Bush Advisors Take Exception at Obama’s “Cheap Shots” During Inauguration Speech


The nerve of these guys, they should be glad that Obama didn’t order that lunatic Bush to be lead off in cuffs. Of course he had to tap Dubya’s chin, after all it is his mishaps that have derailed this country to begin with. What could they have possibly thought, that America, let alone the world would forget that a drunk has been fumbling the reigns of leadership for the last eight years?

via NY Times

WASHINGTON — On the plane, no longer Air Force One but now Special Air Mission 28000, they talked about the speech. George W. Bush, the former president, was heading home to Texas with his inner circle, having just left the Capitol, where his successor first thanked him for his service and then proceeded to discredit it.

The Bush team had worked assiduously to make the transition smooth for the incoming President Obama and stayed out of the way as he used the postelection period to take leadership of the economy even before being sworn in. And now, as far as some of them were concerned, the new president had used his inaugural lectern to give the back of the hand to a predecessor who had been nothing but gracious to him.

“There were a few sharp elbows that really rankled and I felt were not as magnanimous as the occasion called for,” Karen Hughes, a longtime Bush confidante, said in an interview. “He really missed an opportunity to be as big as the occasion was and, frankly, as gracious as President Bush was as he left office.”

Dan Bartlett, another top adviser, used similar language. “It was a missed opportunity to bring some of the president’s loyal supporters into the fold,” he said. Marc A. Thiessen, the chief White House speechwriter until this week, added: “It was an ungracious inaugural. It was pretty clear he was taking shots.”

The hard feelings represent the first public schism between the camps since the Nov. 4 election. Both Mr. Bush and Mr. Obama made a point of cooperating during the transition and putting the rancor of the election behind them. Mr. Bush hosted a luncheon for Mr. Obama with all the living former presidents, and the new president did not even complain when it turned out that Blair House, the government guest mansion, was not available to his family until five days before the inauguration.

But that did not mean that Mr. Obama was not intent on signaling a sharp break from his predecessor, and on Thursday his aides fired back at Mr. Bush’s advisers for complaining.

“On both style and substance,” said Rahm Emanuel, the new White House chief of staff, the new president is “turning the page.”

Mr. Emanuel mocked Bush advisers for bristling at the message of the Inaugural Address. “If they didn’t know that was the judgment of people, then their subscription to the newspapers were canceled over the last three years,” he said.

Mr. Obama never directly mentioned Mr. Bush’s name after the ritual thank you at the beginning of his speech, but the context of some of his remarks was lost on no one. He criticized “our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age.” He promised to “restore science to its rightful place.” He rejected “as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.” He assured the rest of the world “that we are ready to lead once more.”

Some analysts said it was the first time since Franklin D. Roosevelt took over from Herbert Hoover in 1933 that an incoming president used his Inaugural Address to so evidently repudiate his predecessor as he headed for the door. When Mr. Bush took office in 2001, he called for “personal responsibility” and lauded “private character” in his Inaugural Address, which struck many as a slap at Bill Clinton, but the speech as a whole was not seen as a wholesale denouncement of the departing president.

Mr. Bush took it in stride, according to those who saw him on Tuesday. “He grabbed me and said, ‘That was a hell of a speech,’ ” Mr. Emanuel said. Ms. Hughes said Mr. Bush had said “not a word” disparaging the speech during the plane ride to Midland, Tex.

But his advisers did. Among those on board were his most loyal confidants. Mark McKinnon, his media strategist, said there were good wishes for Mr. Obama and “an absence of malice one normally sees among the constituencies of the vanquished.” But on The Daily Beast, a Web magazine, Mr. McKinnon noted “some critical reviews of the speech, complaints about taking unnecessary shots and grousing about borrowed ideas.”

Ms. Hughes said they took offense at suggestions that Mr. Bush had avoided hard decisions and had not helped people around the world, noting increases in foreign aid and his campaign to fight AIDS in Africa. “That statement, I felt, was fundamentally unfair and dishonest,” Ms. Hughes said.

Not every Bush loyalist was offended. Peter H. Wehner, a former White House official, said Mr. Obama “could have struck a classier and more unifying tone, but I didn’t think he crossed any lines.” Ari Fleischer, a former White House press secretary, said, “I didn’t take umbrage” because, after all, Mr. Obama won on a promise “to make a break from the Bush years.”

But others are pushing back. Mr. Thiessen wrote a column in The Washington Post criticizing Mr. Obama for reversing Mr. Bush’s terrorism policies. “If Obama weakens any of the defenses Bush put in place and terrorists strike our country again, Americans will hold Obama responsible,” he wrote.

Karl Rove wrote in The Wall Street Journal that as his former boss departed, “in a last angry frenzy his critics again distorted his record, maligned his character and repeated untruths about his years in the Oval Office.” Mr. Rove said Mr. Bush had cut taxes, expanded Medicare, improved schools, liberated Iraq and protected the country.

“He didn’t get everything right — no president does — but he got the most important things right,” Mr. Rove wrote.

The shots signal a sustained debate in coming months between Bush and Obama partisans over the former president’s record. Mr. Bush says he will let his successor govern without criticism. His defenders took no such pledge. They understand victors write history, but they are determined to try to help shape that narrative themselves.

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