It’s probably not earthshaking news to anyone out there that another former Bush administration employee has decided to write a gossipy backstage memoir of Dubya’s disastrous presidency.
Nor is it likely any surprise that in speechwriter Matt Latimer’s memoir, the Shrub-in-Chief himself is portrayed as both obnoxiously arrogant and childishly naive (not to mention in over his head):
After Chris, Jonathan Horn, and I learned about the president’s $700-billion-bailout proposal and drafted the remarks announcing it to a stunned nation, Ed said the president wanted to see us in the Oval Office. The president looked relaxed and was sitting behind the Resolute desk. He felt he’d made the major decision that everyone had been asking for. That always seemed to relax him. He liked being decisive. Excuse me, boldly decisive. The president seemed to be thinking of his memoirs. “This might go in as a big decision,” he mused.
“Definitely, Mr. President,” someone else observed. “This is a large decision.”
What is amusing, though, are the vignettes that show tiny flickers of self-knowledge from the famed “decider” and “war president” Consider, for example, this comment on Barack Obama:
After one of Obama’s blistering speeches against the administration, the president had a very human reaction: He was ticked off. He came in one day to rehearse a speech, fuming. “This is a dangerous world,” he said for no apparent reason, “and this cat isn’t remotely qualified to handle it. This guy has no clue, I promise you.” He wound himself up even more. “You think I wasn’t qualified?” he said to no one in particular. “I was qualified.”
And on Sarah Palin:
“This woman is being put into a position she is not even remotely prepared for,” he said. “She hasn’t spent one day on the national level. Neither has her family.”
The split-second between the last two sentences — as the child-president briefly realized his own lack of qualifications and searched for a point of differentiation — must have been priceless to witness in person.
Alas, such self-insight didn’t last long, for either Bush or his minions. Latimer writes that last fall, Shrubya was miffed about John McCain blocking press access to a joint appearance the two had planned in Phoenix:
Eventually, someone informed the president that the reason the event was closed was that McCain was having trouble getting a crowd. Bush was incredulous. [...] “He can’t get 500 people to show up for an event in his hometown? [...] I could get that many people to turn out in Crawford.” He shook his head. “This is a five-spiral crash, boys.”
We tried to move on to something else. But the president wouldn’t let go. He was stuck on the Phoenix event. At one point, he looked off into space and said to no one in particular, “What is this—a cruel hoax?”
Chris [a fellow speechwriter] and I were tickled by that comment. For weeks, we would look for ways to use it. “They are out of Diet Pepsis at the mess. What is this, a cruel hoax?” I went to dinner with a friend. “They don’t have cheeseburgers?” I said, looking at the menu. “What is this, a cruel hoax?”
No, Mr. Latimer. The cruel hoax was that the egotistical simpleton you worked for was President of the United States for eight years.