Bush and the Lauer Interview

In Uncategorized on November 15, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Former president George W. Bush recently gave a wide-ranging interview with Matt Lauer in support of his book, Decision Points. The interview is an unusual opportunity to get a fresh look at Bush, and I’d recommend you watch it in full before reading my take on it. My take: I came away with a reinforced understanding of Bush as a good man, tragically unequipped to be president in part because of a fundamental innocence and susceptibility to manipulation.

The interview yields a clear picture of Bush as a man with strong visceral experiences: he repeatedly describes—or actually demonstrates—nearly being overwhelmed by strong emotions. Then he recounts how at one point Dick Cheney asked him, about Saddam Hussein, “Are you gonna take care of this guy or not?” Bush describes his relationship with Cheney as “very frank,” and says Cheney’s urgings “didn’t matter” because “I am the guy who makes the decisions.” But it seems clear that Cheney was not simply “frankly” expressing a view: he was in fact manipulating Bush with a carefully phrased emotional appeal. The decision to invade Iraq was Bush’s, but Cheney knew exactly what buttons to push to influence that decision. Similarly, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld would emblazon White House military reports with bellicose Bible quotes. Bush still does not appear to understand the degree to which his advisors shaped his behavior during his time in office, or the methods they used.

The day after his interview with Matt Lauer aired, Bush sat down with Rush Limbaugh. In the interview, Bush repeatedly indicates his wish to avoid seeming divisive; but by the end, he appears to accede to Rush’s view that “the Democrats simply want… to register [illegal immigrants] as new Democrat voters.” Again, Bush seems not to understand the game being played. Such a sad story. Let us pray for the souls of innocents in power, of the people they govern, and (perhaps especially) of the people who manipulate them.


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