Former White House aides have been reacting with anger and dismay to Robert Draper’s book “Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W. Bush,” and the fact that former counselor Dan Bartlett asked them to cooperate with the author.
“Draper calls me a ‘Maine native,’” former White House Chief of Staff Andy Card tells me. “I have a place in Maine, but I’m from Massachusetts. I was a Massachusetts state legislator and ran for the Republican nomination for governor of Massachusetts, for crissakes. He had my wife’s name spelled wrong. He had my previous titles wrong. These are things that are easy to check on the Internet.”
Card said it was his understanding that, as Draper writes, John Roberts recommended Harriet Miers to President Bush as a Supreme Court nominee. Chief Justice Roberts’s spokesman has issued a statement saying that account is “not true.” But Card said he did not have first-hand knowledge and therefore does not know if Draper is correct.
Card said the book was wrong when it quoted him as saying to Sen. Chuck Hagel, just before Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont switched from being a Republican to an independent, that Jeffords “doesn’t deserve” to meet with Bush and to be shown respect.
Card denied that he felt “hurt” because Bush had already decided on Josh Bolten as his replacement before the president accepted Card’s resignation as chief of staff, as Draper claimed.
“It’s not true that I was hurt,” Card said. He said he kept a list of possible successors for every major job in the administration.
“At the top of the list, if I got hit by a bus, was Josh Bolten,” Card said.
Basic items such as his morning meetings were mixed up, Card said. He noted that Brad Blakeman, who was deputy assistant to the president and director of scheduling, was listed in Draper’s book as staff secretary.
“When there are obvious facts wrong, the whole tome loses credibility to me,” Card said. “Nor was the book very insightful. The Texas crowd [including Dan Bartlett] knew him. I didn’t know him. I suspect it [the decision to give Draper access] was the Texas crowd hanging around the Texas crowd.”
Brad Blakeman said former White House aides have been exchanging phone calls about what he called the “embarrassment” that the White House chose to cooperate with such an author.
“Any cub reporter would have gotten the facts down cold because they are a matter of public record,” said Blakeman of Draper, who is a national correspondent for GQ magazine and previously was senior editor at Texas Monthly. “It’s ridiculous to cooperate with somebody who obviously is not thorough. He had no track record writing books. The only previous books he wrote by himself were a novel and a minor book on Rolling Stone magazine.”
In TV appearances, Draper has called the administration “disingenuous” and has agreed with Chris Matthews of MSNBC that military officers have been afraid to express their honest opinions to Bush.
“Draper looks disheveled on TV, and he is critical because the media expects it, and it sells books,” said Blakeman, who is president and CEO of Freedom’s Watch, a new conservative group. “They gave this guy access when he clearly was not qualified.”
Blakeman, who was interviewed for the book by Draper, said Draper tape recorded interviews and yet still got basic facts wrong. He said Draper kissed off the No Child Left Behind Act as a sop to the left without explaining, as any journalist would, what the law does. After the war on terror, no issue has been more important to Bush than getting kids to read.
“There have been a lot of phone calls going back and forth among former White House aides saying they can’t believe this book is so sloppy and that we were asked to cooperate with thus guy,” Blakeman said. “’Dead Certain’ is dead wrong.”
Noting that Bartlett also recommended that the White House cooperate with Bob Woodward, who wrote a scathing book about the president, Blakeman said, “Any company or agency knows that you don’t reward people with access if they are ether incompetent or have a predisposition to trash you, yet this author was given access to the president.”
Card said he doubted the book would have much impact. Despite the access Draper enjoyed, a week after its release, “Dead Certain” has dropped to No. 25 on Amazon.com.
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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