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Bush was CIA Director for the year January 1976 to January 1977, during which I worked directly for him. At the time, I was Acting National Intelligence Officer for Western Europe where post-WWII certainties were unravelling and it was my job to get intelligence community-wide assessments to the White House -- often on fast breaking events. We almost wore out what was then the latest technology -- the "LDX" (for Long Distance Xerography) machine -- sending an unprecedentedly high number of "Alert Memoranda" from CIA Headquarters to the White House. ("LDX," of course, is now fax; there was no Internet.)
As ANIO, I also chaired National Intelligence Estimates on Italy and Spain. As far as I could observe from that senior post, Director Bush honored his incoming pledge not to put any political gloss on the judgments of intelligence analysts.
Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, of course, had made no such pledge. They persuaded President Ford to set up a "Team B" analysis, contending that CIA and intelligence community analyses and estimates were naively rosy. Bush's predecessor as CIA director, William Colby, had turned the proposal down flat, but he had no political ambitions. I suspect Bush, though, saw a Rumsfeld trap to color him soft on the USSR. In any case, against the advice of virtually all intelligence professionals, Bush succumbed to the political pressure and acquiesced in the establishment of a Team B to do alternative analyses. No one was surprised that these painted a much more threatening and inaccurate picture of Soviet strategic intentions.
Paul Warnke, a senior official of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency at the time of Team B, put it this way:
The fact that Team B's conclusions were widely regarded as inaccurate did not deter Rumsfeld. He went about promoting them as valid and succeeded in undermining arms control efforts for the next several years. Two days before Jimmy Carter's inauguration Rumsfeld fired his parting shot, saying, "No doubt exists about the capabilities of the Soviet armed forces" and that those capabilities "indicate a tendency toward war fighting " rather than the more modish Western models of deterrence through mutual vulnerability."
GHW Bush in the White House
When George H. W. Bush came into town as vice president, he got President Reagan's permission to be briefed with "The President's Daily Brief" and I became a daily briefer from 1981 to 1985. That job was purely substantive. Even so, my colleagues and I have been very careful to regard those conversations as sacrosanct, for obvious reasons. By the time he became president in 1989, he had come to know, all too well, "the crazies" and what they were capable of. Bush's main political nemesis, Donald Rumsfeld, could be kept at bay, and other "crazies" kept out of the most senior posts -- until Bush the younger put them in positions in which they could do serious damage. John Bolton had been enfant terrible on arms control, persuading Bush-43 to ditch the ABM Treaty. On Monday, he can be expected to arrive at the West Wing with his wrecking ball.
Even Jimmy Carter Speaks Out
Given how difficult Rumsfeld and other hardliners made it for President Carter to work with the Russians on arms control, and the fact that Bolton has been playing that role more recently, Jimmy Carter's comments on Bolton -- while unusually sharp -- do not come as a complete surprise. Besides, experience has certainly shown how foolish it can be to dismiss out of hand what former presidents say about their successors' appointments to key national security positions. This goes in spades in the case of John Bolton.
Just three days after Bolton's appointment, the normally soft-spoken Jimmy Carter became plain-spoken/outspoken Jimmy Carter, telling USA Today that the selection of Bolton "is a disaster for our country." When asked what advice he would give Trump on North Korea, for example, Carter said his "first advice" would be to fire Bolton.
In sum, if you asked Bush-41, Carter's successor as president, how he would describe John Bolton, I am confident he would lump Bolton together with those he called "the crazies" back in the day, referring to headstrong ideologues adept at blowing things up -- things like arms agreements negotiated with painstaking care, giving appropriate consideration to the strategic views of adversaries and friends alike.
Sadly, "crazy" seems to have become the new normal in Washington, with warmongers and regime-changers like Bolton in charge, people who have not served a day in uniform and have no direct experience of war other than starting them.