George W. Bush finally breaks his silence about Obama

For six years, George W. Bush has been the model ex-president, keeping his opinions of his successor to himself.  Contrast Bush's reticence with the jabs delivered by both Clinton and Carter during the Bush presidency.  Carter especially had been vocal of what he saw as the 43rd president's missteps.

Bush told a group of Jewish donors hosted by Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson that President Obama had America in "retreat" around the world and that we were losing the war against ISIS.


According to the attendee's transcription, Bush noted that Iran has a new president, Hassan Rouhani. “He's smooth," Bush said. "And you’ve got to ask yourself, is there a new policy or did they just change the spokesman?”

Bush said that Obama’s plan to lift sanctions on Iran with a promise that they could snap back in place at any time was not plausible. He also said the deal would be bad for American national security in the long term: “You think the Middle East is chaotic now? Imagine what it looks like for our grandchildren. That’s how Americans should view the deal.”  

Bush then went into a detailed criticism of Obama’s policies in fighting the Islamic State and dealing with the chaos in Iraq. On Obama’s decision to withdraw all U.S. troops in Iraq at the end of 2011, he quoted Senator Lindsey Graham calling it a “strategic blunder.” Bush signed an agreement with the Iraqi government to withdraw those troops, but the idea had been to negotiate a new status of forces agreement to keep U.S. forces there past 2011. The Obama administration tried and failed to negotiate such an agreement.

Bush said he views the rise of the Islamic State as al-Qaeda’s "second act” and that they may have changed the name but that murdering innocents is still the favored tactic. He defended his own administration’s handling of terrorism, noting that the terrorist Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who confessed to killing Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, was captured on his watch: “Just remember the guy who slit Danny Pearl’s throat is in Gitmo, and now they're doing it on TV.”

Obama promised to degrade and destroy Islamic State's forces but then didn’t develop a strategy to complete the mission, Bush said. He said that if you have a military goal and you mean it, “you call in your military and say ‘What’s your plan?’ ” He indirectly touted his own decision to surge troops to Iraq in 2007, by saying, “When the plan wasn’t working in Iraq, we changed.”

“In order to be an effective president ... when you say something you have to mean it,” he said. “You gotta kill em.”

This is vintage Bush: straight from the shoulder, with no embellishment or hesitation.  President Obama has been fighting a phony war against the Islamic State, doing just enought to satisfy his own sense of American involvement but refusing to do what is necessary to achieve the goals he himself has set.   That's not leadership, and Bush was right to point that out.

And, of course, the former president isn't saying anything new about the Iran deal.  It's bad, and it will lead to a black future in the Middle East for our friends and allies.

It doesn't appear that Bush chose this venue to break his silence.  The attendee who transcribed Bush's remarks was probably not connected to the former president, so we have to assume his statements were not for widespread public consumption.  Nevertheless, Bush's re-engagement with the political world is a welcome sign, as his experience with crisis is both needed and valuable.

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