"I made my arguments and went down in flames. History will prove me right."
Yes, that was George W. Bush. No, he wasn't talking about Iraq. The date was September 1993 and Bush, then managing general partner of the Texas Rangers, had voted against "realignment and a new wild-card system" at a Major League Baseball owners meeting. "Bush," writes Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com, "was the lone dissenter in a 27-1 vote."
Skip a few years to February 2003, when Bush found himself involved in another owners' meeting involving "realignment" -- in this case, of the Middle East -- and what was certainly an attempt to install a new "wild-card system." Again, he cast his lone vote. At stake was the fate of the planet and, unlike in 1993, it didn't matter, in the end, how the other owners, then gathering at the United Nations, voted.
The catastrophic results of this realignment effort, we now know well; that Bush again believes history will prove him "right," we also know. Whatever documentation may exist for that 1993 baseball meeting, recently we received a striking document from February 22, 2003 -- a transcript, published in the Spanish newspaper El País, of a conversation at the President's "ranch" in Crawford, Texas, between Bush and Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar. This was less than a month before the President launched his invasion of Iraq. As recorded, his was a remarkable performance, a window into the Presidential mind -- and, as with the famed Downing Street Memo when no one else in the mainstream was willing to publish it, the New York Review of Books is publishing this transcript, newly translated, in its upcoming issue. (It can now be read at the Review's website.)
Mark Danner, who has covered the Iraq War and the Bush administration for the Review, has written an illuminating piece on what we can now see of a President, at the edge of an invasion, and eerily "at peace with himself." More than four-and-a-half years and the same President later, it remains a chilling vision of the man the Supreme Court put in charge of what his followers once loved to hail as the planet's "lone superpower," its New Rome.
Danner concludes with this passage, which might be a painful epitaph for an era:
"Prime Minister Aznar is gone now, having been fatally weakened by his support for the Iraq war and the failure to obtain United Nations support for it; almost exactly a year after the war began, jihadists targeted the Madrid train station, killing nearly two hundred Spaniards and sending the prime minister to electoral defeat. Tony Blair, the star of the Downing Street Memo, is gone as well, his popularity having never recovered from his staunch support of the war. George W. Bush, on the other hand, nearly five years after he launched the war, remains confident of victory, just as he was confident he would win that second UN resolution. There is no sign that his confidence is any more firmly rooted in reality now than it was then. Instead of reality we have faith -- in himself, in the deity, in 'the unstoppable power of human freedom.' He stands as lead actor in his own narrative of history, a story that grows steadily paler and more contested, animated solely by the authority of official power. George W. Bush remains, we are told, 'at peace with himself.'"