Bush Grasp of Reality Tenuous

Farideh Farhi, at our group blog, Global Affairs, says she listened to Bush’s press conference on Tuesday — which was full of implausible statements — and now wants to know what George W. Bush has been smoking. Uh, I don’t think that substance is typically smoked so much as snorted. Or maybe his current favorite is just a stong bottle of beer.

The Los Angeles Times notes a controversy over what the president knew and when he knew it:

‘ Seven weeks ago, Bush said that in the interest of “avoiding World War III” Iran should be prevented from gaining the knowledge needed to make a nuclear weapon. That was roughly two months after J. Michael McConnell, the director of national intelligence, reported to Bush that he had “some new information” about Iran.

“He didn’t tell me what the information was; he did tell me it was going to take awhile to analyze,” the president said. He said he was not briefed on the report until last week, and that in the interim no one had suggested that he tone down his language.

Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, expressed incredulity that Bush, “who gets briefed every morning, who is fixated on Iran,” had not sought details of the new assessment after learning of it in August.

“I can’t believe that,” he said in a phone call with reporters. ‘

Washington insiders say that Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell would certainly have been kept in the loop by the analysts producing this NIE. McConnell briefs Bush and said this summer he had new evidence coming in.

At his press conference Bush reverted to his old ploy of declaring people and things dangerous even when there is no objective measure of such things. He used to say that Saddam Hussein had been “dangerous” even when it was discovered that Saddam had no chemical, biological or nuclear research facilities. Now Iran is intrinsically dangerous, regardless of whether it has a weapons program or not. Does anyone still believe this sort of essentializing and fear-mongering?

Bush’s circle is like a medieval court with scheming courtiers. His subordinates apparently routinely do things that he doesn’t (and the other courtiers don’t) know about until later. Take for instance when then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld ordered the Iraqi army dissolved, with Bush only discovering it afterwards.

My guess is that Admiral William J. Fallon, the CENTCOM commander now, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, may well have cooperated with figures in the intelligence world to get this report written and some of it released, especially since Congress had mandated that it be completed and its findings conveyed to them by a date certain.

Gareth Porter reported that

‘A source who met privately with Fallon around the time of his confirmation hearing and who insists on anonymity quoted Fallon as saying that an attack on Iran “will not happen on my watch”. Asked how he could be sure, the source says, Fallon replied, “You know what choices I have. I’m a professional.” Fallon said that he was not alone, according to the source, adding, “There are several of us trying to put the crazies back in the box.” ‘

Mullen has worried that the way the US military is bogged down in Afghanistan and Iraq will prevent Washington from replying decisively to any other foe or crisis.

Snow Bush with some occasional hints that the NIE has some new findings, sure that he won’t bother to ask for details or read any actual document (he seldom does), then you could spring this thing on the Cheneyites and blindside them.

Cheney clearly was making a push for war on Iran this fall. The real puzzle is how the NIE got past his team of plumbers, which still informally includes convicted perjurer Scooter Libby. That’s why I say there was moxie behind this NIE, of the sort an admiral has, or better two admirals.

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