Here are three of my favorite quotes:
"I did not have sex with that woman, Miss Lewinsky."
"It depends on what your definition of 'is' is."
"I don't think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center, take another one and slam it into the Pentagon, that they would try to use an airplane as a missile."
The first two quotes, as everybody knows, were uttered by former President Bill Clinton. The last, published in the May 17, 2002, New York Times, was attributed to Condoleezza Rice, national security ddvisor to President George W. Bush.
All three quotes fall into the broad category of obfuscation, telling the literal truth with intent to deceive.
Here's another, from the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, George H.W. Bush:
"I talk regularly with our son. I've been doing that since he was a little kid." This also is from The New York Times, on Sept. 14, 2001.
Then the former president added: "It's not always about policy. It's not, What do you think, Dad, I should be doing?' That kind of thing. It is more the relationship of a very close family staying in touch, one with the other."
So the elder Bush, who spent most of his adult life plugging away at one political job or another, wants us to believe he doesn't spent much time discussing policy with his son the president?
Ha! Ha! And ha!
In their book, "Bush's Brain," the authors James C. Moore and Wayne Slater make a compelling case that presidential advisor Karl Rove, by manipulating the president, is the most powerful man in America today.
I can't argue with that assessment, yet I'm inclined to believe the most influential man in America today is the former president, not the current one or any of his non-familial advisors.
When the time comes to investigate the present Bush administration, trying to determine what went wrong and why, and who was responsible, my advice to the investigators would be to take a very, very close look at George Herbert Walker Bush.
It's impossible for an outsider like me to untangle all the webs of intrigue operating in national politics, but in this case I think a good start would be to look at something called "Project for the New American Century," now known by its detractors as PNAC.
PNAC laid out its " statement of principles" on June 3, 1997. Its 25 signers read like a Who's Who of Bush cronyism, with a few marginal characters thrown in to give the illusion of balance: Elliott Abrams, Bill Bennett, Gary Bower, Jeb Bush, Dick Cheney, Eliot A. Cohen, Midge Decter, Paula Dobriansky, Steve Forbes, Aaron Friedberg, Francis Fukuyama, Frank Gaffney, Fred C. Ikle, Donald Kagan, Zalmay Khalizad, I. Lewis Libby, Norman Podhoretz, Dan Quayle, Peter W. Rodman, Stephen P. Rosen, Henry S. Rowen, Donald Rumsfeld, Vin Weber, George Weigel and Paul Wolfowitz.
Most of these people had roles in the former Bush administration and now have roles in the current one.
David Brook, writing in the July 21, 2000, New York Times, had this to say about the old/new Bush team:
"This season there are no outsiders. The Bush campaign is about as insurgent as General Electric or I.B.M. If the Bushies win, they can cancel the White House orientation tour because everybody will have already worked there.
"The foreign policy team is like a Desert Storm reunion tour: Colin Powell, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Paul Wolfowitz and Roibert Zoellick all worked for President George Bush. One exception is Richard Perle, and he worked in the Reagan administration. ...
"The Bush campaign looks as much like an incumbent campaign as the Gore one. Measured by governing experience, the edge actually goes to the G.O.P."
PNAC is important because it was the planning group that decided, in 2000, before George W. became president, that the United States should conquer Iraq "even should Saddam pass from the scene."
This plan (called " Rebuilding America's Defenses (pdf. file)" did not suggest United Nations involvement, nor did it justify military action on the basis of Saddam's supposed weapons of mass destruction. It had to do with establishing American bases in the Middle East.
Where did the phrase "New American Century" come from? I wondered about that, so I did a Nexis search of The New York Times through the 1980s and '90s.
Guess what? Almost every time the phrase was mentioned by the Times, it came out of the mouth of the first George Bush.
March 17, 1989, in Houston: "My agenda for a new American century ..."
Jan. 27, 1992, 1992, to a group of religious broadcasters: Said his State of the Union messsage would "detail how we can nuture creativity ... and harness it to the needs of a new American century."
March 22, 1992, at a swearing-in ceremony, "... help us compete in a new world economy and create a new American century."
April 2, 1992, in Philadelphia: "Today our mission is to begin restoring the principles of our founders and guaranteeing for our children a new American century."
And so on. If you put everything into context, "new American century," as used by the elder Bush, did not mean a new century in America. What it meant, in simplest terms, is that the United States would dominate the world in the 21st century.
And that's what the younger Bush is clearly striving for: world domination.
That's why a single day of terrorist attacks (that perhaps could have been prevented) is ballyhooed as "another Pearl Harbor." The Bush people needed a rallying cry to motivate the masses. (In "Rebuilding America's Defenses," the authors even looked forward to "another Pearl Harbor." Sept. 11 gave it to them.)
The push for American dominance is why the younger Bush treats the United Nations with a contempt usually reserved by conservatives for the Berkeley City Council. To dominate, we can't cooperate with others; we must become a rogue nation.
It looks to me like Daddy had his cohorts lay out the blueprint, then he put them in charge of Sonny. Sonny does what he's told.
Even the scheme to destroy our social programs is straight out of Daddy's playbook. First, through ill-conceived tax cuts and reckless spending, you put the nation into debt. Then, lamenting a lack of funds, you abolish the programs. That's vintage Reagan-Bush.
It's hard to tell now when the Bush family steamroller will finally be brought under control. When it is, I do hope the investigators took a good look at Daddy. He Da Man!
Harley Sorensen is a longtime journalist and liberal iconoclast.
©2003 SF Gate