Ed Driscoll

Don't Mess with Texas

At the Corner today, Jay Nordlinger explains when — and how “Bush Divorced Arafat:”

The Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza, and the effort of “humanitarians” to break it, put me in mind of the Karine A. Do you remember that episode, in 2002? The Karine A was the freighter bearing a big ol’ arsenal of rockets and such for the PLO. Israel seized the freighter and displayed the goods: Busted, the PLO were.

I was talking to an Arab journalist once, who said he loved President George W. Bush. “Why?” I asked. He said, “Because Arafat told him one little lie, and he divorced him! Arafat told him that he had nothing to do with the Karine A, and then Bush found out it was a lie. And he washed his hands of him, forevermore: froze him out. Everyone knows that Arafat lies. Everyone expects Arafat to lie. Everyone tolerates Arafat’s lies. But not Bush!”

Have never forgotten it. Arafat was the most frequent foreign visitor to the White House, during the eight years of President Clinton. Jacques Chirac adored Arafat — was with him to the end. Jimmy Carter adored him too — ghostwrote speeches for him. Recently laid a wreath at his grave. Many other statesmen adored him. But George W. Bush did not.

“Everyone knows that Arafat lies. Everyone expects Arafat to lie. Everyone tolerates Arafat’s lies. But not Bush!” A refreshing lack of tolerance for duplicity in matters both overseas and domestic was a marker that President Bush laid down very early in his administration:

A new memoir by Minority Leader Tom Daschle says Senate Democrats were actively courting two Republicans — John McCain of Arizona and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island — as most likely to switch parties and give them control of the evenly divided Senate when Jim Jeffords of Vermont informed them he was ready to do so.The heretofore untold sequence of events that led to Jeffords’ dramatic decision to bolt the Republican Party in May 2001 and become an Independent is disclosed for the first time in Daschle’s book, which covers the tumultuous two-year period following President Bush’s disputed election in November, 2000. […]

Daschle also recounts his meeting with President-elect Bush in his Capitol office in January 2001.

“Until then, I never noticed his Texas swagger,” Daschle writes. “Perhaps it was the fact that in order to enter my suite in the Capitol, you actually need to pass through a set of swinging saloon-style doors. The combination of Bush’s confident strut, his self-assured manner, and those saloon doors swinging shut behind him all combined to create an image of a new sheriff in town. Which, in essence, he was.”

Nevertheless, Daschle confesses that he was troubled when Bush, after expressing the hope that they could work together as closely as Bush had with Bob Bullock, his Democratic lieutenant governor in Texas, said, “I hope you’ll never lie to me.”

“That statement caught me up short. What an unusual concern to express in such a meeting.… I’ve often wondered since then what George Bush might have been told about me that would make him begin this conversation, this relationship, from an implied position of mistrust.”

You can’t go wrong inverting Reagan’s famous aphorism: Verify, and only then trust.