to bring north korea back to the family of nations, the united states and south korea provide economic assistance in return for which north korea would abandon its nuclear program. madeleine albright visited
pyongyang in december 2000. south korean president came to washington in march 2001, to put the final seal on the deal with north korea which was on the verge of renouncing nuclear weapons and signing a peace treaty, bush rejected the idea. this was not something that bubbled up from anyone in the white house. the north koreans were evil he believed which must be replaced, this was bush's personal decision. the attacks of 9/11 were a surprise, but really enforced bush's view of good versus evil. in many respects the attacks of 9/11 were a defining moment in american history. by conflating the attacks with saddam hussein bush led the united states into a $3 trillion war in iraq, promulgated doctrine of preventive war,
alienated most american allies, weakened its alliances and inspire young muslims throughout the world to join the jihad. domestically the hysteria released -- unleashed by the bush administration undermined civil liberty, eroded the rule of law and tarnished the respect of traditional american values, i am the war president bush once boasted and on september 12th he assumed total responsibility and total authority is the nation's commander-in-chief. that morning cheney offered to lead a group of cabinet officers, bush rejected the offer. this is a job for the commander-in-chief and cannot be delegated. rather than treat the events of 9/11 as isolated incidents, rather than handle them through the political process bush
depicted them as acts of war by the forces of evil. i won't go into bush's assault on american civil liberties. i devote two chapters to nsa spying, the record is clear. bush genuinely believed he was fighting the forces of satan and as a result, no holds were barred, whether it is enhanced interrogation techniques, extraordinary rendition or intercept private communications in the united states, bush thought he was god's agent in the fight to the world of evil. let me say a few words about the war in iraq. from the beginning bush was determined to remove saddam hussein, the intervention in afghanistan was simply warmongering. bush instructed the department
of defense to prepare to invade iraq and ignored the findings of un weapons inspectors that saddam had no weapons of mass destruction. planning for the invasion began in 2002 and the military assumed the purpose was to remove saddam hussein, destroy whatever weapons of mass destruction might be found and leave iraq as soon as possible. rumsfeld and general franks believed 90 days should be sufficient and that is what the military planned for. the invasion took place, the search for military weapons began and the military began to withdraw leaving it to the military to work things out. as the state department and the defense department thought, iraq had been liberated and it was up
to the iraqis to do it on their own. the ba'ath party remained in control, the iraqi army remained in police and senior leadership council established by general jay garner developing plans for the newest governments, and iraq affecting state, speaking on the flight deck of the abraham lincoln lincoln under a banner that read mission accomplished bush said the purpose of the invasion was to bring democracy to iraq. forces would remain until that was accomplished. bush changed the mission without consulting anyone. the decision was unilateral. instead of liberators the army would become occupiers and bring democracy to iraq. rumsfeld, franks, powell,
dumbfounded by this change, acquiesced and in retrospect should not have done so. let me digress to explain the difference between being liberators and occupiers. liberators set a country free. occupiers impose their will. in world war ii franklin roosevelt didn't want to be bothered governing occupied france so instead over roosevelt's vigorous objections, brought from north africa, six days after d-day it ended in the free french took over the government of liberated france. the united states, reddish and canadian troops moved ahead without regard for what was happening in france, when they crossed into germany germany became occupied, the government
was disbanded and the allies took control. france was liberated, germany was occupied. an important distinction. as for iraq the state department and all military assumed they were liberating iraq from saddam. and the flight deck of the abraham lincoln bush unilaterally changed direction, coalition forces became occupiers and it was downhill from there. paul brehmer was appointed to head the occupation as the president's representatives. the bathurst -- the ba'ath party was disbanded, brehmer reported to the white house, not the defense department of the state department, coalition forces in many respects became the enemy. bush morsel responsibility to
that decision. we all saw the photos of the atrocities that were committed. what we did not know at the time, what we did not know at the time was military police on duty in the prison were not acting on their own. they were not hillbillies, they had been urged by the cia and military intelligence to abuse the prisoners before they were interrogated, to set them up to confess the interrogation that would follow. four subsequent military investigations, the first by major general antonio documented clearly the outrages we saw were deliberate effort to break the
will of the prisoners before they were interrogated. by 2006 bush became deeply distressed about the situation in iraq, authorize the surge to regain the initiative, and found general david petraeus to command. general david petraeus is an interesting figure, the army passed him over for promotion for major general to lieutenant general in 2003 among other things because they thought he was too ambitious, he was ranked by donald rumsfeld's recommendation to george w. bush who promoted him and his career took off, he was indeed ambitious. i shouldn't say this with so many of my classmates here but when he was head of the cia a group of princeton alumni wanted him to become president of princeton. and seek the republican
nomination in 2016. maybe they were right. just as eisenhower had done when he was president of columbia, that effort failed when general david petraeus's affair with paula broadwell became public and the obama administration cut off his head. the surge in iraq helped but wasn't the decisive factor and a number of other factors that were more important, the and bar awakening in which the sunni leadership decided they wanted no part of the isis leadership, a decision of a shiite cleric to disband his army which he ran told him to do but by the end of 2007, a semblance of order had been achieved and in 2008 before
he left office bush went to baghdad to sign an agreement for the withdrawal of american forces from iraq by the end of 2011. that was when a disgruntled iraqi took off his shoes and through them. bush's decision to invade iraq was the worst foreign policy decision ever made by an american president. if anyone can think of anything worse, please let me know. that doesn't mean bush was america's worst president. herbert hoover is probably that. bush did well domestically as president, no child left behind has been a valuable contribution to the educational program particularly children from disadvantaged families. the amendment of medicare to provide prescription drugs to
seniors, remarkable achievement, bush also took the lead in the global fight against aids, particularly in africa and under his leadership the disease to some degree was brought under control. bush remains active in the fight, also expanded american free trade and had free trade agreements with israel, canada and mexico and 16 countries, bush also concluded an agreement with larry boudin in his early term to reduce a nuclear arsenal each country maintains and improved relations with china. bush's most important achievement was to contain the economic meltdown in 2008. against all of his instincts, and deeply held belief he bailed out wall street and the american auto industry and avoided
another great depression. unlike the war in iraq, the fight against terrorists, this time bush listened to his advisors. hank paulson, secretary of the treasury and been pretty at the federal reserve carved out a strategy of support and bush adopted it. from bailing out some prime mortgage lenders and insurance conglomerates to rescuing the market itself with a massive troubled asset relief program, bush deserves credit for taking necessary actions, it was a remarkable achievement that saved the world's economy and when they failed to rescue lehman brothers it was paulson more than bush. i haven't said anything about bush's personal life, let me be very brief, he was always an early riser, got up at 4:35 in the morning, goes to bed shortly
before 10:00, physical fitness buff, exercises two hours a day in the white house jim, but wasn't a dodgy old man, he wanted short prescriptions, brief minutes. he and laura were close, the white house kept entertaining to a minimum. i have not said anything about laura, she was a major source of support for the president, took her response ability seriously and did not seek the limelight. and provided great comfort. paul saar baines, long serving us senator from maryland and staunch democrat thought laura was the best first lady he had ever met as paul became a member of congress when pat nixon was first lady. as ex-president bush has been
exemplary. unlike most of his predecessors he doesn't miss the office, doesn't try to second-guess obama. after the election after obama was sworn in bush told friends in dallas, free at last. in many respects he is a model of what an ex-president should be. i don't think george bush is america's worst president but i think his decision to attack iraq is the worst foreign policy decision ever made by an american president and it gets worse as time goes on. thanks very much. [applause] please. >> thank you very much for your time. your presentation is quite timely with the report in the uk
today. the question i have is you seem to present an individual who may be unqualified for the position of president and i noticed two historical points that might have changed the force of history, george w. bush was selected over john mccain, that would have changed history and secondly al gore's brush off of bill clinton in the democratic race as well. the question i have is as a historian looking back, what lessons in your work do you find that we can learn as far as picking qualified leaders in the 2016 election?
>> g. i am not sure. i don't think that is a question i can easily answer and if you don't mind -- >> one question. moore's berman in his book george w. bush's drinking, mentioned he stopped drinking but didn't take the steps necessary to grow up. seriously, i look around and think i have treated alcoholics who are running around unimpaired and still thinking and acting on impulse and doing all sorts of stuff. on the abraham lincoln, sort of like getting up in front of the mic and saying i know what you need, let's do this, asking if you have any reflections? >> that is interesting, i didn't know that but i think you are
absolutely right. >> i am a college student in the washington dc area and several years ago a few years ago i read your biography -- are you able -- several years ago i read your biography of president eisenhower which is one of the most interesting and meaningful books, one of the most interesting and meaningful books i have read. my question is as follows. i know for example i read for example that you served in berlin in the us military. would you say you had any situations in the context of writing biographies and if you had any such experience what were they and how are they
helpful? >> my military experience? >> i lived next door to norman schwarzkopf or two years. it goes back to my child in washington dc. my grandmother always read biographies, i have always been interested when i was a graduate student in columbia before i took my orals the chairman of the department wanted me -- he said there are a lot of biographies here. i followed it here. thank you. >> just to pick up on the last question, how do you see bush in
light of eisenhower's legacy, how would eisenhower have set bush's record in light of what is going on in the republican party, how do you see eisenhower dealing with that? >> on the first question don't forget eisenhower was elected on a promise to win the war in korea and went to korea and came back and immediately made peace and the united states for the remaining eight years of eisenhower's term, eisenhower had seen war firsthand and didn't want to get back into one. when eisenhower won the nomination in 1952 eisenhower represented the liberal wing of the republican party and the next day, maybe longer than that, the liberal wing of the republican party dominated. taft was the candidate of the
conservative wing of the party and he lost. eisenhower had no use for him. i don't think it is well-known but eisenhower, behind the scenes, conducted the operation against joe mccarthy, eisenhower picked nathan welsh to be the council in those hearings. thank you. >> rather than restoring civil liberties, why do you think it is democrats and politicians continued in this, brought our country to the point where jimmy carter call it oligarchy. >> i don't know. the republican party leadership and republican party generally is further to the right, 40 or
50 years ago, and this view comes naturally. i am not sure of that but i think it is possible. >> democrats have acted more like republicans except for social issues also. the money in politics is another thing. >> the whole spectrum has moved to the right. thank you. >> i have read your biography of fdr. i thought it was first rate. i would like to say we americans are fortunate that a canadian scholar will tackle so many of the questions in american history. i look forward to reading this book. >> i have to confess when the university of toronto hired me in 1965 in the department of -- it was a large department, 100 some faculty members.
i was the first american onboard. i went there, they wanted to be there because they wanted me to teach american government. my entire exposure at the university of toronto i taught american government. >> your statement that this was the worst foreign policy decision ever made, i can't believe anyone here would not concur with that. it has unleashed the sunni/shia war, invited iran to the scene, my question is do you think it is fair to argue that we can really blame the iraq war largely for the arrival of isis? >> absolutely. so long as saddam hussein remained in power kept a lid on
the secular state at the time. he needed if you want to say it, his military, to keep the lid on. that is absolutely correct. i have been thinking is there another foreign policy decision that might outrank bush's decision to go to war in iraq and the only one i could come up with was harry truman's decision to drop the atomic weapon on hiroshima and nagasaki. that is the only thing i can think of. >> lbj's decision in vietnam? >> the point you made earlier in vietnam, there is no carryover, no isis, no war of terrorism and so forth came out of the vietnam
war is there in here, that is the distinction between the two. >> another question about colin powell. i wanted to ask your thoughts about colin powell, he is like a tragic hero. he might have a lot of remorse but his story -- there is light on his story. >> there is a good biography about colin powell written by the reported to the washington post and powell is a tragic figure. bush wanted him, his first cabinet appointee but he was quickly shut out by the white house and for four years.
>> this may be in your book. we may find out when you get to reading it, directly involved with bush's disastrous decision to disband the army of the ba'ath party, did bush give the order? >> bush did not give the order. brehmer gave the order. brehmer was instructed to bring democracy to iraq. when brehmer gave the order bush immediately approved. there was no tension. bush did not order -- >> so we have a few glancing mentions of the current nominee for president in the republican party. i have noticed, this is a bipartisan thing among democrats and republicans there tends to be a great deal of sympathy, or
renewed positive feeling towards george w. bush's presidency in wake of the current nominee. what do you think of that? >> really? [laughter] >> my dad, for instance, is an old-school democrat and things among his group of people he feels i will draw a parallel as an example. trump used his views on barring muslims entering our country versus george w. bush's repeated mentions that islam is a culture of peace and things like that. >> i am surprised at the belief that bush's reputation is improving. if you look at the report of the english investigation of bush
and blair it is not going to improve. simon & schuster wanted me to write an op-ed comparing bush and trump and i said no. [laughter] >> thank you for speaking. i was intrigued when i read in the review, he wasn't the worst president but going to iraq was the worst foreign policy and i got in mind what else was in the top 5. to flip the question, what are some of the best foreign policy decisions or the best? >> the best foreign policy? you have to go back to the roosevelt administration. eisenhower's decision to make
peace in korea. was a breakthrough. eisenhower was working very closely with khrushchev to improve relations and screwed it up when he sent powers over but the paris summit would have shortened the cold war by a great deal. back to the bush -- the roosevelt administration, you have to go back there. president lincoln's decision to maintain the union. >> thank you. >> i think you have a consensus thinking the iraq war under george bush was the worst foreign policy decision. how do you treat the war against afghanistan, which i think was
weakened and is still going on too. >> against afghanistan was weakened by bush's decision to go into iraq. i am going to take a minority position but i am not sure the war in afghanistan was necessary. you have got the accident that happened on 9/11, four planes were hijacked, three crashed into buildings. that is not a reason to go to war. you handle that as a legal issue, try it in the courts, find anyone who was involved but you don't go to war over something like that. i may be in a minority position but that is what i believe. >> bush welcomed the possibility that -- to be a war hero like his father. >> i'm not sure he welcomed it
but i am sure he responded to it, thank you. >> we have time for a couple more questions. >> richard clark suggested george bush would be tried as a war criminal. any comments on that? >> yes. i don't think presidents are guilty of war crimes. i think -- period. period. period. >> you give bush a lot of credit for handling the financial crisis. there was an hbo movie about it that persuade paulson and ben burning key and at the last minute, consult the white house. >> i think they did make policy but not at the last minute let's consult the white house. they knew they had to consult the white house and they did an extremely good job bringing bush
along which was contrary to all of bush's views. i also think bush realized he stubbed his toe earlier. and messed up the iraq thing. he was more inclined to listen to paulson. >> would you like to discuss the saudi arabia oil during the time of both bush wars? >> i'm not qualified to do that but you raised the question. it is an important consideration. i don't know the details sufficiently to give you an answer. [applause]
>> jean edward smith will be here signing books. [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] >> welcome to jackson, mississippi and booktv's live coverage of the mississippi book festival, now in its second year, the festival hosts the state capital throughout the day. he will hear from justin ward, krista sanders, trent lott, john