Thursday, December 28, 2006

Ford Was Critical of Bush's Iraq Policy

According to Bob Woodward, Gerald Ford was critical of Bush's Iraq policy. Unfortunately, Ford chose not to make his objections public at a time when they might have been useful. Here's Woodward's article in The Washington Post along with other details:
In a four-hour conversation at his house in Beaver Creek, Colo., Ford "very strongly" disagreed with the current president's justifications for invading Iraq and said he would have pushed alternatives, such as sanctions, much more vigorously. In the tape-recorded interview, Ford was critical not only of Bush but also of Vice President Cheney -- Ford's White House chief of staff -- and then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who served as Ford's chief of staff and then his Pentagon chief.

(snip)

"He was an excellent chief of staff. First class," Ford said. "But I think Cheney has become much more pugnacious" as vice president. He said he agreed with former secretary of state Colin L. Powell's assertion that Cheney developed a "fever" about the threat of terrorism and Iraq. "I think that's probably true."

(snip)

[Speaking of his own presidency...] Most challenging of all, as Ford recalled, was Henry A. Kissinger, who was both secretary of state and national security adviser and had what Ford said was "the thinnest skin of any public figure I ever knew."

"I think he was a super secretary of state," Ford said, "but Henry in his mind never made a mistake, so whatever policies there were that he implemented, in retrospect he would defend."

I had to add that last paragraph. Kissinger's support of Bush has been a puzzle, though the former secretary of state has recently backed away somewhat; but they both have in common an inability to admit mistakes. Must be a mutual admiration society I suppose.

The one recent occassion that the increasingly frail Ford was seen with Bush, he didn't say much but he allowed the impression to be given that he supported Bush's policies. I notice that Woodward says he has recordings of his interview with Ford. Sometimes, Woodward may not be the most alert journalist to the problems in Washington but he does remind us that he can get the story like no one else can, eventually.

It's been a tradition among former presidents not to comment on a current president but Bush's extraordinary policy blunders have presented an unusual situation. Ford was probably honoring the tradition though others have been speaking up. Woodward's interviews with Ford may help enhance Ford's reputation and clear up some historical questions.

But here's an important point: if what Woodward says is accurate, then Ford joined Presidents Carter, Bush senior and Bill Clinton in being critical of Bush's Iraq policy. Four presidents. And no disssenters. We have a problem.

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