Thursday, May 11, 2006

NYT's Book Critic: All the President's Books

All the President's Books (Minding History's Whys and Wherefores) - Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times reviews the plethora of Bush books and finds a chorus in tune (Al Franken and Tom Oliphant were talking about this piece today on Al's Air America show): "In recent months a floodlet of books has been published about President Bush, his administration and the war in Iraq. They range widely in perspective: there are books by reporters, by administration insiders and by counterterrorism and economic experts; books with conservative, liberal and nonpartisan points of view; books that offer a wide-angle window on the administration; and books that zero in on particular aspects of the war in Iraq.

Yet taken together with earlier volumes, these books create a cumulative and, in many respects, surprisingly coherent portrait of the Bush White House and its management style. Authors as disparate as the Reagan administration economist Bruce Bartlett, the New Yorker investigative reporter Seymour M. Hersh, the Weekly Standard editor Fred Barnes and the New York Times reporter James Risen point to ways in which this administration has discarded past precedent, and illuminate its penchant for circumventing traditional processes of policy development and policy review.

It's a tropism, an instinctive reflex that informs the Bush White House's decision-making process, as well as its strategic and tactical thinking, a tropism that has played a major role in this increasingly embattled administration's approach to a host of issues from the war in Iraq to Social Security reform to the government's policy on torture. Many books about the Bush administration and the war in Iraq — including 'The Assassins' Gate' by the New Yorker writer George Packer; 'The Next Attack' by Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon, former National Security Council staffers under Bill Clinton; and 'Squandered Victory' by Larry Diamond, a former senior adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad — also underscore related predispositions on the part of this White House: an appetite for big, visionary ideas, imposed from the top down; an eagerness to centralize decision making in the executive branch; and a tendency to shrug off the advice of experts, be they military experts, intelligence experts or economic experts.

In retrospect, these patterns underlie recent complaints from more than half a dozen retired generals that civilian policymakers at the Pentagon ignored the advice of military officers, and new charges by two C.I.A. veterans that the Bush administration selectively ignored crucial intelligence assessments about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.



Post a Comment

<< Home