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The Apple Doesn't Fall Far from the Tree

01.02.2007 04:16 | DISPATCHES

Much as it wishes it did.

I just finished reading "Grant," Jean Edward Smith's authoritative biography of Ulysses Grant (Simon & Schuster, 2001). (His record as president with native Americans and freed slaves will surprise those unfamiliar with it.) Turns out the author, who has a mammoth biography of Franklin Roosevelt coming out in the spring, also wrote a book which could serve as a companion piece to Bob Woodward's "Bush at War." Published by Henry Holt, it's called "George Bush's War."

According to the Kirkus Reviews summary on Amazon, "in this volatile study, America's adventure. . . was not a crusade for freedom but a checkpoint on the personal agenda of George Bush, who disregarded constitutional restrictions on presidential power and cynically manipulated the public, the press, Congress, and even the military. . . . Smith chronicles Bush's personalization of the crisis and details the resulting twists and turns of public perception, policy, and action."

After becoming convinced that Saddam Hussein was a threat to the entire Middle East, "Bush's penchant for heroism. . . led him to adopt a 'crusading' posture against Iraq. This personalizing of world affairs resulted in rapid, short-term success, but Smith spells out its possible dangers for democracy: Bush's alleged disregarding of expert advice, particularly from the State Department and the military. . . . the crumbling of congressional caution during the crisis, he adds, undermined the separation of powers, making the President a virtual dictator of foreign policy.

"Particularly damning is Smith's abundant evidence of the Administration's policy of 'minimum candor'. . . . even Generals Powell and Schwartzkopf apparently learned of Bush's decision to switch from defensive to offensive operations through TV news reports." That's right -- "Bush at War" was published in 1992.

If it were pointed out to him he'd bristle, but, far from breaking his father's mold for making war in the Middle-East, George W. Bush used it to cast his war. When your prime policy maker, Cheney, was your father's secretary of defense, the continuity was inevitable.


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