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Larry C. Johnson: George Bush, Whirling Dervish

George Bush, Whirling Dervish

By Larry C. Johnson
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Friday 15 September 2006

Sid Blumenthal's new book, How Bush Rules: Chronicles of a Radical Regime, provides a great benchmark for evaluating what I believe is a new phase in the Bush Presidency. Sid's collection of essays certainly documents the devious, nasty tactics Bush and his boys have employed during their tenure in the White House to date. However, several events this week suggest the act is wearing thin and may be over. Let's start with the hunt/non hunt for bin Laden. According to Fred Barnes, Fox News Commentator, Bush has downgraded finding bin Laden:

Host: Alright Fred, you and a few other journalists were in the Oval Office with the President, right? And he says catching Osama bin Laden is not job number one?

Barnes: Well, he said, look, you can send 100,000 special forces, that's the figure he used, to the mountains of Pakistan and Afghanistan and hunt him down, but he just said that's not a top priority use of American resources. His vision of a war on terror is one that involves intelligence to find out from people, to get tips, to follow them up and break up plots to kill Americans before they occur. That's what happened recently in that case of the planes that were to be blown up by terrorists, we think coming from England, and that's the top priority. He says, you know, getting Osama bin Laden is a low priority compared to that. I can't help.

What in the hell? Bush has been on so many sides of this issue that he is giving new meaning to flip flop. First it was dead or alive, followed by "bin Laden, I don't think much about him." Then, a couple of weeks ago, we heard "bin Laden/Saddam/9-11" repeated ad nauseam. And now, he's a low priority. Plus, note that Bush, who vowed to fight terrorism as a military threat instead of relying on that silly Clinton policy of law enforcement and intelligence, now believes, based on what Freddie Barnes reports, that Clinton's vision of catching terrorists based on intelligence is spot on.

The there was today's smackdown on Capitol Hill. Senators McCain, Warner, Graham, and Collins - Republicans all - delivered a major league bitch slapping to Bush. The president trotted up to the Hill with political master Rove in tow, fully expecting to bully the senators into signing off on a legal theory for secret tribunals more appropriate to Stalin's Soviet Union. NYET. Buttressed by tough letters from former secretary of state Colin Powell and former head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General John Vessey, the Senate Armed Services Committee stiffed the president. This was akin to that moment during the Watergate Hearings when Senator Howard Baker went after President Nixon. At least some Republicans have found their conscience and declined to surrender their honor for political expediency. Now, that's the Republican Party I joined.

This is something new. The Bush/Rove playbook on display in Sid's excellent work is not working well right now. Bush wants Republicans to run as tough terrorist fighters. Yet, it is tough to run on combating terrorism when your president says it is not a priority to find the man responsible for 9-11 but it is important to flout the law and leave loopholes for torture. Let's hope this marks a watershed moment.


Larry C. Johnson is CEO and co-founder of BERG Associates, LLC, an international business-consulting firm that helps corporations and governments manage threats posed by terrorism and money laundering. Mr. Johnson, who worked previously with the Central Intelligence Agency and US State Department's Office of Counter Terrorism (as a Deputy Director), is a recognized expert in the fields of terrorism, aviation security, crisis and risk management. Mr. Johnson has analyzed terrorist incidents for a variety of media including the Jim Lehrer News Hour, National Public Radio, ABC's Nightline, NBC's Today Show, the New York Times, CNN, Fox News, and the BBC. Mr. Johnson has authored several articles for publications, including Security Management Magazine, the New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times. He has lectured on terrorism and aviation security around the world.

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