The Fantastic Freedom Institute

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George Bush rarely opens the window to his inner life. But this morning’s NYT has a front-page story about an interview Bush has given to family friend and fellow Texan Robert Draper, the author of “Dead Certain,” a new book about Bush’s presidency. In it, Bush talks about how he wants to spend his post-White House years:

First, Mr. Bush said, “I’ll give some speeches, just to replenish the ol’ coffers.” With assets that have been estimated as high as nearly $21 million, Mr. Bush added, “I don’t know what my dad gets — it’s more than 50-75” thousand dollars a speech, and “Clinton’s making a lot of money.”

Then he said, “We’ll have a nice place in Dallas,” where he will be running what he called “a fantastic Freedom Institute” promoting democracy around the world. But he added, “I can just envision getting in the car, getting bored, going down to the ranch.”

The President who so often says he’s preoccupied with the present, and will leave his place in history to historians who will be writing long after he is dead, betrays that he has indeed been thinking about what they will decide. In fact, he is already trying to frame the questions for them:

Mr. Bush said he believed that Mr. Hussein did not take his threats of war seriously, suggesting that the United Nations emboldened him by failing to follow up on an initial resolution demanding that Iraq disarm. He had sought a second measure containing an ultimatum that failure to comply would result in war.

“One interesting question historians are going to have to answer is: Would Saddam have behaved differently if he hadn’t gotten mixed signals between the first resolution and the failure of the second resolution?” Mr. Bush said. “I can’t answer that question. I was hopeful that diplomacy would work.”

It did not, but soon enough, somebody else will make the decisions on Iraq. And then, Mr. Bush said, he would still be pursuing his “freedom agenda” at his institute, modeled on Stanford’s Hoover Institution, where young democratic leaders from around the world would study.

“Sixty-two is really young,” Mr. Bush said, “and yet I’ll be through with my presidency.”

UPDATE: Commenter Riesz Fischer would make a good Swampland editor (uh, I mean, if we HAD a Swampland editor). He points out:

I love you Karen, but you left out the best part. From TPM:

Mr. Bush acknowledged one major failing of the early occupation of Iraq when he said of disbanding the Saddam Hussein-era military, “The policy was to keep the army intact; didn’t happen.”

But when Mr. Draper pointed out that Mr. Bush’s former Iraq administrator, L. Paul Bremer III, had gone ahead and forced the army’s dissolution and then asked Mr. Bush how he reacted to that, Mr. Bush said, “Yeah, I can’t remember, I’m sure I said, ‘This is the policy, what happened?’ ” But, he added, “Again, Hadley’s got notes on all of this stuff,” referring to Stephen J. Hadley, his national security adviser.

So Bush is confused about the biggest mistake of the Iraq invasion– he doesn’t remember, Hadlye’s got notes. OMG!

Here’s the link.