Americans voted on the Internet and selected George W. Bush (43rd President of the United States) as the greatest living American. His definitive biography hasn't yet been written, but it doesn't seem too early to get a good glimpse of this great man (second only to Ronald Reagan among U.S. Presidents, according to the same poll) from his own words.
The President is a unique blend of humility and confidence. Consider these two quotes, five weeks apart:
I'm the master of low expectations.
--- George W. Bush, aboard Air Force One, June 4, 2003
I trust God speaks through me. Without that, I couldn't do my job.
--- George W. Bush, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania July 9, 2004
This confrontation is willed by God, who wants to use this conflict to erase his people's enemies before a New Age begins.
--- George W. Bush, discussing Iraq invasion with President Jacques Chirac in 2003, as reported by Chirac himself
Here's more proof of the President's religious insight:
I couldn't imagine somebody like Osama bin Laden understanding the joy of Hanukkah.
--- George W. Bush, at a White House menorah lighting ceremony, Washington, D.C., Dec. 10, 2001
George W. Bush found his calling, after 11 September, as the War President. But even before, he went to the cradle of Christian Europe and gave reassuring testimony to his simple religious faith:
I know what I believe. I will continue to articulate what I believe and what I believe - I believe what I believe is right.
--- George W. Bush, Rome, Italy, July 22, 2001
Bush's wife has offered interesting insights into the World's Most Powerful Man. For example:
George's answer to any problem at the ranch is to cut it down with a chain saw -- which I think is why he and Cheney and Rumsfeld get along so well.
--- Laura Bush, White House Correspondents' Dinner, April 30, 2005
absolute power corrupts
but we needn't worry, with such a fine incorruptible man at the helm:
I'm the commander - see, I don't need to explain - I do not need to explain why I say things. That's the interesting thing about being president.
--- George W. Bush, as quoted in Bob Woodward's Bush at War
If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator.
--- George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., Dec. 19, 2000
Earlier Presidents usually spoiled their breakfasts by reading newspapers (which as we all know, are left-wing propaganda). I wonder if Americans are happy to know that even the President's advisers probably don't read the papers:
I glance at the headlines just to kind of get a flavor for what's moving. I rarely read the stories, and get briefed by people who are probably read the news themselves.
--- George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., Sept. 21, 2003
(Hmmm, Is that why the nation was better informed than the Federal authorities about Katrina?)
The President enjoys his tenure, although he does have regrets:
But all in all, it's been a fabulous year for Laura and me.
--- George W. Bush, summing up his first year in office, three months after the 9/11 attacks, Washington, D.C., Dec. 20, 2001
I try to go for longer runs, but it's tough around here at the White House on the outdoor track. It's sad that I can't run longer. It's one of the saddest things about the presidency.
--- George W. Bush, interview with Runners World, Aug. 2002
Although White House reporters tend to be unfair to him, the President is humble enough to admit he's made mistakes:
I wish you'd have given me this written question ahead of time so I could plan for it. I'm sure something will pop into my head here in the midst of this press conference, with all the pressure of trying to come up with answer, but it hadn't yet..I don't want to sound like I have made no mistakes. I'm confident I have. I just haven't - you just put me under the spot here, and maybe I'm not as quick on my feet as I should be in coming up with one.
--- George W. Bush, after being asked to name the biggest mistake he had made, Washington, D.C., April 3, 2004
I'm also not very analytical. You know I don't spend a lot of time thinking about myself, about why I do things.
--- George W. Bush, aboard Air Force One, June 4, 2003
Perhaps this quote best articulates George W. Bush's unique philosophy:
I hope you leave here and walk out and say, 'What did he say?'
--- George W. Bush, Beaverton, Oregon, August 13, 2004
The President was dragged, kicking and screaming, into the War in Iraq:
I wish I wasn't the war president. Who in the heck wants to be a war president? I don't.
--- George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., August 6, 2004
Oh, no, we're not going to have any casualties.
--- George W. Bush, discussing the Iraq war with Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson, as quoted by Robertson
... but once involved, he showed his courage:
My answer is bring them on.
--- George W. Bush, on Iraqi insurgents attacking U.S. forces, Washington, D.C., July 3, 2003
Although 1333 American soldiers had already lost their lives in Iraq before Bush's second inauguration, this sacrifice didn't cause the President to forget Family Values:
Laura and I know how hard it is on a family to be in the political arena. It's the ultimate sacrifice, really -- sacrifice your privacy, sacrifice time with your kids.
--- George W. Bush, Addressing incoming Republican Congressmen, January 3, 2005
The preceding quote made my blood turn cold. It's easy to excuse some of Bush's confused remarks because of his persona, whether real or feigned, of a tongue-tied country bumpkin. But how can American's tolerate this glib ``ultimate sacrifice'' -- hardly a bumpkin's phrase -- to sympathise with politicians having to move to Washington, when soldiers' deaths and maimings go unnoticed?
...I'm a war president. I make decisions here in the Oval Office in foreign policy matters with war on my mind.
--- George W. Bush, Meet The Press, February 7, 2004
Given a War whose causes and results were confusing, America was fortunate to have such a Great Communicator:
I just want you to know that, when we talk about war, we're really talking about peace.
--- George W. Bush, Washington, D.C. June 18, 2002
Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.
--- George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., Aug. 5, 2004
(Since the President doesn't read newspapers, I wonder if he still believes what he said in May, 2003):
We found the weapons of mass destruction. We found biological laboratories -- And we'll find more weapons as time goes on. But for those who say we haven't found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they're wrong, we found them.
--- George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., May 30, 2003
He may misspeak from time to time, but this President knows how to laugh at himself:
Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere!
--- George W. Bush, joking about his administration's failure to find WMDs in Iraq as he narrated a comic slideshow during the Radio & TV Correspondents' Association dinner, Washington, D.C., March 24, 2004
And whatever the problems may be in Iraq, there are countries in worse trouble:
I saw a poll that said the right track/wrong track in Iraq was better than here in America. It's pretty darn strong. I mean, the people see a better future.
--- George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., Sept. 23, 2004
The Anti-Bush partisans sometimes mistake the President's willingness to adapt, for indecision or confusion. Let's look at the President's own words:
The most important thing is for us to find Osama bin Laden. It is our number one priority and we will not rest until we find him.
--- George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., September 13, 2001
I don't know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and really don't care. It's not that important. It's not our priority.
--- George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., March 13, 2002
Now, in what's called the PDB, there was a warning about bin Laden's desires on America, but, frankly, I didn't think that was anything new ....
--- George W. Bush, East Room, April 13, 2004
Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.
--- George W. Bush, speaking underneath a Mission Accomplished banner aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, May 1, 2003
Can we win? I don't think you can win it.
--- George W. Bush, after being asked whether the war on terror was winnable, Today show interview, Aug. 30, 2004
The President surrounded himself with fresh thinkers, who had a keen awareness of developing world problems:
The topic today is an adversary that poses a threat, a serious threat, to the security of the United States of America. It's the Pentagon bureaucracy.
--- Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense, Sept. 10, 2001
(Over the coming months, as wars unfolded, Rumsfeld successfully silenced his adversary, the ``serious threat,'' -- Pentagon planners.)
Whatever critics may say of Bush's foreign or domestic
policies, he is the
You teach a child to read, and he or her will be able to pass a literacy test.
--- George W. Bush, Townsend, Tenn., Feb. 21, 2001
It is white.
--- George W. Bush, after being asked by a child in Britain what the White House was like, July 19, 2001
People say, how can I help on this war against terror? How can I fight evil? You can do so by mentoring a child; by going into a shut-in's house and say I love you.
--- George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., Sept. 19, 2002
Like his mentor, Ronald Reagan, the President understands that Government Is the Problem:
Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job.
--- George W. Bush, Mobile, Alabama, September 2, 2005
(Brownie presided over the creative destruction of FEMA, which is now funded at far below Clinton-era levels.)
....I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees. They did anticipate a serious storm, but these levees got breached.
--- George W. Bush, White House, September 1, 2005
(The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had been warning of this risk for years, but that organization doesn't count -- it's infiltrated with Democrats and, anyway, being part of government, is by definition part of the problem.)
The Bush Administration is sometimes accused of incompetence. Let's listen in as the Administration's intellectual heavy-weight rebuts that canard:
The charge of incompetence against the U.S. government should be easy to rebut if the American people understood the extent to which the current system of government makes competence next to impossible.
--- Donald H. Rumsfeld, Secret Anchor Chain memo, May 1, 2006
The President proudly admitted, during the 2000 campaign, that foreign policy wasn't his strong suit. Let's see what he's learned on the job:
Do you have blacks, too?
--- George W. Bush, to Brazilian President Fernando Cardoso, Washington, D.C., Nov. 8, 2001
See, free nations are peaceful nations. Free nations don't attack each other. Free nations don't develop weapons of mass destruction.
--- George W. Bush, Milwaukee, Wis., Oct. 3, 2003
That's right. Countries with weapons of mass destruction: Russia? ... not free. China? ... not free. Any others?
Bush is taking a crash course in political geography:
We spent a lot of time talking about Africa, as we should. Africa is a nation that suffers from incredible disease.
--- George W. Bush, Gothenburg, Sweden, June 14, 2001
The President tries to define
Tribal sovereignty means that; it's sovereign. I mean, you're a - you've been given sovereignty, and you're viewed as a sovereign entity. And therefore the relationship between the federal government and tribes is one between sovereign entities.
--- George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., Aug. 6, 2004
This foreign policy stuff is a little frustrating.
--- George W. Bush, as quoted by the New York Daily News, April 23, 2002
. . . What did Iraq have to do with what? . . . [Question: The attack on the World Trade Center] . . . Nothing.
--- George W. Bush, In finally getting it right, Washington, DC, August 21, 2006
The war on terror involves Saddam Hussein because of the nature of Saddam Hussein, the history of Saddam Hussein, and his willingness to terrorize himself.
--- George W. Bush, Grand Rapids, Mich., Jan. 29, 2003
Whatever his weaknesses on Foreign Policy may be, this President has an M.B.A.:
We need an energy bill that encourages consumption.
--- George W. Bush, Trenton, N.J., Sept. 23, 2002
We need to counter the shockwave of the evildoer by having individual rate cuts accelerated and by thinking about tax rebates.
--- George W. Bush, Washington, D.C. Oct. 4, 2001
For every fatal shooting, there were roughly three non-fatal shootings. And, folks, this is unacceptable in America. It's just unacceptable. And we're going to do something about it.
--- George W. Bush, Philadelphia, Penn., May 14, 2001
My plan reduces the national debt, and fast. So fast, in fact, that economists worry that we're going to run out of debt to retire.
--- George W. Bush, radio address, Feb. 24, 2001
You know, when I was one time campaigning in Chicago, a reporter said, 'Would you ever have a deficit?' I said, 'I can't imagine it, but there would be one if we had a war, or a national emergency, or a recession.' Never did I dream we'd get the trifecta.
--- George W. Bush, Houston, Texas, June 14, 2002
To understand George W. Bush one must understand the political party he represents. Garrison Keillor made this comment during Summer 2004 about the ruling party:
The party of Lincoln and Liberty has been transmogrified into the party of hairy-backed swamp developers and corporate shills, faith-based economists, fundamentalist bullies with Bibles, Christians of convenience, freelance racists, misanthropic frat boys, shrieking midgets of AM radio, tax cheats, nihilists in golf pants, brown-shirts in pinstripes, sweatshop tycoons, hacks, fakirs, aggressive dorks, Lamborghini libertarians, people who believe Neil Armstrong's moonwalk was filmed in Roswell, New Mexico, little honkers out to diminish the rest of us, Newt's evil spawn and their Etch-A-Sketch President, a dull and rigid man suspicious of the free flow of information and of secular institutions, whose philosophy is a jumble of badly sutured body parts trying to walk.
My rankings of
the U.S. Presidents.
by Frank Rich.
by Paul Krugman.
Some comments by
Sen. Robert Byrd.
Why we really
went to war in Iraq.