Some time between January and May 1999 presidential aspirant George W. Bush was talking with Mickey Herskowitz, a former Houston Chronicle sports columnist who’d been signed on to ghostwrite his autobiography. And the future president spoke unto Herskowitz, saying:
“One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as a commander-in-chief. My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait and he wasted it. If I have a chance to invade—if I had that much capital, I’m not going to waste it. I’m going to get everything passed that I want to get passed and I’m going to have a successful presidency.”
Herskowitz was at some point pulled off the autobiography project by Bush’s handlers, who thought he wasn’t presenting the chosen one in a sufficiently adulatory light. But even if he had stayed on in the job, that honestly ejaculated little Bushism probably wouldn’t have gone into the book. Just doesn’t look too good when someone running for president of the USA says if he has a chance to invade he won’t waste it.
I personally just happened upon it because somebody emailed me this link: http://www.gnn.tv/ It got me to thinking. The proliferating British memos tell us that Bush wanted to invade Iraq, and was prepared to lie to get it done, as of July 2002. The damning content of the Downing Street memo is now augmented by leaked memos from foreign policy advisor David Manning, British ambassador to the U.S. Christopher Meyer, political advisor P. R. Ricketts, and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw written in February and March 2002. All question the rationale for war or point out the difficulties in building a case, while noting that the administration is determined to attack Iraq.
Some in Congress affect to be shocked by these memos, which are certainly welcome news for the antiwar movement because they do constitute a “smoking gun” affirming what some of us have been saying all along. But the Bush supporters aren’t wrong in calling their content “old news.” Many of us have known all along that Bush’s case for war was based on lies; the problem is that some are altogether comfortable with lies if they serve the “strategic imperatives” of U.S. imperialism. And some people have merely been naïve. These are the ones who might be awakened by the memos to the dishonesty and cynical manipulations of the administration.
If the memos become the story they should be, such folks might get downright angry that Bush lied to Congress to get his pro-war resolution in October 2002 and a war killing tens of thousands for no honest reason. And while entering a state of angry enlightenment they may revisit the published statements of Former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill and former White House anti-terrorism advisor Richard A. Clarke, who have told us Bush wanted his war even earlier—as of January 2001. But now Mickey Herskowitz pulls us way back in time and tells us he wanted it even two years before that!
Over two years before 9/11, candidate Bush was already talking confidentially about using “political capital” to attack Iraq. Recall his more recent use of that interesting expression? Right after the last election, flushed with triumph over his three point victory “mandate,” Bush boasted: “I earned capital in the campaign—political capital—and now I intend to spend it. It is my style. That’s what happened after the 2000 election: I earned some capital. I’ve earned capital in this election, and I’m going to spend it for what I told the people I’d spend it on.”
If Bush could find “capital” in the tainted election of 2000, in which he lost the popular vote, then surely he could find it in the 9-11 tragedy too. That gave him the “chance to invade” he’d told Herskowitz he wouldn’t waste. He’s gotten most everything he wanted to get passed so far, most notably the PATRIOT Act. That’s the great leader’s style.
One wants to fault Herskowitz for keeping this conversation with Bush (which must have happened before May 1999) under wraps all this time until sharing it with independent journalist Russ Baker in the last few days. But he’s a Bush family friend, after all. That makes the statement even more damning.
“I going to have a successful presidency,” declared Bush in 1999, and no doubt he thinks he’s successful right now with the plans for imperial expansion on track and the state-corporate merger proceeding apace. But his condescending dismissal of the British memos’ significance suggests he may just be too dumb to be successful. His ass is exposed, and he doesn’t even know it. He wants “to be seen as a great leader” and thinks he knows the keys to be seen as such. But doesn’t he see that that’s all gone now?
Sure, some in the crowd look on and applaud the successful president. They see him puffed up in that flight suit that he set aside in 1972 when, he confessed to Herskowitz, the Texas National Guard “excused” him prematurely. They see him strutting in his business suit although he acknowledged to Herskowitz that his business activities were “floundering” before he ran for the presidency. But the little boy in the crowd sees a foolish cocky failure of an emperor, convinced by his handlers that’s he looking real GREAT, and pronounced by the onlooking stupid that he is indeed a great leader, but like his minion Jeff Gannon boasting of his prowess on his websites, in reality buck-naked, exposed, obscene.
* * * * *
“As a capitalist, he is only capital personified. His soul is the soul of capital.”
Karl Marx, Capital, Chapter 10
GARY LEUPP is Professor of History at Tufts University, and Adjunct Professor of Comparative Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa Japan; Male Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is also a contributor to CounterPunch’s merciless chronicle of the wars on Iraq, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia, Imperial Crusades.
He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org