With Congress on the cusp of a major fight over Iraq policy, in which an important data point will be whether or not any action short of a funding cutoff can convince the Bush administration to change course, there appears today in Slate an excerpt from a book by Robert Draper based on a series of recent interviews with the Decider himself. Today’s piece features an interview just after the 2006 elections.
It’s a chilling interview, frankly. We’ve all known for years that George W. Bush is unreflective, stubborn, and unwilling to admit mistakes. But what comes across in the exchange with Draper is something far more dangerous; a conviction that policy failures and repudiation by the public somehow demonstrate Bush’s Higher Wisdom:
His hot dog arrived. Bush ate rapidly, with a sort of voracious disinterest. He was a man who required comfort and routine. Food, for him, was fuel and familiarity. It was not a thing to reflect on.
“The job of the president,” he continued, through an ample wad of bread and sausage, “is to think strategically so that you can accomplish big objectives. As opposed to playing mini-ball. You can’t play mini-ball with the influence we have and expect there to be peace. You’ve gotta think, think BIG.
The thought of “thinking big” led Bush directly into a discussion not of Iraq, but of Iran:
“The Iranian issue,” he said as bread crumbs tumbled out of his mouth and onto his chin, “is the strategic threat right now facing a generation of Americans, because Iran is promoting an extreme form of religion that is competing with another extreme form of religion. Iran’s a destabilizing force. And instability in that part of the world has deeply adverse consequences, like energy falling in the hands of extremist people that would use it to blackmail the West. And to couple all of that with a nuclear weapon, then you’ve got a dangerous situation. … That’s what I mean by strategic thought.
It certainly sounds like Bush internalized the now-forgotten (if not ridiculed) assessment of him by the Right just after the initial invasion of Iraq as some sort of World-Historical Figure whose primary responsibility is to ignore adversity and controversy and do what he thinks best in a “big” way. And while I’m a bit skeptical of the talk around the blogosphere that the administration is seriously planning military action on Iran, it does bear noting that such an audacious move would comport well with the self-image he conveys in this interview.