The Post must have given Zelizer an advance copy of Decision Points, since his 1,250-word essay dominating page three of Sunday's Washington Post Outlook section was occasioned by the soon-to-be-unveiled memoir and shows he has read it carefully. Zelizer does not mention Bush's comments on authorizing waterboarding -- presumably because that can no longer be dismissed as a "myth."
As for the bit about Bush being a born-again Christian, this reminded me of another Bush admirer, his father, telling the media shortly after 9/11 that his son George had read straight through the Bible -- twice!
Yep; two times! But did he miss, twice, "Thou Shalt Not Kill?" Or Jesus's instructions to his followers to love your enemy and to treat others as you yourself would want to be treated? Does he need an exegete to unpack those pronouncements?
Favorite Bumper Sticker
To assist with his continuing theological education--and help him keep in mind a key passage, I shall try to give the former president my favorite bumper sticker when I see him at the groundbreaking in Dallas. It reads: "When Jesus said Love Your Enemies I think he probably meant not to kill them."
Or torture them.
Meanwhile, the New York Times continues to steer well clear of any such suggestion that waterboarding might be torture. That it had had ample opportunity to read and digest an advance copy of the book was clear on Nov. 4 when it published a 1,700-word article by star reviewer, Michiko Kakutani.
Kakutani was super-careful. Her only allusion to what Bush wrote on waterboarding is buried in one sentence sandwiched into dead center between the revelation that detainees at Guantanamo Bay had access to "an Arabic translation of "Harry Potter'" and vapid comments on the economic meltdown. There she inserted Bush's claim that there would have been "a greater risk that the country would be attacked," had he not authorized waterboarding.
As for George W. Bush's faith, Kakutani gives pride of place to Bush's agonizing choice between religion and alcohol, quoting from the memoir: "Could I continue to grow closer to the Almighty or was alcohol becoming my god?"
(With all due respect, had I known earlier what direct instructions Bush would later claim he got from being close to the "Almighty," I would have sent him a monthly carton of whatever whiskey they drink down there in Texas.)
In Sunday's Times, Peter Baker's article offers a generally flattering portrayal of Bush and his book; Baker also neglects to mention Bush's "Damn Right" approval of waterboarding. Instead, he notes plaintively that "a good portion" of Americans "still revile him for invading Iraq, waterboarding terror suspects and presiding over the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression."
Picky, picky, that portion of Americans!
"And yet" are the familiar words Baker, and Professor Zelizer, use to start their various exculpatory paragraphs. No one should be surprised to see the "and yet's" dominate media coverage this week, when major promotion of the book gets under way. (That's assuming anyone is so impolite as to ask about waterboarding/torture.)
Baker finishes his article with a familiar sentiment from Bush: "Whatever the verdict on my presidency, I'm comfortable with the fact that I won't be around to hear it." At least the man is consistent. Interviewing Bush for his panegyric, Bush at War, Bob Woodward asked then-President Bush what he anticipated with respect to his place in history. "History, we'll all be dead," was Bush's reaction.
I'd like to ask Peter Baker why he decided to tuck that particular quote onto the end of his Times article on Sunday. Does he perhaps think it cute to have had a President who couldn't care less? Or what?