It’s Safer When You Don’t Let the President Reflect for Himself

I am very very grateful that Ryan Grim exposed Bush as a plagiarist on Thursday.

When Crown Publishing inked a deal with George W. Bush for his memoirs, the publisher knew it wasn’t getting Faulkner. But the book, at least, promises “gripping, never-before-heard detail” about the former president’s key decisions, offering to bring readers “aboard Air Force One on 9/11, in the hours after America’s most devastating attack since Pearl Harbor; at the head of the table in the Situation Room in the moments before launching the war in Iraq,” and other undisclosed and weighty locations.

Crown also got a mash-up of worn-out anecdotes from previously published memoirs written by his subordinates, from which Bush lifts quotes word for word, passing them off as his own recollections. He took equal license in lifting from nonfiction books about his presidency or newspaper or magazine articles from the time. Far from shedding light on how the president approached the crucial “decision points” of his presidency, the clip jobs illuminate something shallower and less surprising about Bush’s character: He’s too lazy to write his own memoir.

You see, I was traveling yesterday, and had almost prepared myself to pay full price for Bush’s memoir so I could do a close reading of the Iraq intelligence, torture, and illegal wiretapping bits. But Ryan’s piece gave me a convenient excuse to put that off until I can get the book for a dollar or so online. After all, if I want to read what Bush’s memoir says, I can just go re-read Woodward, right?

But I’m curious whether there’s another reason than the one Ryan suggests–laziness–that explains Bush’s plagiarism.

For some of the sections that appear to be lifted, is it possible that Bush plagiarized the existing carefully crafted narrative of an event to make sure his “memoir” matched that narrative? After all, Karen Hughes and others did a lot of work on those narratives in the first go-around, so why not lift them?

And for passages such as the following one that Ryan suggests may have been lifted, that may be more important given the underlying legal issues.

From Decision Points, p. 105: “In one of our final meetings, I informed Dick that I would not issue a pardon. He stared at me with an intense look. ‘I can’t believe you are going to leave a soldier on the battlefield,’ he said. The comment stung. In eight years, I had never seen Dick like this, or even close to this.”

Or did Bush pull this from Time magazine, “Legacy Fight: Inside Bush and Cheney’s Final Days,” July 24, 2009: “A day later, Cheney gave an interview to a conservative magazine, saying he disagreed with the President’s decision on the Libby pardon. Other Libby backers were quoted in the article, calling Bush ‘dishonorable’ and saying he had left a soldier on the battlefield, language Cheney had used throughout the debate over the pardon.”

After all, the decision not to pardon Libby was made after consulting with his personal defense lawyer, so I imagine Bush wants to get this one right.

Now, granted, Bush admitted to war crimes in his book, so he did exhibit a general lack of caution in his presentation of some of the touchy legal issues dealt with in the book. But unlike Cheney (who has explicitly said that the statute of limitations will have expired on some of the crimes he’ll describe in his upcoming memoir), Bush may well need to finesse these issues.

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  1. PJEvans says:

    I’d think the plagiarism would lose him support from the people who originally wrote his autobiography. But maybe, even after the fact, loyalty trumps honesty.

    I hear Bush is only being interviewed by people who fluff him, too. But I’m not going to be either watching them or buying his propaganda piece.

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      Some of it may be loyalty.
      I’m guessing that a lot more of it is spelled f-e-a-r.
      The Bu$hCo crowd have never had the least inclination to avoid demolishing anyone they view as an opponent, or disloyal.

  2. Jason Leopold says:

    On torture and Guantanamo, perhaps this isn’t a surprise, but there are many passages that are very on KSM, AZ, Nashiri, that are similar to Marc Thiessen’s book and John Yoo’s War By Other Means.

  3. scribe says:

    Looking at this from under the brim of my lawyer hat, I see two things:

    “this is the story we’ve got and I’m sticking to it”; and

    “continuing conspiracy to obstruct justice (among other crimes)”.

    Of course, this is Mr. President “I don’t think they’ll find anything” about leaking Libby’s identity, a/k/a “we all need to stick together”. Remember those from the early days of the Libby probe? I still do.

  4. radiofreewill says:

    Could the book be Bush’s version of Cheney’s ‘So?’

    In particular, his attitude towards the rule of law seems to be on display with the war crimes admissions.

    How much hubris would it take for an accused to stand-up in Court and tell the judge, “Your law doesn’t apply to me. I’m a special case. It’s what I decide – that’s the law. Now, usually, I get the advice of my in-house lawyers, who serve at my pleasure, but I don’t have to – I have the inherent authority to make these decisions, if that’s what I want to do.”

    How else do you explain him deciding that the universally acknowledged, treaty-agreed, war crime of waterboarding is not a crime when he orders it?

    Imvho, Bush sees nobody else as his equal in this respect – except Barack Obama…and Bush is so confident that Obama won’t call him out on it, that he’s doing a book tour in broad daylight high-lighting his monstrosity as part of his legacy.

    Well, now it’s high noon at Democracy Ranch…Either Obama’s going to man-up and confront this on behalf of the rule of law, or we’re all going through the looking glass together.

    • ThingsComeUndone says:

      How much hubris would it take for an accused to stand-up in Court and tell the judge, “Your law doesn’t apply to me. I’m a special case. It’s what I decide – that’s the law. Now, usually, I get the advice of my in-house lawyers, who serve at my pleasure, but I don’t have to – I have the inherent authority to make these decisions, if that’s what I want to do.”

      Spoiled 5 year old playing Make Believe I’m King of the World Hubris which is ok for 5 year olds but now I’m wondering about just how Bush was raised.

  5. manys says:

    How much hubris would it take for an accused to stand-up in Court and tell the judge, “Your law doesn’t apply to me. I’m a special case. It’s what I decide – that’s the law. Now, usually, I get the advice of my in-house lawyers, who serve at my pleasure, but I don’t have to – I have the inherent authority to make these decisions, if that’s what I want to do.”

    Saddam Hussein and Slobodan Milosevic each tried something along these lines.

    • person1597 says:

      Bush was honest and original in some respects

      President Bush expresses doubt the leaker will be identified. Bush told reporters Tuesday that the press does “a very good job of protecting the leakers.”

      And why shouldn’t Faux protect Scooter, Karl and the neocons?

      “This is typical of Democrats. They smell blood and they act like sharks,” House Majority Leader Tom DeLay told FOX News. “Karl Rove is a good man. He was doing his job … I don’t see that he has done anything wrong.”

      Not in the least — that’s why he is still a paid News Corp. contributor!!

      Too bad about Pumpkinhead’s contract, though.

      Nice “finishing touch”.

      • ThingsComeUndone says:

        President Bush expresses doubt the leaker will be identified. Bush told reporters Tuesday that the press does “a very good job of protecting the leakers.”

        The Cocktail weenie Washington Press that thinks a scoop is whatever the WH tells them without fact checking.
        Judy Miller gives it up for every guy who lies about how rich he is. Or tells her hey I got a scoop.

  6. ThingsComeUndone says:

    I can just go re-read Woodward, right?

    Woodward going to sue to defend his copyright or will he just sit back and take it bent over in order to preserve his access?
    I wonder if Bloggers can expect the same treatment from the MSM when we write stuff at least we attribute and link to our sources unlike Bush.
    Still if Bob lets this go then we have the example of a President when we cite stuff from the MSM.

  7. Teddy Partridge says:

    So, Karen Hughes is a plagiarist, right?

    I don’t think we should support the fiction any longer that Bush wrote this book. He didn’t read the books it’s ‘based on;’ he probably hasn’t read this one either.

    It’s clear he’s been given about six things to say on his tour; anything other than these is met with touchy, offended, snippy retorts:

    1. Picking up Barney’s bidness
    2. Read the book
    3. I miss the perks
    4. Read the book
    5. Dick wanted Scooter pardoned
    6. Read the book

    • ThingsComeUndone says:

      He didn’t read the books

      But…but he had book contest with Karl he read philosophers etc. How many and what books did Bush read during his contest with Karl?
      How did they influence his book and his Presidency.

      ( I expect Bush will dodge that question)

  8. ThingsComeUndone says:

    It’s Safer When You Don’t Let the President Reflect for Himself

    The unreflected life is not worth living.:) Kitty Kelly’s book on the Bush family mentions the Bush family is not big on introspection.
    Given their records as Presidents maybe its better for their health they don’t think much about what they do.

  9. xargaw says:

    The rewriting of history, the self serving justifications, the plagerism, all of it should come as no surprise to anyone. Look at this man’s history, a delinguent as a kid, a poor student without study habits, AWOL in the guard. Over and over he screwed up and others had to come along and clean up after him and save him from himself. He doesn’t have work habits. He doesn’t have a moral compass. He is spoiled, mean, beligerant and lazy. I’m sure a shrink probably has a name for someone that has never grown up, owned up, or faced truth. Since I’m not a shrink, I just call it Bush syndrome.

  10. perris says:

    about that torture admission;

    cheney got away with it and that admission into an asset

    bush is plageurizing cheney’s torture admission too

    • perris says:

      this is brutally insightful into the mind of the robber baron justice scalia, asked what he would change about the constitution;

      “There’s very little that I would change,” he said. “I would change it back to what they wrote, in some respects. The 17th Amendment has changed things enormously.”

      That amendment allowed for U.S. Senators to be elected by the people, rather than by individual state legislatures

      he clearly demonstrates, he simply does not like democracy

  11. firedoglike says:

    I think you guys are getting this all wrong.

    The writers of the Bush book are not borrowing from people like Bob Woodward. In reality, the writers of the Bush book told Bob Woodward what to write in the first place.

    In other words, the Bush book is being ghost written by the very same people who do the ghost writing for Woodward — the people from the Bush White House.

    Don’t forget, Bob Woodward’s BUSH AT WAR was LITERALLY advertised on the front page of the the Bush White House website. That’s not a joke; that really happened.

    There’s much effort now to rewrite history, to pretend that Woodward was somehow anti-Bush. That is not the case at all. Woodward worked in the Bush White House since before 9/11. They gave him whatever they wanted him to print. They told him what to write, not the other way around.

  12. dmac says:

    Guess that book should have a lot of footnotes…

    I am Most amused that he is married to a Librarian…and he ‘whipped in’ borrowed passages and prose into his own memoir….

    Wonder if Oprah will comment on it./s

  13. bluewombat says:

    Far from shedding light on how the president approached the crucial “decision points” of his presidency, the clip jobs illuminate something shallower and less surprising about Bush’s character: He’s too lazy to write his own memoir

    It’s no surprise that Bush couldn’t be bother to write (or, in all probability, read) his own memoir.

    The shocker is a bigger one which I don’t believe anyone has mentioned yet:

    Karen Hughes is a plagiarist! Who knew?

  14. openhope says:

    Great post. Color me paranoid; I wonder if the parts plagiarized weren’t the propaganda rough draft. Meant to be found and repeated over and over.
    Maybe the Masters of the Universe are laughing at George W Bush. As they robber baron America.

  15. Adam503 says:

    You see, I was traveling yesterday, and had almost prepared myself to pay full price for Bush’s memoir so I could do a close reading of the Iraq intelligence, torture, and illegal wiretapping bits. But Ryan’s piece gave me a convenient excuse to put that off until I can get the book for a dollar or so online. After all, if I want to read what Bush’s memoir says, I can just go re-read Woodward, right?

    Right wing talking points books is what bittorrent software was born for.

    Bad enough I gotta keep the all files around for quotes. These wind bags never shut up. Just more crap filling up my hard drive.

  16. canadianbeaver says:

    Most political memoirs are not written by the politicians. Obama’s book was prob written by someone else as well. Nothing really new here. Especially since Bush can hardly read, write, or speak.

  17. SeismicPuerco says:

    Want to find out the hidden history of the Bush family? Read Russ Baker’s tour de force, Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, America’s Invisible Government, and the Hidden History of the Past Fifty Years. This is THE book about the Bushes!

  18. godistwaddle says:

    A man obviously guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity plagiarizes? Humpf. “If once a man indulges himself in murder, very soon he comes to think little of robbing; and from robbing he comes next to drinking and Sabbath breaking, and from that to incivility and procrastination.” (and plagiarism)