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Fantastic Freedom Institute

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This Jim Rutenberg piece in yesterday’s NY Times, like most accounts of Bush’s inner life, has just a touch of surreality to it. The piece is based on interviews conducted by Robert Draper for a book that’s coming out this week. As The Decider closes in on his last year of unhindered executive power, the capuchin monkeys in his brain are trying to keep pace with the tempo of the organ grinder to whom they’re bound. Reviewing his immediate priorities after leaving office, for example, Draper found the president pondering the dolla dolla bills:

First, Mr. Bush said, “I’ll give some speeches, just to replenish the ol’ coffers.” With assets that have been estimated as high as nearly $21 million, Mr. Bush added, “I don’t know what my dad gets — it’s more than 50-75” thousand dollars a speech, and “Clinton’s making a lot of money.”

If Bush is able to command speaking fees in the range of $50G, he should perhaps be obligated to offer those services for the next 20 million days, with the proceeds devoted to offsetting the $1 trillion cost of the Iraq War. Even if we were to hold the man only minimally accountable for the war, I wouldn’t object to some form of debt peonage as an alternative to 54,000 years of lucrative speechifying.

For revelations of Bush’s boundless insincerity, however, this paragraph stands out as the article’s prize pig:

Then he said, “We’ll have a nice place in Dallas,” where he will be running what he called “a fantastic Freedom Institute” promoting democracy around the world. But he added, “I can just envision getting in the car, getting bored, going down to the ranch.”

And this itinerary differs from his president in what particular ways?

There’s so much more in the article. Most frustratingly, we read of Bush’s inability to remember how it was that Paul Bremer got a away with disbanding the Iraqi army, one of two or three decisions that utterly eroded the standing of the US in that country.

Mr. Bush acknowledged one major failing of the early occupation of Iraq when he said of disbanding the Saddam Hussein-era military, “The policy was to keep the army intact; didn’t happen.”

But when Mr. Draper pointed out that Mr. Bush’s former Iraq administrator, L. Paul Bremer III, had gone ahead and forced the army’s dissolution and then asked Mr. Bush how he reacted to that, Mr. Bush said, “Yeah, I can’t remember, I’m sure I said, ‘This is the policy, what happened?’ ” But, he added, “Again, Hadley’s got notes on all of this stuff[.]”

Harry Truman — one of many presidents to whom Bush has compared himself — is forever associated with the phrase “The Buck Stops Here.”

Bush’s legacy? “Hadley’s got notes on all this stuff.” Brilliant.

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