Tuesday 21 Aug 2018 | 12:58 | SYDNEY
Tuesday 21 Aug 2018 | 12:58 | SYDNEY

Bush as leader


Sam Roggeveen


3 June 2008 11:29

The American blogosphere is all over this passage from General Ricardo Sanchez' recently released memoir:

Among the anecdotes in "Wiser in Battle: A Soldier's Story" is an arresting portrait of Bush after four contractors were killed in Fallujah in 2004, triggering a fierce U.S. response that was reportedly egged on by the president. During a videoconference with his national security team and generals, Sanchez writes, Bush launched into what he described as a "confused" pep talk:

"Kick ass!" he quotes the president as saying. "If somebody tries to stop the march to democracy, we will seek them out and kill them! We must be tougher than hell! This Vietnam stuff, this is not even close. It is a mind-set. We can't send that message. It's an excuse to prepare us for withdrawal."

"There is a series of moments and this is one of them. Our will is being tested, but we are resolute. We have a better way. Stay strong! Stay the course! Kill them! Be confident! Prevail! We are going to wipe them out! We are not blinking!"

Steve Clemons from The Washington Note comments that '(t)he more we learn about this president, the smaller he becomes.' It's tempting to agree, except that in my time in the bureaucracy, a consistent theme among Australian officials I met who saw Bush first hand in private settings was that he was very impressive. He had good command of his brief, controlled meetings and was not pushed around by his senior officials on issues where they had more experience and knowledge. Bush was clearly in charge.

Still, that kind of anecdotal evidence only gets you so far when weighed against the actual record of the Administration. I think Bush will be remembered as one of the poorest and most consequential presidents of the modern era.