Among the many issues which have concerned me in the last month of 2007, a book I finished just before leaving on my trip, Jack Goldsmith’s The Terror Presidency: Law and Judgment Inside the Bush Administration, addressed two of them. I bought the book primarily because I thought it would help me explore the background of the administration’s policy on aggressive interrogation, what some have called, “torture.”
While the book did help familiarize myself with that issue, it also helped me find some answers to a question which has preoccupied me for the past two years, “When did W go wrong?” That is, I have been trying to figure out how the president squandered the mandate of his reelection in 2004, losingthe popular support he had enjoyed when he won reelection and in the months immediately after his second inauguration. As I read the book, it seems that while the president made numerous mistakes in the first year of his second term, the root of many of his biggest mistakes lay in his first term of office, in the months immediately after 9/11.
It might well be counterproductive (at this point) to focus on those reasons in a post on Goldsmith’s book for that post might get sidetracked from the issues the former Assistant Attorney General addresses in this reflection on his turn in office. But, I should now that as I read the book and considered some of this distinguished lawyer’s criticisms, I began better able to consolidate some of my thoughts on this question, that is, Goldsmith’s observations corresponded with some of my own. And he was much closer to the key players than I could ever be, encountering them directly rather than experiencing them as did I filtered through the news media and blogosphere.
I will attempt do at least two (additional) posts on his criticisms, one inspired by the book, addressing the question I had asked and the other reflecting on the book, one of the best pieces of Bush criticism I have read in recent days, quite possibly the best I have read in book form.
Unlike the great majority of Bush critics, Jack Goldsmith takes the time to understand the arguments of those he criticizes, the president and his closest advisors, to understand their motives and to consider them in as a favorable light as possible. He does not see them as diabolical agents, acting out of their greed, other malicious motives or to promote power for its own sake, but out of concern for the national interest. And in criticizing them, he does not do so to vent his own spleen, to exorcize his own demons or demonize his ideological adversaries (well, in his case, his ideological allies with different interpretations on furthering executive authority in the War on Terror), but to show why they (that is, those whom he is criticizing) have not promoted the national interest as best they could.
Just before bed last night, I wrote the preceding five paragraphs, intending them as an introduction to one of two (proposed) posts on Jack Goldsmith’s book. When I woke this morning, I realized that they qualified in a post in and of itself and publish them for your perusal. As my schedule allows in the next few days, I will try to post additional pieces on the book and the issues it addresses. Let me repeat, as my schedule allows.