Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Decider



Hard to tell from this review in the New York Times how deep Days of Fire goes into the relationship between Bush and Cheney.  This appears to be the cornerstone of Peter Baker's 800+ page telling of the House of Bush.

David Frum's point that Bush was "his own man" is more likely his own than that of Baker, although he references a quote from the book made by a lifelong friend of Bush.  The consensus opinion is that Bush relied heavily on Cheney and Rumsfeld in his first term, but when things started to come undone in the second term, he reached out to other advisers, notably Condi Rice.  Cheney's deteriorating health no doubt contributed to this.  Rumsfeld was forced out of the administration, with Robert Gates coming in as the "clean-up" man.

I'm sure Peter Baker goes into all this in copious detail, which should make for an interesting read for those so inclined.  Baker covered the White House throughout the eight years, and had access to all the key participants including Bush and Cheney.  Frum credits Baker's "dispassionate" view of the administration.  Maybe that's a good thing, as the book might reach beyond the ideological divide.

41 comments:

  1. I have it on the way! I'll let you know.

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  2. Look forward to the review ; )

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  3. There's also another NYTimes review that I read that was much better than Frum's -- who obviously brings his own prejudices to it.

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    1. That was my feeling in reading the review, but if Baker is indeed "dispassionate" there is a greater chance that this book will be read by Republicans as well as Democrats, not that it will have much impact I imagine.

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  4. Here's an excerpt:

    www.nytimes.com/2013/10/13/magazine/the-final-insult-in-the-bush-cheney-marriage.html

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    1. As I understand the decision to can Rumsfeld came from outside, notably Pere Bush and James Baker, who wanted him replaced with Gates. Throughout his administration, one never gets the impression Bush made any decision on his own. He let others create the policies, which he essentially endorsed. I suppose after 6 years he could project greater control over his administration, but look at how it ended. Paulson and Bernanke set up TARP and pushed it forward with Bush begrudgingly accepting it, because there was no other way out of the awful crisis his administration generated.

      John Snow was pushed out in favor of Paulson in 2006 as well. Although you have to guess that Snow was little more than a front for business interests. Paulson the same for that matter, but at least Paulson had a better handle on the severity of the situation.

      There is no doubt that Cheney's influence ebbed considerably at this point. Two failing wars, a failing economy, Bush had to turn to others to guide him out of these manufactured crises, since he clearly lacked the wherewithal to make these decisions on his own. Hell, he couldn't even bring himself to fire someone, as noted in the excerpt. I just don't see Bush as his own man.

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  5. Not one of our shining moments as a country -- electing him twice and letting him and his "advisers" do such widespread damage at home and abroad.

    Rachel Maddow featured a part in the book that looked at his selection of Harriet Miers. Apparently the book reveals how unqualified she was -- didn't know even basic aspects of the law. But as I recall that was pretty clear from the beginning -- maybe just not the depth of her ignorance.

    I look forward to reading the book. He may have not been a puppet, but he sure wasn't his own man either. Maybe it really was Rove all along running the country.

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  6. There's a new "Game Change" coming out this week too.

    http://swampland.time.com/2013/11/01/double-down-book-excerpt-to-detail-romney-campaign-concerns-about-chris-christie/

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  7. An excerpt is up there now, too -- how can you resist code name "pufferfish":

    http://swampland.time.com/2013/11/02/the-hunt-for-pufferfish/

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  8. I get the feeling Christie is the Republican's Mario Cuomo.

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  9. Sounds like he has more than just his weight to worry about though. You have to give the Romney camp some credit -- they did their homework on him which is going to make it much easier for anyone running against him next time.

    Too bad it's probably too late for New Jersey. He's the one who refused to build the tunnel which would have been a great economic help for the state. And it sounds like he hasn't been very competent in handing out federal dollars to those who really need it after Sandy.

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  10. Christie likes to play both ends, which has served him well in New Jersey, deluding a whole lot of folks, but I don't think he would get out of the GOP primaries alive. This ideologically "pure" party brooks no compromises, and him hugging Obama will result in the same general disapproval as was the case with Charlie Crist. However, Crist seems to be ahead of Rick Scott in preliminary Florida governor polls.

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  11. Chris Hayes profiled some of the problems the state has had with Christie's handling of federal aid. He's either incompetent or crooked, or probably both.

    But he has a good act. I think he may have helped nudge Romney closer to the finish line since he really knows how to connect with people, something Romney will never be able to do. He also knows how to tell them where to get off, which people also seem to like.

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  12. I could see Christie doing well in a general election, but it is very hard for me to see him getting through the GOP primaries.

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  13. Let us hope. Because if he makes it to the general, he will be a formidable candidate. I heard that he and Clinton are the only two politicians with positive approval ratings right now.

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  14. Surprised Hillary is doing so given all the shit she went through on Benghazi. For some reason, I don't see her running in 2016.

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  15. She appears to be laying the foundation for a run. Personally I find her too hawkish, but I'm assuming I'll vote for her anyway. I do think she has the political skills to be a little more effective than Obama, and probably the willingness to cut some questionable deals -- although Obama has also done more of his share of those deals too.

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  16. I'll be reading all of these new books in the next month or two if any of them interest you. I loved Game Change. Couldn't put it down. But I'm a real politics junky these days.

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  17. I'm a political junky myself, but I don't care much for rehashed campaign trail mix and dubious speculations, unless it is in the form of humor.

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  18. I haven't read it yet other than the excerpt at Time, so can't comment, but I found Game Change extremely insightful.

    The downside to this kind of journalism is that there are no attributions, no footnotes, so you don't really know who was telling them what and, more to the point, why. But it seems like they really have excellent access to these people and my guess is most of what they report is true or close to true. The problem of course is which bits aren't true but were planted for political reasons although I also think they are well enough informed to know when they are being taken.

    I look forward to reading it.

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  19. Thompson had a good way of blending fact and fiction. The problem today is that these journalists pawn off everything they hear as true, so basically it feeds into your preconceived impression of whoever it is under the spotlight. I don't see much value in this other than as entertainment.

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  20. None of these strike me as a Thompson. All U.S. "news" is packaged as entertainment -- I noticed that when I moved back from London in the 1980s -- but other than the routine denials, no one has challenged the truth of these books.

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  21. I guess you would consider this a routine denial,

    Axelrod and Plouffe shoot down report of Biden-Clinton switch

    Read more: http://thehill.com//thehill.com/blogs/twitter-room/other-news/188978-axelrod-and-plouffe-shoot-down-report-of-clinton-biden-switch#ixzz2js85TvTP
    Follow us: @thehill on Twitter | TheHill on Facebook

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  22. That link didn't work for me but Bill Daley, who apparently was one of those who orchestrated the possibility, has admitted they looked at all possibilities. Remember at the time, it was believed that Obama was in trouble, so it was only natural that they explored all options to increase his chances. Whether Obama even knew of it is another question, but the people involved wouldn't have been doing their jobs if they hadn't considered it. Apparently they found the switch would have had little or no effect.

    I'm not sure why you would doubt something like that one.

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  23. There was certainly plenty of speculation, but the inner circle of his campaign staff didn't seem to entertain the idea, and Obama himself never even considered it.

    I question it because it makes no sense. It would have left Obama at the mercy of the Clintons, something I'm sure he had no interest in being. On top of that it would have sent a strong signal that he was deeply worried if he needed to reconsider his VP. Given the GOP crop that would have been quite an admission.

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  24. Or so they say now. We'll see what the books says.

    This is why I find these books so fascinating. It may be old news -- we know who won -- but I think they get pretty close to what really happened behind the curtain.

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  25. I remember all that fantasy election campaigning back in 2011-12. I think there was even one scenario where Obama stepped down for Hillary to run. These types of conjectures swirl around every campaign. It's fine to dig some of them up just for fun, like the time Hunter S. Thompson tied Ibogaine to Muskie to help explain Muskie's lapses on the campaign trail. Amazingly, many journalists thought this was true and ran with the story.

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  26. I hope you heard Obama's "denial."

    I think these journalists know what they are doing and aren't just Hunter Thompsoning their way through Washington on drugs. And why make things up when the truth is far more interesting?

    I still don't have the book, but should have it any day now.

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  27. Enjoy! I think I'll go with Collision.

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  28. If not else the authors have firmly planted this story in the media echo chamber.

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  29. As This Town demonstrates, that story is already such old news.

    I know you are not inclined to be convinced, but here's a good overview of how they conduct their interviews. They write to sell books, but they do get behind the scenes and get people to talk.

    And to your point, Heilemann clearly admires Thompson but they do not work like he did. One staffer refers to it as a deposition:

    http://www.newrepublic.com/article/115515/double-down-scoops-how-john-heilemann-and-mark-halperin-learn-secrets

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  30. I imagine he doesn't, av, but Thompson was truly unique. What I'm saying is that if they took a more humorous approach with this campaign trail mix it would be more fun to read. You see all these speculations on television and the Internet 24/7. For me it just gets tiresome. It's like they just package their op/eds into a book. Granted, Thompson would do the same. I believe his Campaign Trail '72 book was first serialized in the Rolling Stone, but there is such a wit as well as insight to the book that appears sorely lacking in today's accounts. All we get is pretty much a rehashing with a little idle speculation thrown in to make it mildly intriguing. These guys obviously know the routine.

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  31. I'd try This Town, then. It is laugh out loud funny and doesn't even try to be objective, although he is (or once was) a legitimate journalist. After reading the book I couldn't help but think he'd never work in "this town" again.

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  32. Here's another you might like:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/11/09/a-game-changer-for-campaign-reporting/

    I won't be able to get to this one -- probably more data than I can handle in any event -- but am enjoying reading the others. Collision is extremely well written.

    Also having a hard time putting down Detroit by LeDuff. Quite a story.

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  33. From the reviews, Collision looks like the best of the lot. Well researched and well written.

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  34. More news on the decider ....

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/andrewbrown/2013/nov/14/george-w-bush-speech-messianic-judaism

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    1. Yea, I saw this in the news. I wonder why GW would attach himself to an organization like this. The Mormons still go around "saving" Jews buried in their graves. It really is appalling how these Evangelicals can't give anyone any rest.

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  35. Two weeks after 9-11, Rumsfeld wrote in his notebook:

    Interesting day—
    NSC mtg. with President—
    As [it] ended he asked to see me alone…
    After the meeting ended I went to Oval Office—He was alone
    He was at his desk—
    He talked about the meet
    Then he said I want you to develop a plan to invade Ir[aq]. Do it outside the normal channels. Do it creatively so we don’t have to take so much cover [?]

    http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2013/dec/19/rumsfelds-war-and-its-consequences-now/

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  36. Nice way to cover his own ass. You have to figure Bush, Cheney and Rummy arrived at this decision together.

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  37. That Danner article/review is the first in a series. I'm looking forward to reading it. Also want to read the Days of Fire book.

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