Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A long time ago, in an election far far away

First let me give a bit of explanation as to how I came across the subject matter for this post. Raw Story has excerpted a long portion of Bob Woodwards State of Denial. At the bottom of this excerpt Woodward details how Richard Armitage came to join the Bush team. When I read the following Bush quote my jaw fell into my lap. "I will defend the American people against missiles and terror," That was the statement by candidate George Bush at the Citadel September 23, 1999.

I copied those words and used the Google to look up that speech. The dichotomy of the Presidents statements as a candidate and his policies as President is absolutely breathtaking!

Here is Bush in 1999:
Building a durable peace will require strong alliances, expanding trade and confident diplomacy. It will require tough realism in our dealings with China and Russia. It will require firmness with regimes like North Korea and Iraq
I am certain that if then candidate Bush had been able to see the condition of American alliances exactly 2 years after giving this speech he would have been proud. Immediately after the attacks of 9/11 the international community stood with us in a monolithic wall of support. Just for a couple examples of this, there were candlelight vigils held on the streets of Tehran to show support for America. Frances Le Mond newspaper was headlined "We Are All Americans". FRANCE!!...you know the anti-American bastion of European obtuseness... It is this Presidents belligerence and bull headed refusal to listen to allies that has lead from the heights of international support two years after giving this speech at the Citadel, to the formerly unplumbed depths of international standing in which we find ourselves today. If only the President could have truly understood the value of his campaign rhetoric.

Besides the idea of building a durable peace when considered in 2006 is just a pleasant dream. Ahhh the idyllic days of 1999... We are in a long long war and we all know it. And this is thanks in no small part to the horrible policies of this administration.

The next statement from the Citadel speech to consider is the one mentioned in State of Denial: "I will defend the American people against missiles and terror." How sad is this promise, given just short of two years prior to the worst terrorist attack in the history of the planet. Two years before 9/11 we have more empty rhetoric by the President. If only he could have understood the absolutely critical duty he set for himself, would he have then ignored that duty? Maybe he would have called off his vacation when the daily briefing titled "Osama determined to strike inside the United States" was given to him. Maybe he would have instructed his team to pay attention to the threats rather than pooh poohing Richard Clarke and Clinton transition team as they raised the warnings to deafened ears. If only we could go back in time and impress upon the candidate the true importance of his rhetoric.

Here's a real laugher from then Candidate Bush:
A volunteer military has only two paths. It can lower its standards to fill its ranks. Or it can inspire the best and brightest to join and stay.
After you stop laughing at this quote, you can click here for the the Google page for "lower standards military recruitment". I think it's clear that the Presidents policies have hardly helped retain the best and brightest, unless you consider forcing them to stay via stop loss as some sort of great Presidential success in this regard.

Candidate Bush:
We will defend the American homeland by strengthening our intelligence community – focusing on human intelligence and the early detection of terrorist operations both here and abroad.
I am just struck by the absolute sadness of this. If only these grandiose sentiments had been acted upon in good faith the result would be a much more hopeful world than we see today. Accurate intelligence was not appreciated by this administration as they led us to needless war in Iraq. It is clear this war is disastrous to our cause in the war on terror. How positively maddening to see this empty rhetoric. I want to travel back in time and scream from the rooftops to make them see how important their failures to heed their own rhetoric will prove.

Let us consider one promise by Candidate Bush I wish he would have ignored:
Our military and our nation are entering another period of consequences - a time of rapid change and momentous choices.

As president, I will begin an immediate, comprehensive review of our military - the structure of its forces, the state of its strategy,
That's all fine and dandy as long as we do the reviewing and consider the consequences of all this neuvo military thinking. This technological mumbo jumbo satelite laser in the sky stuff isn't going to occupy a nation. The Powell doctrine (an overwhelming number of troops with specific missions) was more suited to the task at hand with the invasion of Iraq, but the President and Secretary Rumsfeld saw fit to try out their new fangled strategeries. They can't be made to see the folly of their plan so we find ourselves stuck in a quagmire they created, but can't be prevailed upon to do what it takes to get out of.

I wonder what other speeches from that campaign would look like with the benefit of hindsight? I well remember Candidate Bush promising and blustering about how America should not be nation building. I'm sure there are many more examples.

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