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Tag Archives: George W. Bush

The Dissing of America: Our enemies and rivals show no respect

As President Obama was traversing Alaska last week sounding the alarm about the theoretical consequences of global warming, a more concrete threat loomed just off the coast, in the Bering Sea.

Five Chinese naval ships suddenly materialized and were cruising about, symbols of China’s growing military might and its challenge to America’s naval hegemony in the Pacific.

That Chinese warships had appeared on U.S. radar in the Bering for the first time ever during a rare Obama visit to Alaska could be no coincidence. It was an obvious challenge to the president, and to be sure, an unmistakable sign of disrespect.

Meantime, halfway around the world, Russian President Vladimir Putin was toying with sending troops into Syria. Iran, which had just signed a nuclear deal with the United States, was continuing its rhetoric of open contempt for its new “partner.”

America’s enemies and rivals seem to have little fear with Obama at the helm. Would such derision, particularly by the Chinese, be offered up were Ronald Reagan president? Or even George W. Bush?

Obama boats

Obama’s naive policy of “outreach,” his grave affliction with indecision, and his ardent commitment to tentative half-measures have earned him the disrespect of the rest of the world.

Overseas, jackals reign in a Darwinian struggle for power and survival. They have a finely tuned nose for weakness, and with Obama, they sense it in abundance.

The problem is not so much that Obama refuses to launch the kind of military engagements Bush did. It is that he fails to understand the symbols of power and dithers instead of acting.

Obama didn’t do the wrong thing in Syria. He did nothing, refusing to decide whether to arm the Syrian rebels.

At the same time, he withdrew all U.S. troops from Iraq and crowed about it on the campaign trail in 2012. The result of his Syria and Iraq policies was opportunity knocking for extremists in the absence of U.S. policy, and the rise of ISIS.

In Libya, Obama “led from behind” and then abandoned the scene once Qaddafi had been removed, resulting in anarchy exploited by Islamists. He drew a red line in Syria and then backed away. He set a deadline for ending the war in Afghanistan, win or lose. He demanded that Iran dismantle its nuclear infrastructure, only to reach an agreement that permits Iran to develop nuclear weapons in 15 years.

He abandoned a stalwart ally, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, and expressed optimism as the radical Islamist Egyptian Brotherhood seized power. Soon, he quietly acquiesced as the Egyptian generals took power back and slaughtered and imprisoned their opponents.

These are only a few of the exhibits in the Obama gallery of indecisiveness and timidity. Pair all this with the incessant golf, the long, luxurious vacations, and the indulgent White House parties, and America’s enemies know they are not dealing with a serious opponent.

Ronald Reagan understood that he had to be perceived as unrelenting, and it was this that allowed him to win the Cold War without firing a shot.

One of the most significant foreign policy decisions of his presidency was made on the domestic front, when Reagan opted in 1981 to fire most of the illegally striking air traffic controllers. The Soviet politburo took notice and understood that they were dealing with a resolute force.

It was Reagan’s same stubborn conviction not to abandon his anti-missile defense program, even as the initiative was ridiculed as “Star Wars” by the left and in the press, that made the Soviets realize they could not compete with American power on an equal footing, hastening the dissolution of their empire.

Bush’s invasion of Iraq in 2003 is still debated today. But his resolve is not, and the flexing of American might caused the Libyans to abandon their nuclear aspirations and may have helped keep a temporary lid on the Iranian nuclear arms program. After all, why invite trouble?

Nobody fears trouble from Obama, least of all the Iranians, who will have their nuclear arsenal, obtain billions of dollars that had been frozen overseas, and keep the American hostages they have taken.

And not the Chinese either, who will send their warships close to American shores and grow their power in the Pacific, knowing the worst they have to fear is a lecture from the president.

This piece was first published in Polizette.

Combine and Conquer: Candidates Link Bush Brothers to Bring Down Jeb

Republican candidates are beginning to target the presidency of George W. Bush, viewing it as an Achilles’ heel for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush even though they are attacking the most recent chief executive from their own party.

This week, both Carly Fiorina and Ohio Gov. John Kasich suggested massive failures on the part of the older Bush brother during his presidency, seeking to diminish Jeb by degrading the Bush brand. The tactic had been expected to be deployed by Democrats if Jeb got the nomination, but Republican candidates clearly think the GOP base will not recoil from attacks on a president whose conservatives bona fides were always suspect.

The strategy is consistent with the burgeoning effort by Republican candidates, led by Donald Trump, to bring Jeb Bush down before his polls rise to levels commensurate with his massive fundraising.

Appearing on “The Laura Ingraham Show” Wednesday, Carly Fiorina said the 2008 financial meltdown occurred because quasi-government lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac churned out high-risk loans to borrowers who could not afford to make their mortgage payments. Wall Street investors bought up that “paper” and re-sold it, she said, adding that then-President George W. Bush, along with leaders of both parties, supported those policies.



“He certainly was contributory … President Bush said that American home ownership is part of the American dream, and therefore Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac should keep doing what they’re doing,” she said. “This is what happens when government decides, for political purposes, that it’s going to get engaged in a marketplace. Bad things happen.”

Fiorina’s criticism of the Bush legacy comes on the heels of similar comments made Tuesday by Ohio Gov. John Kasich in an interview, also on “The Laura Ingraham Show.”

Kasich pointed to the reversal of the balanced federal budgets that Kasich helped craft as then-chairman of the House Budget Committee

“How ’bout the first term when they blew the $5 trillion surplus that we all created and spent it all away?” Kasich asked in response to a question about whether he found fault with the policies of the Bush administration.

Fiorina contrasted the Bush record with the philosophy of Ronald Reagan.

“Reagan was a leader who understood that you must confront adversaries in a real and serious way,” she said.

That has not happened in the arena of international trade, according to Fiorina. She said China agreed to a set of rules in exchange for entry into the World Trade Organization.

“They haven’t lived up to any of them and there have been no consequences for their bad behavior, neither under Republicans or Democrats,” she said.

Kasich also invoked Reagan, suggested he would return to the GOP policies that preceded George W. Bush.

Kasich recalled that he ran on the conservative policies of Reagan in 1982 and won, despite the rough election year for Republicans. “I ran on the Reagan philosophy, and I was the only Republican to defeat an incumbent that year,” he said.

Fiorina homed in on the suspicion that many conservatives have about the Bushes: that in their hearts, they are big government conservatives — heirs to the Nelson Rockefeller wing of the party who mouth the free market conservatism of Ronald Reagan but don’t really have it in their blood.

Fiorina said his strong support of Common Core highlights his blinders to the dangers of concentrated power.

“I think Jeb Bush has more faith in the power of government than I do. I think bureaucracies always get out of control,” said Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard. “So the name of the game is to reduce their scope, their power, their cost, their complexity, move as much of the decision-making and funding out of Washington and into the states. I think Jeb Bush and I fundamentally disagree on that.”

Fiorina said she is bracing for attacks from the Bush campaign if her poll numbers continue to rise.

“They may come after me, but they will not destroy me,” she said. “I am very proud of my record. I’m not perfect. But I have nothing to hide.”

Fiorina also took issue with frontrunner Donald Trump, whom she accused of inconsistencies on immigration. She noted that he criticized 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney’s “self-deportation” of illegal immigrants and voiced support for amnesty.

“I have a very different record than Donald Trump,” she said.

This piece first appeared on Polizette. Reporter Brendan Kirby contributed to it.

How Obama Lost Iraq and Allowed ISIS to Bloom

President Obama is playing his customary Blame Bush card, trying to heave the Iraq catastrophe, featuring the ISIS caliphate, onto his predecessor.

“ISIL is a direct outgrowth of al Qaeda in Iraq that grew out of our invasion,” Obama said in an interview with VICE News released Monday. “Which is an example of unintended consequences. Which is why we should generally aim before we shoot.”

I suppose, if you try hard enough, you can find a way to blame the British or the Ottomans for ISIS. But the fact is that Obama was handed a stable Iraq by George W. Bush, who had real reasons to go into country, including what everyone thought was accurate intelligence that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction.

A piece in the November/December issue of Foreign Affairs by Rick Brennan, a senior civilian adviser to the U.S. military in Iraq from 2006 through the end of 2011, lays out exactly what happened. It makes several things clear:

  • The failure of the Iraqis to secure their country absent U.S. troops was predicted;
  • Obama did not seek to keep nearly the number of U.S. troops in Iraq his commanders requested;
  • The excuse that a status of forces agreement was not reached because U.S. troops would have been subject to Iraqi law is a canard. In fact, U.S. forces operating in Iraq today have less legal protection than they would have under a deal Obama could have struck in 2011 with then-Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki.

Let’s walk through the argument together.

The 2008 agreements negotiated by the Bush administration with the Iraqis called for U.S. troops to leave Iraq by the end of 2011. The deal was the best Bush could get at the time and was always intended to be renegotiated, which is exactly what Obama was supposedly trying to do.

Military planners believed about 24,000 troops would need to remain in Iraq to maintain the peace, which had been achieved with enormous U.S. blood and treasure, and to continue to prepare Iraq to secure the the place on its own.

Otherwise, disaster would engulf the country. Al Qaeda in Iraq, which had been defeated, was nevertheless licking its wounds in Syria and rebranding itself. It could return. Withdrawal by the United States would also provide an opening for Iran in Iraq.

Brennan writes:

The military planners’ scorecard made one thing perfectly clear: by 2011, enough information was available to conclude that absent a significant U.S. military presence, within a few years, the situation in Iraq was likely to deteriorate — perhaps irreversibly.

The Iraqi military, for example, was still three to five years away from being able to independently sustain the gains made during the past four years.

All of this turned out to be correct. ISIS was not specifically seen, though with substantial U.S. troops in Iraq, it likely would have been noticed:

Had a residual U.S. force stayed in Iraq after 2011, the United States would have had far greater insight into the growing threat posed by ISIS and could have helped the Iraqis stop the group from taking so much territory. Instead, ISIS’ march across northern Iraq took Washington almost completely by surprise.

Obama was having none of it.

In April (2011), Obama directed (U.S. forces in Iraq commander General Lloyd) Austin to develop a plan that would result in a residual force of just 8,000 to 10,000 troops and to identify the missions that a force of that size could realistically accomplish.

In August, according to (then-U.S. ambassador to Iraq James) Jeffrey, Obama informed him that he was free to start negotiations with the Iraqis to keep 5,000 U.S. service members in Iraq: 3,500 combat troops who would be stationed on yearlong tours of duty and 1,500 special operations forces who would rotate in and out every four months.

As we know, Obama reached no deal for a continued U.S. troop presence. The president blamed the prospect of Iraqi legal purview over U.S. forces serving in the country.

Let’s talk about this.

Few realize that this would have simply maintained the status quo, which Bush had felt worth the risk when compared to squandering all our gains:

Washington had to drop its insistence that U.S. forces enjoy complete immunity from Iraqi law. Instead, in somewhat ambiguous terms, the agreement gave Iraqi authorities legal jurisdiction over cases in which U.S. service members were accused of committing serious, premeditated felonies while off duty and away from U.S. facilities.

In his memoir, Duty, published earlier this year, former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates revealed that Pentagon lawyers (during Bush’s negotiations with Iraq) strongly opposed the compromise. But Gates explains that he believed it was worth the risk if it meant that U.S. forces could stay in Iraq past 2008. Commanders in the field were also comfortable with the compromise; after all, since members of the U.S. armed forces are on duty 24 hours a day and are not permitted to leave their bases unless on a mission, there was little chance that an American marine or soldier would ever wind up in the hands of Iraqi authorities.

Here’s how the end game played out for Obama on the issue:

In early September (2011), U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns visited Iraq to press Maliki on both those issues. According to a former administration official familiar with what happened during the meeting, Maliki told Burns that although he could likely persuade Iraq’s parliament to request a residual force, anyone who believed that the parliament would approve a status-of-forces agreement that included complete immunity did not understand Iraqi politics. Instead, Maliki proposed signing an executive memorandum granting immunity without the need to gain parliamentary approval. White House lawyers rejected that offer, arguing that for any such agreement to be legally binding, it would have to be formally ratified by the Iraqi parliament.

In early October, as Maliki had predicted, the parliament approved the request for an extended U.S. military presence but declined to grant legal immunity to U.S. military personnel. Later that month, Obama told Maliki that all U.S. troops would leave Iraq by the end of 2011, in fulfillment of the terms of the agreement signed by the Bush administration in 2008.

The compromise offered by Maliki, Brennan writes, would have involved some risk for American service members. But not unacceptable risk:

In the nearly three years since Bush had agreed to a similar compromise, no U.S. service member or civilian official stationed in Iraq had been charged with violating an Iraqi law.

As noted above, U.S. commanders were comfortable with the legal exposure negotiated by Bush. And let’s be honest. Would the Iraqis really risk ending U.S. assistance by imprisoning a U.S. service member? And is the risk of imprisonment in Iraq really worse than the risk of death, which is implicit in any U.S. deployment?

If you want to understand how disingenuous this all was, note what Brennan writes:

It is also worth pointing out that the U.S. military personnel stationed in Iraq today count on a promise of immunity backed only by a diplomatic note signed by the Iraqi foreign minister — an assurance even less solid than the one Maliki offered (and Obama rejected) in 2011.

Get it? With catastrophe imminent by 2014, Obama actually took a lesser deal on immunity. So how big a issue would this have been in 2011 if Obama had been able to wrap his mind around the awesomeness of mistake he was making then?

Obama fist bump troops

If Obama was so concerned about reaching a deal to keep troops in Iraq, why did he make their complete withdrawal into a celebration, using the “I ended the war” claim as a central plank of his reelection campaign. This provides clear proof that Obama wasn’t serious about the negotiations to begin with.

In one of the bravest moves by a commander in chief in U.S. history, Bush ignored all the conventional wisdom and, with his faith in the skill and bravery of our armed forces, ordered the surge in Iraq that won the war.

Obama turned around and lost the war. Those are the facts that Obama, and all of us, now have to live with.

Bush Criticizes Obama: I Would Have Kept Troops in Iraq

Former President George W. Bush today gave a rare TV interview and, in what may be an unprecedented step, directly criticized President Obama.

Bush, who was being interviewed at a golf tournament for wounded warriors by Brian Kilmeade of Fox News, said he agreed with an assessment by Obama’s military advisors that a serious, though not vast, contingent of troops should remain in Iraq.

Bush was reluctant, saying repeatedly that he didn’t want to “second guess” Obama – and then going ahead and second guessing him. Because it must really rankle Bush, particularly sitting amongst these wounded warriors, to know that Obama utterly squandered the victory in Iraq that Bush handed him.

Kilmeade asked Bush about an assessment by Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey that 10,000-15,000 troops should remain in Iraq.

From the interview:

The president has to make the choices he thinks are important. I’m not going to second guess our president. I understand how tough the job is. To have a former president bloviating and second-guessing is, I don’t think, good for the presidency or the country . . . But I agreed with General Dempseys’ assessment.

Bush also said Obama doesn’t rely on him for advice, which demonstrates not only Obama’s contempt for Bush, but his hubris and poor judgement too. Not to be calling the men who held this unique job is irresponsible. I doubt Obama solicits much advice, other than maybe on political matters, from Bill Clinton either.

“He has not [called] on a regular basis, which is OK. It doesn’t hurt my feelings. It’s a decision he has made. Presidents tend to rely on the people they’re close to … and I understand that

Here’s the entire interview, in case you’d like to see it.

Obama Revives Charge Bush Administration Tortured

President Obama today said the United States tortured people in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, saying that while he understood the emotion that drove the practice, it was nevertheless unequivocally wrong.

Obama spoke today during an impromptu press conference at the White House. “We tortured some folks,” Obama said during a long answer to a question not directly concerning the response to 9/11.

Obama has previously referred to water boarding, which was practiced following 9/11, as torture. And in May 2013 he said that “I believe” that the United States “compromised our basic values — by using torture to interrogate our enemies.”

But it is not clear he has made the charge as directly and unequivocally as he did today. Obama did not this time say specifically which practice he was referring to.

Bush administration officials have acknowledged that the practices were harsh, but say they stopped short of torture.

Bush Booed During Mandela Memorial

A sterling example of the maxim, no good deed goes unpunished. Former President George W. Bush was booed when he appeared on the video monitor at today’s memorial for Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg, South Africa, according to the White House pool report, which cited local press outlets. Meanwhile, when the images President Obama and Michelle… Continue Reading

Obama: “All I Care About Right Now is Governing”

Speaking at his 18th fundraiser of the year, President Obama Wednesday evening declared without apparent irony that governing the nation is his sole priority. “Now, I’ve run my last campaign — and Michelle is very happy about that,” Obama said to laughter from well-heeled donors who had assembled at the Miami Beach residence of philanthropist… Continue Reading