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On Terror, GOP Goes from Oprah to Donald Trump

January 8, 2010

Witnessing the Republican reaction to the Obama administration's handling of the failed Christmas bombing is like watching reruns of The Apprentice. Like Donald Trump, each conservative talking head proclaims "You're Fired!" to members of the Obama team. Of course, when President Bush presided over the 9/11 catastrophe, Osama Bin Laden's escape from Tora Bora, the baseless claims about Saddam's WMD, the disastrous invasion of Iraq and myriad other intelligence and national security debacles, Republicans instead played the role of Oprah. Then, their message was "you get a medal, you get a medal, you all get medals!"

Of course, none of the Bush bunglers was fired. Instead, a President whose mantra apparently was "nothing succeeds like failure" bestowed medals upon them.
Consider, for example
George Tenet. CIA Director Tenet didn't merely preside over the CIA during the cataclysm of 9/11, but had claimed finding WMD in Iraq was a "slam dunk." For those epic failures, Bush awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Tenet, Bush insisted in the face of abundant evidence to the contrary, "made our country more secure and advanced the cause of human liberty."
Tommy Franks. The former CENTCOMM commander General Tommy Franks also pocketed a medal from President Bush on December 15, 2004. But as we now know from Peter Bergen and other sources, General Franks refused to give the green light to send American forces to Tora Bora in December 2001, missing perhaps the only opportunity to destroy Osama Bin Laden and the Al Qaeda leadership once and for all. Nevertheless, George W. Bush draped the medal around his neck even after Franks wrote an op-ed which amazingly declared, "We don't know to this day whether Mr. bin Laden was at Tora Bora."
Paul Bremer. As head of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Baghdad, Bremer's disbanding of the Iraqi army and ill-advised policy of de-Baathification helped fuel the insurgency which later killed thousands of U.S. soldiers. In a May 2003 exchange of letters, President Bush responded "You have my full support and confidence" to Bremer's announcement that " I will parallel this step [de-Baathification] with an even more robust measure dissolving Saddam's military and intelligence structures to emphasize that we mean business. But as a nonchalant Bush told biographer Robert Draper in 2007, "The policy was to keep the army intact; didn't happen" and "Yeah, I can't remember, I'm sure I said, 'This is the policy, what happened?'"
Paul Wolfowitz. Next to Bremer, no one person may have contributed to the chaos and bloodbath that was the American occupation of Iraq than Donald Rumsfeld's deputy. As ThinkProgress recounted Wolfowitz's role:

Wolfowitz said the U.S. would be greeted as liberators, that Iraqi oil money would pay for the reconstruction, and that Gen. Eric Shinseki's estimate that several hundred thousand troops would be needed was "wildly off the mark."

For his reverse Midas touch, Wolfowitz (and his girlfriend) was rewarded with the top job at the World Bank.
Bush's penchant for distributing award hardware to the architects and backers of his Iraq war hardly ended there. British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Australia's John Howard also were honored by President Bush, as were medal winners Norman Podhoretz, General Peter Pace and General Richard Myers.
Then there are those unfortunate few who didn't receive medals but should have, at least in the eyes of George W. Bush's right-wing echo chamber. Their ranks include:
Karl Rove and Scooter Libby. In November 2007, former Fox News host John Gibson cheered the White House operation to out covert CIA operative Valerie Plame as retribution for her husband Joe Wilson's July 2003 op-ed debunking President Bush's bogus claims about Iraq seeking uranium in Niger. Ending the classified career of CIA agent deeply involved in critical nuclear proliferation work and compromising her global network was essential, Gibson argued, because "this was about an anti-Bush cabal at the CIA" that needed to be "rooted out." For that, the right-wing water carrier declared, there ought to be a medal:

"I'm the guy who said a long, long time ago that whoever outed Valerie Plame should get a medal. And if it was Karl Rove, I'd pin it on him myself."

Jose Rodriguez. Back in 2007, Americans learned that Rodriguez, the former of the CIA's clandestine service ordered the destruction of videotapes of detainee interrogations. (In March, it was revealed that the number of tapes destroyed was not two, but 92.) For that, failed Bush Labor nominee Linda Chavez said "I think he deserves a medal" in a piece titled, "Destroying CIA Tapes Deserves a Thank You."
And so it goes. Donald Rumsfeld wasn't fired for his mistaken criticism of Shinseki, his stunning announcement that "you go to war with the army you have" or even the national disgrace of Abu Ghraib. On two occasions, Bush refused Rummie's resignation. Rumsfeld was forced out only after the 2006 midterms cost the Republicans their Congressional majorities.
Now that a Democrat is in the White House, Republicans insist "someone will have to go" and that Obama "fire those staff members who have failed their president and failed their nation." But when he was President, George W. Bush on August 30, 2004 explained why nothing was a firing offense in his administration:

"Had we had to do it [the invasion of Iraq] over again, we would look at the consequences of catastrophic success - being so successful so fast that an enemy that should have surrendered or been done in escaped and lived to fight another day."

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Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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