Sunday, January 18, 2009

President Bush, Thinking "Long and Hard"

It is not news that in leaving office, President Bush will leave behind, for many, a certain impression: that he is not, really, a man of reflection—and that as President he seemed to govern, frequently, from the gut, from instinct.

Perhaps out of a desire to counter such an impression, Mr. Bush has, on a number of occasions,
declared that he has spent much time in thought.

For years, he has used a certain phrase—one he repeated in his press conference last Monday (January 12th).

During the press conference, he said, of Hurricane Katrina:

“I’ve thought long and hard about Katrina—you know, could I have done something differently, like land Air Force One either in New Orleans or Baton Rouge.” He said: “The problem with that…is that law enforcement would have been pulled away from the mission…”

It is the initial part of that answer—the phrase “I’ve thought long and hard”—that has for some time been a part of the Bush lexicon.

During an October, 2000 debate with Vice President Al Gore, then-Governor Bush noted that he had “thought long and hard about the honor of being the President of the United States.“

In a March of 2003 press conference, before the start of the Iraq war, Mr. Bush said: “And so I—you know, obviously, I’ve thought long and hard about the use of troops. I think about it all the time…”

From an April, 2005 press conference:

Q: Sir, you’ve talked all around the country about the poisonous partisan atmosphere here in
Washington. I wonder why do you think that is? And do you personally bear any responsibility in having contributed to this atmosphere?

Bush: I’m sure there are some people that don’t like me. You know, Ed, I don’t know. I’ve thought long and hard about it. I was—I’ve been disappointed…

In the summer of 2005, Bush said, of anti-war protester Cindy Sheehan: “I sympathize with Mrs. Sheehan. She feels strongly about her position, and she has every right in the world to say what she believes…and I’ve thought long and hard about her position.”

In January of 2007, interviewed by Jim Lehrer of PBS, Mr. Bush spoke of sending additional troops to Iraq. He said: “And I thought long and hard about the decision, Jim…”

I will give Mr. Bush this: on certain issues, his judgments have had merit. I do not know, for
example, whether he has in fact “thought long and hard” about Hamas—yet his defense of Israel’s right to defend itself, against Hamas’s missile attacks, has been sound. Similarly, over time, he has evinced an essential understanding of the danger that radical Islamists present to the United States (and the world entire).

Yet one asks: has Mr. Bush, as he has repeatedly asserted, “thought long and hard” about issues and decisions? Or has this been an essential part of his failure as President: that far too often (e.g., Katrina, the economy, undertaking/planning the war in Iraq), there has simply not been the long and hard thinking one would have expected?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

January 6th Thomas Friedman column, New York Times

From the op-ed essay, "The Mideast’s Ground Zero," by Thomas L. Friedman, The New York Times on-line, January 6, 2009:

"Hamas’s overthrow of the more secular Fatah organization in Gaza in 2007 is part of a regionwide civil war between Islamists and modernists. In the week that Israel has been slicing through Gaza, Islamist suicide bombers have killed almost 100 Iraqis — first, a group of tribal sheikhs in Yusufiya, who were working on reconciliation between Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds, and, second, mostly women and children gathered at a Shiite shrine. These unprovoked mass murders have not stirred a single protest in Europe or the Middle East."

Friday, January 9, 2009

Bernard-Henri Levy essay, 1/9/09

From The New Republic:

Liberate The Palestinians From Hamas

What to remember once the fighting stops.

By Bernard-Henri Levy, The New Republic Published: January 9, 2009

Not being a military expert, I will abstain from judging whether the Israeli bombardments of Gaza could be better directed, less intense.

Not being able for decades to distinguish between the good dead and the evil dead or, like Camus used to say, between "suspect victims" and "privileged executioners," I'm also deeply disturbed by the images of the Palestinian children who have been killed.

This being said, and taking into account that certain media outlets have been carried away on the winds of folly once again--as is always the case when Israel is involved--I would like to remind everyone of certain facts:

1. No government in the world, no country other than the vilified Israel--dragged through the mud, demonized--would tolerate having thousands of shells falling on its cities year after year. The most remarkable thing in the affair, the true surprise, is not Israel's "brutality"; it is, to the letter, its restraint.

2. The fact that Hamas' Qassam and, now, its Grad missiles have caused so few deaths does not prove that they are artisanal, inoffensive, etc., but that the Israelis protect themselves, that they live burrowed in the caves of their buildings, under shelter: a nightmarish existence, suspended, with the sound of sirens and explosions. I have been to Sderot: I know.

3. The fact that, inversely, the Israeli shells create so many victims does not mean, as protesters have angrily proclaimed, that Israel is engaging in a deliberate "massacre," but that the leaders of Gaza have chosen the opposite attitude and are exposing their populations, relying on the old tactic of the "human shield." Which means that Hamas, like Hezbollah two years ago, is installing its command centers, its arms stockpiles, its bunkers, in the basements of buildings, of hospitals, of schools, of mosques. Efficient but repugnant.

4. There is a capital difference between the combatants that those who want to have a "correct" idea of the tragedy, and of the means to put an end to it, must acknowledge: The Palestinians open fire on cities, or in other words, on civilians (which is called, in international criminal law, a "war crime"); the Israelis target military objectives and cause, without aiming to, horrible civilian casualties (which is called, in the language of war, "collateral damage"--which, even though it is hideous, points to a real strategic and moral dissymmetry).

5. Because we must dot the I's, we will again recall a fact that, strangely, the French press has rarely reported and of which I know no precedent in any other war, or on the part of any other army: During the air offensive, the Israeli army systematically called residents of Gaza who live close to military targets and invited them to evacuate--an Israeli minister said 100,000 calls were made. That this does not alter the despair of families whose lives have been broken in the carnage, it is obvious, but this is not a detail totally deprived of meaning.

6. Finally, as for the famous complete blockade imposed on a starving people, who are lacking of everything in this "unprecedented" humanitarian crisis: Again, this is not factually correct. From the beginning of the ground offensive, the humanitarian convoys ceaselessly crossed the Kerem Shalom passage. According to The New York Times, on Dec. 31--in one single day--nearly 100 trucks carrying food supplies and medicine entered the territory. And I invoke, only to preserve the memory of it (for this goes without saying--but perhaps it would be better to actually say it ...), the fact that Israeli hospitals continue, even as I write, to accept and care for wounded Palestinians every day.

Quickly, let's hope, the fighting will cease. And very quickly, let us also hope, the commentators will regain their wits. They will discover, on that day, that Israel has committed many errors over the course of many years (missed opportunities, a long denial of the Palestinian national demands, unilateralism), but that Palestinians' worst enemies are the extremist leaders who have never wanted peace, have never wanted a State and never conceived of one for their people other than as an instrument and as a hostage. (Consider the sinister image of Hamas supreme leader Khaled Meshal who, on Saturday, Dec. 27, when the scale of the greatly desired Israeli response was becoming clear, only knew to declare a return to suicide missions--and this during his comfortable exile, his cushy job in Damascus ...)

From two choices, one. Either Hamas leaders re-establish the truce that they broke, and, while they're at it, declare null and void a charter founded on the pure rejection of the "Zionist Entity": In doing so, they will rejoin the vast party for compromise that has not ceased--God be praised--to make progress in the region, and peace will be established. Or they will only, obstinately, consider the suffering of Palestinian civilians in terms of its fueling of their annealed passions, their insane hate, nihilistic, beyond words. And if that is the case, it is not only the Israelis, but the Palestinians, who will need to be liberated from Hamas' somber shadow.

Bernard-Henri Levy's new book, Left in Dark Times: A Stand Against The New Barbarism, was published in September by Random House.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Two responses

In July of 2008, while visiting the Israeli town of Sderot, presidential candidate Barack Obama spoke of the many rocket attacks, from Gaza, that the town had been subjected to.

Mr. Obama said: "If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I'm going to do everything in my power to stop that." He added: "And I would expect Israelis to do the same thing."


An interview with Fareed Zakaria, the foreign affairs analyst and Newsweek columnist (and host of the Sunday CNN program "Fareed Zakaria: GPS"), was posted on on Wed., January 7th.

Zakaria said: "Israel should end its campaign within a few days. It has achieved most of its major military goals."

In the interview, CNN asked Zakaria: Was Israel right to attack?

Zakaria: I think it was perfectly justified. No society could tolerate the continued rain of rockets falling on their civilian population...

Monday, January 5, 2009

A Defense of Israel, Washington Post op-ed essay, 1/1/09

Here is an insightful, well-written defense of Israel's military campaign against Hamas.

The piece, by Robert J. Lieber, appeared in The Washington Post on January 1st, before Israel's ground assault began.

Lieber is a professor of government and international affairs at Georgetown University.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Oh, that George HWB...He's such a kidder...

Former President Bush touts son Jeb for top job

By BEN FELLER, Associated Press Writer, Sun Jan 4, 2:46 pm ET

WASHINGTON – Another President Bush?

Perhaps so, says former President George H.W. Bush, who has already seen one son, George W., serve in the Oval Office. The nation's 41st president said Sunday that he would like to see a second son, Jeb, be president one day.

Jeb Bush is the current president's younger brother and a former popular governor of Florida. He is mulling a run for Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla.

Asked in a broadcast interview about Jeb Bush's consideration of the Senate seat, Bush 41 said: "I'd like to see him run. I'd like to see him be president someday."

When asked if he was serious, he said: "Or maybe senator. Whatever. Yes, I would. I mean, right now is probably a bad time, because we've had enough Bushes in there. But no, I would. And I think he's as qualified and able as anyone I know on the political scene. Now, you've got to discount that. He's my son."

To read the full story:

Friday, January 2, 2009

"CBS Evening News" piece about "The Elephant Sanctuary"

Steve Hartman is a CBS News reporter, whose series "Assignment America" airs each Friday on "The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric."

The following piece appeared on the January 2, 2009 newscast. It's a very beautiful story about the friendship between an elephant, and a dog, at "The Elephant Sanctuary," in Tennessee.

The video of the piece can be found at the top left of the story:

The web site of "The Elephant Sanctuary" is:

From the web site: "The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, founded in 1995, is the nation's largest natural habitat refuge developed specifically for endangered African and Asian elephants. It operates on 2,700 acres in Hohenwald, Tennessee - 85 miles southwest of Nashville."