Posted by Brad @ 2:56 pm on August 20th 2009

Your Ex-Bush Official Revelations of the Day

Tom Ridge, first secretary of Homeland Security, has a new book coming out, which includes:

Among the headlines promoted by publisher Thomas Dunne Books: Ridge was never invited to sit in on National Security Council meetings; was “blindsided” by the FBI in morning Oval Office meetings because the agency withheld critical information from him; found his urgings to block Michael Brown from being named head of the emergency agency blamed for the Hurricane Katrina disaster ignored; and was pushed to raise the security alert on the eve of President Bush’s re-election, something he saw as politically motivated and worth resigning over.

Man. History will sure not judge the Bush administration kindly.

Pretty much every cynical hunch ever possessed about the Bush administration invariably turns out to be true and then some.


  1. You continue to confuse those with boat payments due with some lens that future historians will peer trough. I think that history is steered by outcomes, and none of us know what those will be. Future historians will and will examine what it took to make that sausage.

    Comment by James — 8/21/2009 @ 1:27 am

  2. James,
    And I think you are confusing wishful thinking with objective analysis. The pattern is consistent: accusation after seemingly outragious accusation, for which my initial reaction was a skeptical “show me evidence,” turns out to be largely true. There were few depths to which his adminstration was unwilling to sink. The history being written today is not going to suddenly reverse course as we discover long suppressed evidence of the intellectual brilliance, seriousness, and gravitas of George Bush. Instead, for years to come, we will be treated to an every growing pile of documentary support and first person accounts of the moral bankruptcy, mendaciousness, and intellectual failures of the regime. In order to have a historical reassessment, you need something that supports it. Instead, we continuely have our worst assessments validated. Distortion of intel and evidence for WMD in Iraq, direct use of terror levels for purely political aims, political affiliation as a litmus test for non-partisan hiring in Iraq rebuilding, political loyaly as the decision maker for firing US Attornies, political revenge as motive for outing a CIA agent, torture authorized at the highest levels, victims tortured to death in US custody, defense contractors as pure mercenaries, it just goes on and on. At least with Nixon, we already had China, with Bush, where is the equivalent? What major accomplishment will we turn to a decade hence and say “Thank God W followed his instincts on that one?” And will those accomplishments have wide spread acceptance, and will they be even remotely sufficient to overcome the mountain of failures? Construct me a scenario for that. I suspect you will have to use a lot of fairy dust.

    Comment by Jack — 8/21/2009 @ 10:29 am

  3. I suspect James could use the Lincoln administration as evidence for his theme.

    Have we ruled out the possibility that Ridge is saying these things to make himself look good? I mean, I know it’s not like politicians to lie or anything, but…

    Comment by Rojas — 8/21/2009 @ 11:46 am

  4. I think that goes without saying. The question is whether the things he’s saying are true or not.

    James will automatically argue, regardless of content, that the fact that a revelation comes with a book deal automatically nullifies the need for any consideration of said revelations (as is, indeed, his pat response in every case of it). Fair enough, but I don’t hold that line. People can tell the truth for both good and self-serving motives (and, for that matter, the two aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive).

    In this case, for instance, the “found his urgings to block Michael Brown from being named head of the emergency agency blamed for the Hurricane Katrina disaster ignored” sounds suspect to me, a bit of rose-tinted hindsight. But the fact that he wasn’t part of the National Security Council and was kept out of the loop on security decisions seem pretty falsifiable to me, and given what else we know about the NSC system and the President’s inner circle, jibes with pretty much every other interpretation of events out there. The political motivations behind the terror alerts falls somewhere in the middle, but there has been plenty of corroboration along that score from everybody from Richard Clarke to Bob Woodward. Ridge’s revelation there isn’t original, but rather the addition of the most authoritative source yet. Whether they were “politically motivated” or simply externally derived is a question less of facts (as we’ll likely never know them), and more a matter of who you believe, though now we have no less than the Director of Homeland Security weighing in on his take. But, the factual revelation there is that the terror alert system, and the decisions it was based on, did not come from the Department of Homeland Security, but rather were externally foisted upon them (which is, again, pretty falsifiable).

    Jack is right though, and it’s sort of what I meant to imply in my post. It’s easy enough to discount one or two ex-official book deals as just an axe to grind, and if we were just talking about, say, Paul O’Neill, that’d be one thing. That happens with every administration. But in the case of the Bush administration, we’re talking about something of a different order of corroboration and rats leaving the ship to sink in the judgment of history.

    Oftentimes, I think, the inclination is to assume that the truth is somewhere between the two poles of opinion. In the case of the Bush administration, that would mean finding a settling point between the wild-eyed liberal decriers and the true-blood Bush administration royalists. It is a polite fiction that the truth always falls square in the middle. It often does, but not always. In this case, however, the wild-eyed liberal decriers have turned out to be rather vindicated in nearly all of their assumptions of bad faith, and in fact a lot of people have gone broke graciously overestimating the Bush administration in those respects. At this point, I’m not sure that it makes sense to have “the benefit of the doubt” be the default perspective when dealing with questions of the Bush administration. That benefit of the doubt has been disproven in far, far more cases than it has been vindicated, to such an obscene degree that, at least if you’re talking the logic of assumption, a reverse benefit of the doubt position actually seems the most reasonable default.

    Oh, and like Bush v. Gore, I wouldn’t use this litmus test in any other ruling. But if somebody lies to you 9 times out of 10, when they make their 11th statement, the smart money is on it being a lie.

    Comment by Brad — 8/21/2009 @ 1:19 pm

  5. Speaking of the vindication of left-wing decriers, Juan Cole:

    Back in the bad old days of Bush’s corrupt gang, we on the left were pilloried for suggesting that the administration was manipulating terrorism-related news in order to win the 2004 elections. But when Tom Ridge says it . . .

    In fact, I argued in summer, 2004, that when Ridge did raise the terrorism alert, it had the unfortunate effect of outing an al-Qaeda double agent who had been turned by the Pakistani government and was helping set a trap for al-Qaeda in the UK. […] And if any of us had said that Dick Cheney was setting up civilian mercenary assassination squads (at least 007 works for the British government), and set things up so that perhaps neither the CIA director nor the president even knew about it, we would have been branded moonbats. But well, that is today’s story. You shudder to think what hasn’t come out yet.

    I mean let’s face it. Nobody has gone broke under-estimating the Bush administration’s conscious capacity for politicizing the War on Terror.

    Comment by Brad — 8/21/2009 @ 1:22 pm

  6. I can make a case that Ridge is actually downplaying the extent of the moral rot. Something along the lines of: Having staked out a position on the self imagined high moral ground, in that he threatened to resign (eventually) over the terror alert level manipulation, one might question the solidity of his principles if things were even worse than he admits and he still couldn’t find the cojones to quit.

    Ridge doesn’t matter that much though. The terror alert manipulaton accusation seems to have a solid foundation with thoughout Ridge, i.e., his statements are consistant with the known facts, rather than an unexpected bombshell. And the beat goes on…

    Comment by Jack — 8/21/2009 @ 8:06 pm

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