The Bush Files

A sampling of the day’s best independent news, views, and resources on US politics, keeping an eye on the Bush Administration. Updated each weekday.

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Sept. 29, 2001

Ill Cheney wanted to quit —
Some time before the Sept. 11 attacks, Vice President Dick Cheney told George W. Bush that he wanted to step down from his post because of his ill health, according to Counterpunch. Former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge, named last week to direct the White House’s new Homeland Security agency, was slated to be nominated as Cheney’s successor, according to a friend of Ridge’s.

Maybe they weren’t after Bush after all — Washington Post
In the days after the twin terror attacks, Bush administration officials explained that the president had spent much of Sept. 11 dashing from place to place not because he was afraid, but because of a specific telephone threat that terrorists were targetting him. In recent days, however, W.’s people have quietly admitted that there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that such a call ever came in.

Sept. 28, 2001

Watch what they don’t say — Jim Romenesko’s Media News
In response to the controversial remarks by “Politically Incorrect”‘s Bill Maher, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer lashed out with an ominous warning that “all Americans … need to watch what they say, watch what they do, and this is not a time for remarks like that; there never is.” But the White House Web site, which archives all White House press briefings, edited out the “watch what they say” comment. Recordings of the briefing on clearly reveal that Fleischer’s words are recounted accurately in the original AP report.

Fallout from Cheney interview continues — (New York Post)
Presidential aides were furious at the frank comments made by Dick Cheney on Meet the Press on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sept. 16. Senior staffers, including Karl Rove and Karen Hughes, felt that by intimating that he was essentially in charge at the White House immediately after the attacks and that Bush made decisions based solely on Cheney’s recommendations, the vice president reinforced perceptions that he, not Bush, is in fact in running the country.

White House still wary of Clinton’s shadow — Salon
When the White House got wind of Tom Brokaw’s interview with former President Bill Clinton, “senior communications staffers” reportedly inundated NBC NEWS with calls “expressing disappointment” with the network’s decision to focus on Clinton during a time when Bush should be in the spotlight. Salon’s Jake Tapper writes, “While not asking the network to refrain from running the interview, they expressed the feeling that the Sept. 18 interview with Clinton would not be helpful to the current war on terrorism.”

Sept. 27, 2001

Playing the dead cop card — New York Newsday
When George W. Bush held up the badge of a police officer who perished in the World Trade Center attacks, columnist Jimmy Breslin was reminded of a time when Bush’s father held up a dead cop’s badge — back in 1988, on a campaign stop at a high school. Bush Sr., who had been given the badge by a woman whose officer son had been killed in Jamaica, declared: “Dukakis wouldn’t understand the grief of a dead cop’s mother. This helps define the man I’m running against. He doesn’t understand police. I do.” Breslin was incensed then, and is perhaps even more so now at what he considers an attempt to use tragedy for political gain: “Bush the Younger departed from his valid attempt at loftiness in time of high danger and reverted to the cheap know-nothing who had brayed that he wanted this bin Laden dead or alive.”

What Bush got wrong — Jerusalem Post
George W. Bush got plenty of facts right in his speech last Thursday; the problem is what he got wrong, says Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum and former professor of strategy at the US Naval War College. Bush should have identified a discrete enemy — in this case, militant Islam — instead of using vague language like “terrorist groups,” recommends Pipes. The president was also wrong to dismiss the group Al-Qaida as a “fringe form of Islamic extremism” even though it enjoys widespread mainstream support in Muslim countries. Finally, he writes, Bush’s characterization of the US strategy against terrorism is poorly defined and in some cases inconsistent.

Sept. 26, 2001

News organizations back off recount —
We were all supposed to discover Monday, at long last, the results of a massive analysis of more than 200,000 disputed Florida ballots commissioned by a consortium of major news organizations. The results of the study — whose raw data were turned over to news organizations last week — were not made public as scheduled and, journalists involved with the project suggest, may not be released for some time. Some say it’s simply a matter of resources: With newsrooms scrambling to cover the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, there isn’t time to analyze the data. But some news executives also say they think criticizing the commander in chief — or worse yet, throwing into doubt the legitimacy of his presidency — is now inappropriate, irrelevant, and un-American.

Don’t read his lips — Business Week
When George W. Bush declared war on terrorism, he didn’t pull any punches. He pledged a campaign that “will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped, and defeated” and that the US would “rout out and defeat terorism” and “rid the world of evildoers.” But Business Week’s Howard Gleckman says indications are that the Bush Administration has no intention of actually making good on that pledge — or that it could, even if it wanted to. In fact, on Tuesday Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld clarified some of Bush’s remarks, saying that the administration’s goal is merely to reduce terrorism worldwide.

Sept. 25, 2001

Bush’s speech wasn’t all that — The Progressive
Few pundits stopped short of assigning Bush’s Thursday night speech the highest praise — some going so far as to say it was the finest presidential speech ever made. But Progressive Editor Matthew Rothschild called it “one of the most bellicose ever delivered. Macho in rhetoric, endless in scope, the speech will go down in history as a war whoop of folly,” writes Rothschild. He particularly criticizes Bush for using language that suggests an open-ended and ill-defined war conducted with powers pushed through Congress at a time of national crisis. Rothschild wasn’t alone; apparently numerous members of Congress in the audience Thursday were disturbed by some of Bush’s comments, especially those dealing with the possibility of using ground troops in Afghanistan.

President must reconsider Middle East policy– The Nation
Calls for retribution for the crimes of Sept. 11 dominate the statements emanating from the White House, writes Dilip Hiro, but if Bush really wants to protect the nation, he would be wise to revisit some of the administration’s policies — specifically “on the Israel-Palestine conflict, on economic sanctions against Iraq, on isolating Iran and on its stationing of US troops and military hardware on the Arabian Peninsula. That is the only sure way to prevent a recurrence of the September 11 tragedy.” (Christopher Hitchens, on the other hand, attacks such logic as “utterly rotten:” “It ought to go without saying that the demand for Palestinian self-determination is, as before, a good cause in its own right. Not now more than ever, but now as ever.”)


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