Tuesday, January 02, 2007

1) Gerald Ford on Iraq; and 2) Bill Bennett is still a jackass.

Ford was against the Iraq war.

On December 28, 2006, the Washington Post had a front page article by Bob Woodward entitled "Ford Disagreed With Bush About Invading Iraq." I had considered not posting anything about the article until I saw the reaction of Bill Bennett to it. Bennett is such a jackass, and what he had to say about Ford really pissed me off, so I decided to write about Ford's comments.

Woodward interviewed Ford in July 2004 and again in 2005. These conversations were meant for a book project in the future, and Ford specifically asked that his statements not be made public until after his death.

Ford told Woodward he disagreed with the decision to go to war.
Describing his own preferred policy toward Saddam Hussein's Iraq, Ford said he would not have gone to war, based on the publicly available information at the time, and would have worked harder to find an alternative. "I don't think, if I had been president, on the basis of the facts as I saw them publicly," he said, "I don't think I would have ordered the Iraq war. I would have maximized our effort through sanctions, through restrictions, whatever, to find another answer."
There certainly were available and viable alternatives to war, particularly in light of the reasons given for going to war. For example, as I have explained in detail, 1) there were no WMD; 2) this was indicated by our own intelligence before the war; 3) the U.N inspections were proving there were no WMD. [Go to the Cosmic Wheel Index, check the WMD heading under "Iraq," and Parts 3 and 5 of the Retrospecitive series on why the Iraq war was a bad idea.]

In particular, Ford disagreed with two of the justifications given for the war. Regarding WMD, Ford said,
Rumsfeld and Cheney and the president made a big mistake in justifying going into the war in Iraq. They put the emphasis on weapons of mass destruction. And now, I've never publicly said I thought they made a mistake, but I felt very strongly it was an error in how they should justify what they were going to do.
And then Ford addressed the "Burning Bush" doctrine:
"Well, I can understand the theory of wanting to free people," Ford said, referring to Bush's assertion that the United States has a "duty to free people." But the former president said he was skeptical "whether you can detach that from the obligation number one, of what's in our national interest." He added: "And I just don't think we should go hellfire damnation around the globe freeing people, unless it is directly related to our own national security."
And, as I have shown (see the "Burning Bush doctrine" subheading under the main heading of "Bush administration" in the Cosmic Wheel Index), 1) spreading democracy was not necessarily a good idea from a national security perspective; 2) it certainly has not turned out well for us; and 3) it should have been obvious to anyone who thought the matter through that spreading democracy in the Middle East could harm our national security interests.

So, there was a former President who saw combat in the Navy during WW II, was President during a time of war (Vietnam), and had experience in using diplomacy in a time of war who was against the Iraq war and saw that the reasons given for the war were problematical, to say the least.

And that is just part of the explanation for why Bill Bennett's reaction pissed me off.

Bill Bennett is still a jackass.

Also on December 28, 2006, Bill Bennett published his reaction to Ford's comments. Bennett said that Ford's actions were neither decent nor courageous. I think that Bennett's criticism shows a lack of decency, hypocrisy, and sheer nonsense. It is a weak attempt to defend or steer the focus away from what a disaster the Bush administration and all who supported it created.

Bennett's scorn arose from the fact that Ford expressly requested that his comments not be made public until after his death.
If he felt so strongly about his words having a derogatory affect, how about telling Woodward not to run the interview until after Bush & Cheney are out of office? The effect of what Ford did is to protect himself, ensuring he can't be asked by others about his critiques, ensuring that there can be no dialogue. The way Ford does it with Woodward, he doesn't have to defend himself...he simply drops it into Bob Woodward's tape recorder and let's the bomb go off when fully out of range, himself. This is not courage, this is not decent.
Look at Ford's comments and the rest of the article. Did he say his request was because he was worried about his words having a derogatory effect? No. In fact, did he give any explanation for his request? No. Bennett simply assumed Ford's reason. In my profession, that assumption would prompt an objection (which would be sustained) for assuming facts not in evidence. And Bennett went a step further by imlying that Ford's purpose was to have a derogatory effect. What Bennett did was invent a straw man which he could then attack. I do not have a Ph.D, nor am I a philosopher, like Bennett, so I do not know any fancy Latin terms for what he did in this regard, so I will use a simpler term: bullshit.

It is fair to speculate on Ford's reason for the request, but I will do something Bennett refused to do, namely examine possibilities. Generally speaking, Ford was never one who wanted to always be in the spotlight. He did not seek glory for himself. He never tried to take credit or glory away from others. He tried to do what he considered his job and no more. Given these characteristics, it is possible that Ford did not want to in essence "stick his nose in another President's business." In other words, he might have felt that it was not his job to publicly tell a sitting President how to do things. Bennett never even considers this possibility.

Bennett's accusatory question also assumed that Ford had some idea of when he would die. Also, perhaps Ford thought that after more than three and a half years, things might have been better in Iraq instead of the complete cluster f*#k it has become. Bennett apparently believes that Ford knew he would die before the end of Bush's administration AND that Ford intended to cause harm to Bush AND that he wanted to make sure he did not face any criticism in return. That makes about as much sense as Bennett's theory that part of the liberal agenda is to abort black babies (see the previous post about Bennett).

Bennett then suggested three things that would have been "manly or more decent." The first was to "Say it to Bush's or Cheney's face and allow them and us to engage the point while you're around." This is one of the dumbest things I have ever heard. Why? Because there were plenty of people who openly and strongly said that the Iraq war was a horrible idea and that the reasons given for going to war were bullshit, AND NONE OF THAT MADE A DAMN BIT OF DIFFERENCE TO BUSH, CHENEY, RUMSKULL, WOLFOWITLESS, AND ALL THE OTHER IDIOTS RESPONSIBLE FOR STARTING THE WAR. Bush and Cheney did not and were never going to "engage the point." Bush and Cheney would not have listened to Ford. Instad, they likely would have painted him as a freedom-hating terrorist lover like they did anyone who spoke out against the war before it started. I mean, seriously, Bush and Cheney did not listen to Brent Scowcroft, who was Bush's father's National Security Advisor and best friend (see "Brent Scowcroft Speaks Out" Part 1 and Part 2), meaning pretty much that Bush did not even listen to his own father. He damn sure wasn't going to listen to Gerald Ford.

Bennett's second "manly" option was for Ford to "say nothing critical of Bush will be on the record until his presidency is over." That is not a misprint. That is what Bennett posted, and that what is still posted. Apparently, when Bennett was getting his Ph.D in philosophy, he did not take any basic English courses, for that sentence makes no sense. Perhaps Bennett wa channeling Yoda at the time and meant to say, "say nothing critical of Bush until his presidency is over." How is that moral and decent?

Bennett's third option was "Don't say anything critical of George Bush to Bob Woodward at all." Yeah, Gerald Ford. Who the hell did you think you were? You were such an immoral reprobate for criticizing Bush at all. Why didn't you just shut the hell up? In fact, everyone should just shut the hell and never criticize Bush. Yeah, that would be the American thing to do.

Bennett ended his condemnation of Ford with the following:
You're a former President Mr. Ford, show a little more decency to the incumbent who is in a very, very tough place and trying to do the right thing....you may recall those days and positions yourself.
Ford was indeed in a very tough place when he took office. He inherited a country which was divided by the Vietnam war and the Watergate scandal. Ford helped heal those wounds and bring some unity back to the country. In so doing, he had to make hard decisions, and he did so without regard to how it would affect him personally. One such decision--pardoning Nixon (which in retrospect I think was the right decision)--probably cost Ford the 1976 election. Bush, on the other hand, had a country that was united after 9-11 and then proceeded to make it a very divided country. In so doing, Bush based most of his decisions and actions on his own political interests. And for that, Bennett thinks Ford never should have said anything critical of Bush. What a jackass.

But there is something even more chickenshit about Bennett's closing shot against Ford. Bennett's ire was based on the fact that Ford is now dead and thus avoided taking any heat for his comments. Well, given that Ford is dead, why was Bennett's closing attack stated as if Ford was still alive? What Bennett did was criticize and attack a dead person who can then not respond or defend himself. How manly was that? I'm sure Bennett will once again try something like comparing himself to Jonathan Swift (again, see the previous post about Bennett), but it sure seems to me that Bennett is simply being a coward. Instead of addressing the substantive issues raised by Ford ("engaging the point," one might say), Bennett tried to divert attention from that by attacking a dead man. Morover, Bush has a chance to defend himself against Ford's comments. Then again, maybe manly George is incapable of responding and needs a blowhard like Bennett to try to do it for him.

In other words, Bill Bennett is not just a jackass. He is a gutless jackass.

And he damn sure ain't like Gerald Ford.

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