How has George Bush reacted to the hell he created in Iraq, to the thousands of lives that have been lost in the war, and to the enormous and endless suffering that the survivors of the victims -- their loved ones -- have had to endure?
I've always felt that impressions are very important in life, and other than "first impressions," they are usually right. Why? Because impressions, we know, are formed over a period of time. They are the accumulation of many words and incidents, many or most of which one has forgotten, but which are nonetheless assimilated into the observer's subconscious and thus make their mark. In other words, you forgot the incident, but it added to the impression. "How do you feel about David? Do you feel he's an honest person?" "Yeah, I do." "Why do you say that about him? Can you give me any examples that would cause you to say he's honest?" "No, not really, at least not off the top of my head. But I've known David for over ten years, and my sense is that he's an honest person."
I have a very distinct impression that with the exception of a vagrant tear that may have fallen if he was swept up, in the moment, at an emotional public ceremony for American soldiers who have died in the war, George Bush hasn't suffered at all over the monumental suffering, death, and horror he has caused by plunging this nation into the darkness of the Iraq war, probably never losing a wink of sleep over it. Sure, we often hear from Bush administration sources, or his family, or from Bush himself, about how much he suffers over the loss of American lives in Iraq. But that dog won't run. How do we just about know this is nonsense? Not only because the words he has uttered could never have escaped from his lips if he were suffering, but because no matter how many American soldiers have died on a given day in Iraq (averaging well over two every day), he is always seen with a big smile on his face that same day or the next, and is in good spirits. How would that be possible if he was suffering? For example, the November 3, 2003, morning New York Times front-page headline story was that the previous day in Fallouja, Iraq, insurgents "shot down an American helicopter just outside the city in a bold assault that killed 16 soldiers and wounded 20 others. It was the deadliest attack on American troops since the United States invaded Iraq in March." Yet later in that same day when Bush arrived for a fund-raiser in Birmingham, Alabama, he was smiling broadly, and Mike Allen of the Washington Post wrote that "the President appeared to be in a fabulous mood." This is merely one of hundreds of such observations made about Bush while the brutal war continued in Iraq.
And even when Bush is off camera, we have consistently heard from those who have observed him up close how much he seems to be enjoying himself. When Bush gave up his miles of running several times a week because of knee problems, he took up biking. "He's turned into a bike maniac," said Mark McKinnon in March of 2005, right in the middle of the war. McKinnon, a biking friend of Bush's who was Bush's chief media strategist in his 2004 reelection campaign, also told the New York Times's Elisabeth Bumiller about Bush: "He's as calm and relaxed and confident and happy as I've ever seen him." Happy? Under the horrible circumstances of the war, where Bush's own soldiers are dying violent deaths, how is that even possible?
In a time of war and suffering, Bush's smiles, joking, and good spirits stand in stark contrast to the demeanor of everyone of his predecessors and couldn't possibly be more inappropriate. Michael Moore, in his motion picture documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, captured this fact and the superficiality of Bush well with a snippet from a TV interview Bush gave on the golf course following a recent terrorist attack. Bush said, "I call upon all nations to do everything they can to stop these terrorist killers. Thank you." Then, without missing a single beat, he said in reference to a golf shot he was about to hit: "Now watch this drive."
Before I get into specific instances of Bush laughing and having fun throughout the entire period of the inferno he created in Iraq, I want to discuss a number of more indirect but revealing incidents that reflect he could not care less about the human suffering and carnage going on in Iraq, or anywhere.
1. The first inkling I got that Bush didn't care about the suffering or anyone, not just those dying in Iraq, was from an article in the September 22, 2001, New York Times just eleven days after 9/11. Though 3,000 Americans had been murdered and the nation was in agony and shock, the man who should have been leading the mourning was, behind the scenes, not affected in the tiniest way. The article, by Frank Bruni, said that "Mr. Bush's nonchalant, jocular demeanor remains the same. In private, say several Republicans close to the administration, he still slaps backs and uses baseball terminology, at one point promising that the terrorists were not 'going to steal home on me.' He is not staying up all night, or even most of the night. He is taking time to play with his dogs and his cat. He is working out most days." So right after several thousand Americans lost their lives in a horrible catastrophe, behind the scenes Bush is his same old backslapping self, and he's not letting the tragedy interfere in the slightest way with the daily regimen of his life that he enjoys.
In fact, he himself admitted to the magazine Runners World (August 23, 2002) that after the Afghanistan war began: "I have been running with a little more intensity . . . It helps me to clear my mind." (In other words, Bush likes to clear his mind of the things he's supposed to be thinking about.) Remarkably finding time in the most important job on earth to run six days a week, Bush added: "It's interesting that my times have become faster . . . For me, the psychological benefit [in running] is enormous. You tend to forget everything that's going on in your mind and just concentrate on the time and distance." But even this obscene indulgence after 9/11 and during wartime by the man with more responsibility than anyone in the world wasn't enough for Bush. He told the magazine: "I try to go for longer runs, but it's tough around here at the White House on the outdoor track. It's sad that I can't run longer. It's one of the saddest things about the presidency." Imagine that. Among all the things that the president of the United States could be sad about during a time of war, not being able to run longer six days a week is up there near the top of the list.
A New York Times article not long after 9/11 (November 5, 2001) reported that Bush had told his friends (obviously with pride) that "his runs on the Camp David trails through the Maryland woods have produced his fastest time in a decade, three miles in 21 minutes and 6 seconds." USA Today (October 29, 2001) reported that Bush used to run 3 miles in 25 minutes and now he was "boasting to friends and staffers" about his new time, and was "now running 4 miles a day."
So with his approval rating soaring to 90 percent in the wake of 9/11 -- and with his being the main person in America whose job required that he be totally engaged every waking hour in working diligently on this nation's response to 9/11 -- Bush, remarkably, was working diligently on improving his time for the mile. I ask you, what American president in history, Republican or Democrat, would have conducted himself this way?
2. One thing about Bush. He's so dense that he makes remarks an intelligent person who was as much of a scoundrel as he would never make. They'd keep their feelings, which they would know to be very shameful, to themselves. On December 21, 2001, just a few months after 9/11 -- a tragedy that shocked the nation and the world in which 3,000 Americans were consumed by fires, some choosing to jump to their deaths out of windows eighty or more stories high -- Bush, who could only have been thinking of himself, told the media: "All in all, it's been a fabulous year for Laura and me." He said this because that is exactly the way he felt. What difference does 9/11 make? I'm president. I love it, and Laura and I are having a ball.
Indeed, on January 20, 2005, right in the midst of the hell on earth Bush created in Iraq -- when the carnage there was near its worst and American soldiers and Iraqi citizens were dying violent deaths every day -- Bush, referring to himself and his wife, told thousands of partying supporters at one of his nine inaugural balls: "We're having the time of our life." Can you even begin to imagine Roosevelt in the midst of the Second World War, Truman during the Korean War, or LBJ and Nixon during the Vietnam War, saying something like this?
3. Does it not stand to reason that if Bush were suffering over the daily killings and tragedy in Iraq, he would be working every waking hour to lessen the mounting number of casualties as well as find a way to satisfactorily end the terrible conflict? I mean, as president, that's what you'd expect of him, right? Isn't that his job? Yet we know that although Bush is still in office, he has already spent far more time on vacation than any other president in American history. For instance, by April 11, 2004 (he was inaugurated January 20, 2001), he had visited his cherished ranch in Crawford a mind-boggling thirty-three times and spent almost eight months of his presidency there.
Although the office of the presidency follows the president wherever he goes twenty-four hours a day, and at least some part of every day on vacation, no matter how small, was spent by Bush attending to his duties as president, we also know that Bush's main purpose when he goes on vacation, obviously and by definition, is to vacation, not work. CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller, who travels with Bush and keeps track of such things, told me that as of January 1, 2008, in Bush's less than seven years as president, he visited his ranch in Texas an unbelievable 69 times, spending, per Knoller, "all or part of 448 days on vacation there." As amazing as this is, Bush also made, Knoller says, 132 visits to Camp David during this period, spending "all or part of 421 days there," and 10 visits to his family's vacation compound at Kennebunkport, Maine, spending "all or part of 39 days there."
So the bottom line is that of a total of approximately 2,535 days as president, most of them during a time of war, Bush spent all or a part or 908 days, an incredible 36 percent of his time, on vacation or at retreat places. Hard to believe, but true. Nine hundred and eight days is two and a half years of Bush's presidency. Two and a half years of the less than seven years of his presidency in which his main goal was to kick back and have fun. You see, the White House digs, with a pool, theater, gymnasium, etc., weren't enjoyable enough for Bush. He wanted a more enjoyable place to be during his life as president. *
My position in life is infinitely less important than Bush's, yet during the above same period of Bush's presidency, I not only worked much longer hours every day than Bush, I worked seven days a week, never took one vacation, and only took three days off to go to the desert with my wife to celebrate our fiftieth wedding anniversary. If it had not been for the anniversary, I wouldn't have even taken those three days off. I realize I take working to an extreme, living by the clock each day, always looking up to see how much time I have left, working from morning to morning (retiring usually around two in the morning and starting my day at ten in the morning). Still, it is striking to consider that in seven years, I took 3 days off and Bush, the president of the United States, took 908. Even Americans who lead a more normal life than I, even fat-cat corporate executives, haven't taken anywhere near the time away from their work that Bush has. Indeed, I think we can safely say that even though Bush has the most important and demanding job in this entire land, he has irresponsibly taken far more time off from his job to have fun during the past seven years than any worker or company executive in America!!! Is Bush, or is he not, a disgrace of the very first order?
*Remarkably, during his campaign for reelection in 2004 Bush very frequently spoke of the "hard work" he and his administration were engaging in. This was the first time I had ever heard an American president speak of the "hard work" involved in his job. I have heard them speak of the immense "burden" of the office of the presidency being responsible for the destiny and welfare of millions of people. But you see, for someone like Bush who was born on home plate and thought he had hit a home run, anything he does, any effort at all, he considers "hard work."
The above is an excerpt from the book The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder by Vincent Bugliosi Published by Vanguard Press; May 2008;$26.95US/$28.95CAN; 978-159315-481-3
Copyright © 2008 Vincent Bugliosi
Vincent Bugliosi received his law degree in 1964. In his career at the L.A. County District Attorney's office, he successfully prosecuted 105 out of 106 felony jury trials, including 21 murder convictions without a single loss. His most famous trial, the Charles Manson case, became the basis of his classic, Helter Skelter, the biggest selling true-crime book in publishing history. His forthcoming book, The Prosecution of George W. Bush For Murder, is available May 27.
For more information visit www.prosecutionofbush.com