In his book “Decision Points,” former President Bush failed to mention that Saddam Hussein admitted to FBI agent George Piro that he was planning on resuming his WMD program, including development of a nuclear weapon.
Why would Bush omit such an important point when addressing the pros and cons of taking down Saddam? As noted in the Newsmax piece "'Decision Points' Brings Out the Real George W. Bush
," while Bush made the right decisions to prevent another terrorist attack, he often neglected to communicate well to the American people, undercutting his agenda. The failure to mention such an important point in his book spotlights that tendency.
Now that Bush is going on the book circuit, people are getting a glimpse of what a decent, humorous, and articulate man he is. But when he was in the White House, it was a different story.
Bush’s buttoned-down press policy was epitomized by former Press Secretary Scott McClellan, whose utterances were as repetitious as reporters’ questions. Dana Perino tried to change the tone, but by then it was too late.
Now Bush’s book provides a window on his thinking, but some of the old patterns continue. Besides pointing out that Saddam admitted he was planning on developing nuclear weapons, Bush could have said that if waterboarding constitutes torture, as critics allege, why do we practice it on our own special forces as part of their training in case they are captured? He never did.
When the press first disclosed the waterboarding practice, one of Bush’s key counterterrorism officials thought he should have explained the issue to the American people. His failure to do so allowed the press and critics to define the issue.
In explaining his No Child Left Behind Act, Bush points out in his book the need for testing but neglects to mention that a key purpose of the law was to reintroduce phonics, or sounding out letters, to reading instruction.
A different approach called “whole language” scrapped teaching kids to sound out letters. The whole-language method was predicated on a belief that reading came naturally and that kids would learn to read literally by osmosis. Essentially, using the whole language approach, learning to read became a guessing game.
It was like expecting a child to learn to play the piano and read music without instruction. Whole language proponents even said that when children guessed wrong, they should not be corrected.
If Bush had explained that the law gave incentives for reintroducing phonics, both liberals and conservatives who have trashed the No Child Left Behind Act would have better understood why the law is so important to improving reading instruction.
I asked a close friend of Bush why he so neglected the communication side of his presidency.
“I believe President Bush is very focused on results,” he said.
As for not mentioning that we practice waterboarding on our own troops, he said, “I imagine it was enough for the president that his lawyers said waterboarding is legal, and I imagine it would have angered more people than it softened to point out that we subject our own troops to it.”
In other words, getting into a discussion of waterboarding would only give critics more fodder. Bush explained in his book that waterboarding of three individuals was needed to obtain information to roll up plots, and it did. That was enough for him.
In part, Bush’s distaste for expounding on his views goes back to his upbringing in Midland, Tex., where action is prized over words and promoting oneself is considered loathsome.
Ironically, we now have in the White House a president who is a master at communicating, but so many of his policies are weakening the country. In contrast, Bush’s policies kept us safe after the 9/11 attack, but he didn’t explain them well.
Ideally, we would have a president who is a good communicator and a good president, as was Ronald Reagan. But given a choice between the two qualities, I’ll take the latter any day.
Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via e-mail. Go here now.
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