ThinkFast: September 30, 2006 — ‘State of Denial’ Edition

Woodward quotes Iraq war commander Gen. John Abizaid telling two retired generals in 2005, “We’ve got to get the [expletive] out.” In March 2006, Abizaid visited Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) and “indicated he wanted to speak frankly. According to Murtha, Abizaid raised his hand for emphasis, held his thumb and forefinger a quarter of an inch from each other and said, ‘We’re that far apart.’”

In February 2005, two weeks after Condi Rice became secretary of state, her top aide Phillip Zelikow “presented her with a 15-page, single-spaced secret memo” summing up his fact-finding trip to Iraq. “At this point Iraq remains a failed state shadowed by constant violence and undergoing revolutionary political change,” Zelikow wrote.

Woodward writes, in those moments “where Bush had someone from the field there in the chair beside him [in the Oval Office], he did not press, did not try to open the door himself and ask what the visitor had seen and thought. The whole atmosphere too often resembled a royal court, with Cheney and Rice in attendance, some upbeat stories, exaggerated good news and a good time had by all.”

In a seven-page memo in July 2004, a “longtime friend” of Donald Rumsfeld, Steve Herbits, described Rumsfeld’s “style of operation”: “Indecisive, contrary to popular image. Would not accept that some people in some areas were smarter than he. . . . Trusts very few people. Very, very cautious. Rubber glove syndrome — a tendency not to leave his fingerprints on decisions.”


“Woodward said he pushed repeatedly to interview Bush,” Howie Kurtz writes. “But White House counselor Dan Bartlett and national security adviser Stephen Hadley, after a period of cooperation, told him an interview was unlikely and then stopped returning his calls,” which Woodward attributes “to Bush’s declining popularity.”