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Vanity Fair frequently does some very good work, but they may have outdone themselves with Farewell to All That: An Oral History of the Bush White House. The format is to take the significant milestones along the way and document what those involved had/have to say. It works.

March 6, 2001 Secretary of State Colin Powell tells reporters that the United States intends to "engage with North Korea to pick up where President Clinton and his administration left off." The next day, Powell is forced by the administration to backpedal. Other early administration actions—abrogation of the Anti-Ballistic-Missile Treaty, abandonment of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change—signal that America’s way of doing business has changed. In time, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld will characterize traditional U.S. allies as "old Europe."

Joschka Fischer, German foreign minister and vice-chancellor: During the Kosovo war we had developed a format which was, I think, one of the cheapest models for policy coordinating in the interests of the U.S. [Secretary of State] Madeleine Albright was in the driver’s seat, and the four European foreign ministers discussed with her on a daily basis how the war develops and so on. This was U.K., France, Italy, and Germany, together with the U.S., on the phone. We continued after the war, not every day, but this was the format, to discuss problems and understand the positions. And suddenly it stopped. We had very, very few—I don’t know, two or three times. Only for a very short period when Colin came in, and then it stopped, because the new administration was not interested any longer in a multilateral coordination.


May 16, 2001 A task force assembled and led by Vice President Dick Cheney unveils a blueprint for the administration’s energy program. The report, "National Energy Policy," which had been in the works since shortly after the inauguration, calls for increased drilling for oil and more nuclear power. The energy task force becomes an immediate focus of controversy—and lawsuits—because its records and the list of advisers, mainly representatives of the oil and gas industries, are never divulged by the White House. The administration’s environmental policy is heavily politicized from the outset.

Rick Piltz, senior associate, U.S. Climate Change Science Program: Christine Todd Whitman, the E.P.A. administrator, was one of several people in the Cabinet, along with Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, who strongly supported a proactive position on climate change. And she was, I think, in Europe telling European governments that the U.S. position was to regulate carbon dioxide. And when she got back home, she had an interaction with the president in which she was very brusquely told that that was off the table. The turning point, essentially, was that Cheney grabbed hold of this issue and took down the whole notion of regulating CO2.

Thanks, Dick.

Kossack Jesselyn Radack appears a couple times:

October 7, 2001 American and British forces begin an aerial campaign against Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, where al-Qaeda has its base, followed weeks later by a ground invasion. The Taliban government falls and al-Qaeda is routed from some of its strongholds. One person captured is John Walker Lindh, the so-called American Taliban. His handling proves to be a harbinger. The Defense Department’s general counsel, Jim Haynes, authorizes military intelligence to "take the gloves off."

Jesselyn Radack, ethics adviser at the Department of Justice: I was called with the specific question of whether or not the F.B.I. on the ground could interrogate [Lindh] without counsel. And I had been told unambiguously that Lindh’s parents had retained counsel for him. I gave that advice on a Friday, and the same attorney at Justice who inquired called back on Monday and said essentially, Oops, they did it anyway. They interrogated him anyway. What should we do now? My office was there to help correct mistakes. And I said, Well, this is an unethical interrogation, so you should seal it off and use it only for intelligence-gathering purposes or national security, but not for criminal prosecution.

A few weeks later, Attorney General Ashcroft held one of his dramatic press conferences, in which he announced a complaint being filed against Lindh. He was asked if Lindh had been permitted counsel. And he said, in effect, To our knowledge, the subject has not requested counsel. That was just completely false. About two weeks after that he held another press conference, because this was the first high-profile terrorism prosecution after 9/11. And in that press conference he was asked again about Lindh’s rights, and he said that Lindh’s rights had been carefully, scrupulously guarded, which, again, was contrary to the facts, and contrary to the picture that was circulating around the world of Lindh blindfolded, gagged, naked, bound to a board.

I cannot do this piece justice here with a few excerpts, nor do I have greatly insightful analysis that will add to it. It simply doesn't need it.

[Update] As drag0n pointed out this was previously Diaried, but since that one was largely missed (including by my search) I'll let this one ride.

Originally posted to The Baculum King on Sun Feb 15, 2009 at 10:30 AM PST.

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