The Bush Dynasty is dead. I remember being In Iran during the 1979-80 hostage crisis, and seeing old envelopes at the Intercontinental Hotel that read "50 years of the Pahlavi Dynasty." Well, another political dynasty has bitten the dust. The Bush dynasty.
The Bush name has been sullied for all time. It is in the process of becoming as toxic as "Hoover" and "Nixon."
In fact, the president has about 72 hours to save his reelection campaign and his presidency. Beyond that, the damage will be irreparable. Even if I am wrong, and President Bush ekes out a reelection victory, it will be a Pyrrhic victory, not worth the cost, not worth the four years of agony that follow.
Let me start by saying I like Bush. I think he is genuinely horrified. I liked his father. The first President Bush was as decent a man as ever occupied the White House. On my radio talk show I have always defended the second President Bush as an individual. I know he is a nice man.
But history plays cruel tricks. First, history elevated a man to the White House who was not really ready and qualified by experience to serve as leader: George W. Bush. Then history played a second cruel trick, by challenging this president, and compelling him to act courageously in attacking the Taliban. Bush rose to the challenge and succeeded. Finally, as in a Greek Tragedy, in Act III history played yet another trick, and took the president into terminal hubris in Iraq.
Strangely, I think Bush is one of my readers. We send copies of columns to the White House (this one will go there) and someone reads them. I know we are widely read in the State Department. I often phase my ideas in terms of open letters to the president, so here goes, again. And, it often seems as though Bush’s actions follow soon after my columns. We’ll see.
Here’s my latest open letter:
I began writing about the prisoner abuses a week ago.
I know you were shocked. I know it. I can tell by your reaction your pain is not feigned. It is real. But I also know you were misled and let down by some of your arrogant subordinates, the people that on my radio show I call the "brown-shirted, goose-stepping, pasty-faced Republican weenies," guys who like to talk tough, but are not in fact tough. There are a lot of them in the Republican Party.
Well, we are in a whole lot of trouble. You have not only shamed the United States, worse from your perspective you save shamed your family. You look bad. Stupid. Out of touch. Apologizing profusely after the explosion will not put the pieces back together. It will not restore our honor.
You promised to restore honor and dignity to the White House. Well, you have restored sexual dignity to the White House, but you have dishonored America in a way that Bill Clinton never did. Ouch.
I know you often get my advice, and often ignore it, but you should go back and read some of my old columns at Out2.com. We are preparing to publish a book of my reports from Iraq: Andy Martin in Iraq.
I am a candidate for the U.S. Senate. Today I was interviewed on the radio in Cape Town, South Africa. Thus, I work from a world perspective.
I am a little guy. But I know how to fight. You and I have crossed swords before. I warned in a controversial 1999 TV ad that you were going to attack Iraq. I knew. I have also crossed swords with your brother. But, I still look at matters from a dispassionate perspective.
How can you survive? How could you survive?
My best guess is that you have about 72 hours to do something, fire someone, take bold, decisive action. The time bomb is ticking. It will go off. Soon. Public reaction is like a delayed fuse. It takes a long time for outrage to build, but when it does, look out. Boom. We are at "boom" time with the American voter.
The situation is hopeless unless you act, take command, do something now.
The criminal justice system is designed to protect defendants’ rights; it is not a substitute for decisive political leadership. A political leader who wants to stay in office can’t rely on prosecutors to save him; he or she has to act decisively in their own right. Promising to punish the soldiers and others who committed atrocities will not save you politically. It will not.
Right now, the evidence of systematic murder and human rights violations by American troops and contactors against prisoners is so pervasive and so documented that there is no way your administration can escape political responsibility and accountability, and liability up to the highest levels. You need to do something before Monday, or Monday at the latest.
First, Rummy has to go. Now. You said you have confidence in Rummy. Bad move. No way. Rummy is toast. Tell him he may have your confidence, but he has lost the confidence of the world. He has to go. It’s painful, but let me put it to you this way: it’s either Rummy or you. You decide. Loyalty has nothing to do with it. You can be loyal to a subordinate and still replace him if he loses the confidence of the public.
Second, Tenet is also toast. As a person of Greek-American background, I have always been especially proud of Tenet. But he is another loser as a manger and leader. He has to go.
Finally, you need to shake up things in Baghdad. The circus that was going on only a week ago, with the Alphonse and Gaston routine in Falluja, was terminal. "Revolt of the Generals," I called it.
L. Paul Bremer, III, the alpha-bureaucrat I have been criticizing for a year, he knows he’s going down. He is trying to take others with him. He is suddenly planting stories he was warning of the abuses all along. He’s toast too. He is not only a weenie; he’s a two-faced liar.
Last November, your press people planted a story in the Washington Post trashing my columns and criticisms. You were quoted as saying you and Bremer worked out together. Is that true? If so, why didn’t Bremer warn you? He failed you too. He had access.
And either General Abizaid or Sanchez has to go. Preferably both, but at least one general has to be sacrificed. You have to shoot these guys, a "Night of the Iraqi Vespers," or there will be no second Bush administration. That’s the way it is: them, or you.
Apologies won’t cut it as the crisis grows. John Dean is said to have told President Nixon "There is a cancer growing on your presidency." That cancer is back. On your presidency.
Ironically, the only guy that has not failed you is me. I have told you the truth. From the first day I landed in Baghdad, to my next return trip, I have always told the truth. Openly, even when the truth was caustic, when I was harassed and people said: Why are you a Republican? " I am a Republican because I am a proud American; I hate to see my president dragged through the mud. But the two-faced loyalty of the kind exhibited by your subordinates is not loyalty; it is lethal.
This is a tough letter, but tough talk is what you need.
Do it, or be done to. It’s that simple. Kerrey won’t win the election. You will lose it.
Loyal American, Loyal Republican/Honest Columnist