The lead headline on the front page of this morning’s Washington Post declares, “Book Tells Of Dissent In Bush’s Inner Circle.” The book is Dead Certain: The Presidency of George Bush by Robert Draper of GQ.
It’s been the conventional wisdom for some time that there is disagreement among top White House officials. For example, the MSM has long described a purported clash between the views of Vice President Cheney and those of, say, Secretary of State Rice. Moreover, it’s difficult to imagine how a president who has gone through two grueling election campaigns and governed for almost seven years, during approximately half of which we have been engaged in a difficult war, would not experience significant disagreements among his top aides.
Why, then, did the Post elect to give such prominence to a book (and not one written by Bob Woodward) that found such disagreements? The Post is obsessed, of course, with stories that that cast Bush in a bad light and/or make members of his administration uncomfortable. But this story barely satisfies this criteria. What’s really going on, I think, is that the Post has bought into a soft version of the fiction that Bush (as manipulated by Cheney and/or Rove) is a tyrant hell-bent on crushing dissent, whether internal or external. Thus, evidence of dissent within his administration (essentially a dog-bites-man story) strikes the Post as significant enough to make this the lead story on a day in which, for example, North Korea reportedly has agreed to end its nuclear program by the end of the year.
The Post’s story also trumpets a report in the same book that Chief Justice Roberts suggested that President Bush nominate Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court. But it seems highly implausible that Roberts would have identified Miers as the best candidate for the high Court; Roberts, so far as I know, did not have the significant exposure to Miers or her legal work that would have put him in a position to single her out in this way.
Moreover, the Chief Justice has denied Draper’s account. After consulting with Roberts, a Supreme Court spokeswoman told the Post: “The account is not true, the chief justice did not suggest Harriet Miers to the president.”
Which makes you wonder whether, to the extent the book has anything interesting to say, such tidbits should be believed.
JOHN adds: It seems too obvious to need pointing out that there is supposed to be disagreement among executive branch officials and Presidential aides. Presidents want conflicting views to be aired so that they can make fully informed decisions. Otherwise, “insider” books on Presidential administrations would charge that the President was insulated from divergent views and that his advisers were in “lockstep” on key issues. If that were the case, the Post would print such exposes with equal alacrity. The Post’s story is reminiscent of media accounts of the Reagan administration, which were often couched in terms of conflicts among Reagan’s aides of which Reagan was depicted as a passive observer. We don’t hear that story line much anymore.
The suggestion that John Roberts suggested nominating Harriet Miers to the Court is weird on its face. Miers had been a top aide and close friend of the President’s for some years at the time of her nomination, and had, as far as I know, no professional relationship with Roberts. Roberts had no connection to the Texas legal world from which Miers came. The idea that nominating Miers, the President’s good friend and long-time attorney, was somehow Roberts’s idea, is odd, to say the least.
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