Ron Suskind says that he’s “not a Bush hater.” I have no idea why. I am, and I base my hatred in no small part on Suskind’s own reporting:
One morning in 2001, one of President Bush’s most senior economic advisors walked into the Oval Office for a meeting with the president. The day before, the advisor had learned that the president had decided to send out tax-rebate checks to stimulate the faltering economy. Concerned about deficits and the dubious stimulatory effect of such rebates, he had called the president’s chief of staff, Andy Card, to ask for the audience, and the meeting had been set.
As the man took his seat in the wing chair next to the president’s desk, he began to explain his problem with the president’s decision. The fact of the matter was that in this area of policy, this advisor was one of the experts, really top-drawer, and had been instrumental in devising some of the very language now used to discuss these concepts. He was convinced, he told Bush, that the president’s position would soon enough be seen as “bad policy.”
This, it seems, was the wrong thing to say to the president.
According to senior administration officials who learned of the encounter soon after it happened, President Bush looked at the man. “I don’t ever want to hear you use those words in my presence again,” he said.
“What words, Mr. President?”
“Bad policy,” President Bush said. “If I decide to do it, by definition it’s good policy. I thought you got that.”
The advisor was dismissed. The meeting was over.
Suskind is right to say that Bush isn’t a stupid man. But I can’t imagine why Suskind thinks that Bush isn’t a bad man. The Beloved Leader is a nasty piece of work: arrogant, proudly ignorant, profoundly attached to his prejudices, without compassion for anyone who isn’t one of his own. He ordered the torture of people some of whom, as he could easily have known, weren’t even enemies, but rather innocent victims.
Hitler? No. But Bush is more like James II (as Macaulay paints him) than any American President should ever be.