An effort in reuniting Republicans and Democrats proved to be a waste of time- or lack thereof.
A meeting called by President George W. Bush, calling on 13 former Secretaries of State and Defense to the White House to discuss his current foreign policies in Iraq, started out with what The New York Times called “an exceedingly upbeat 40-minute briefing-about how well things are going in Iraq.”
The self-promoting session provoked Madeleine Albright, President Clinton’s Secretary of State, to blame Bush for allowing the nuclear weapons programs in Iran and North Korea to grow out of control. She continued by scrutinizing Bush for neglecting foreign policy in China and Latin America as a result of the war in Iraq “taking up all the energy” of Bush’s foreign policy. Bush arrogantly defended his policy stating that he “-can’t let this comment stand.”
Bush’s response to her comment, no matter how off-base he may have thought Albright was, was completely inappropriate, especially since he did, after all, invite her to give their opinions regarding his foreign policies.
The president’s conversation with Albright was one of the very few heated, bipartisan debates in what was looked at by many as an attempt by Bush to unite a politically divided America. However, Bush really ended up making things worse, especially because of the way he responded to Albright.
Even though the meeting did get members of the two major parties in one room, it was not for long. After the 40-minute briefing, Bush allowed five to ten minutes of conversation with his guests. This meeting would have been much more effective if Bush allowed more time, especially since three of the Secretaries of Defense were part of the Vietnam War era.
These wartime secretaries, ranging from Robert McNamara to James Schlesinger, could have been major assets in Bush’s war in Iraq and the war on terror, if given ample time to converse.
However, those guests who wanted to give more advice to the Bush administration were given the opportunity to do so, but were not able to speak with President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice or Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, since they had already left to attend other meetings.
While the media was present, Bush showed nothing but gratitude to his guests and displayed no short temper, but his conversation with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was a different story. The New York Times quoted him as saying, ”I’m most grateful for the suggestions that have been given-We take to heart the advice, we appreciate your experience and we appreciate you taking the time out of your day.” However, it was clear that Bush did not want to be there, being that he only gave 10 minutes of his own time and left immediately after a picture was taken.
Bush, despite his denying any bitterness towards the political left, demonstrated such narrow-mindedness by waiting over 1,000 days into the war in Iraq for him to have one of these meetings, something that he should have done before he even declared war in the first place.
According to the participants, Bush showed no degree of self-doubt. One former official even told a New York Times reporter that ”it would be a stretch to say he was really interested in many thoughts from around the table.”
So, why would Bush even waste time for such a meeting?
Simple: good public relations.