This is borrowed from Dan Froomkin:
New York Times book critic Michiko Kakutani reviews Jack Goldsmith’s new book, “The Terror Presidency.”
“The portrait of the Bush administration that Mr. Goldsmith — who resigned from the Office of Legal Counsel in June 2004, only nine months after assuming the post — draws in this book is a devastating one. It is a portrait of a highly insular White House obsessively focused on expanding presidential power and loathe to consult with Congress, a White House that frequently made up its mind about a course of action before consulting with experts, a White House that sidelined Congress in its policymaking and willfully pursued a ‘go-it-alone approach’ based on ‘minimal deliberation, unilateral action, and legalistic defense.’
“Similar portraits, of course, have been drawn by reporters and other former administration insiders, but Mr. Goldsmith’s account stands out by virtue that he was privy to internal White House debates about explosive matters like secret surveillance, coercive interrogation and the detention and trial of enemy combatants. It is also distinguished by Mr. Goldsmith’s writing from the point of view of a conservative who shared many of the Bush White House’s objectives. . . . But he found himself alarmed by the Bush White House’s obsession with expanding presidential power, its arrogant unilateralism and its willingness to use what he regarded as careless and overly expansive legal arguments in an effort to buttress its policies.”
In an excerpt from his book on Slate, Goldsmith writes: “Why did the administration so often assert presidential power in ways that seemed unnecessary and politically self-defeating? The answer, I believe, is that the administration’s conception of presidential power had a kind of theological significance that often trumped political consequences. . . .
“But the Bush administration’s strategy is guaranteed not to work, and is certain to destroy trust altogether. When an administration makes little attempt to work with the other institutions of our government and makes it a public priority to emphasize that its aim is to expand its power, Congress, the courts, and the public listen carefully, and worry.”
Or at least they should.
Salon’s Rob Patterson talks to Robert Draper about his new Bush book, “Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W. Bush.” Says Draper: “A lot of Americans and people all over the world are taught to just say, ‘I’m sorry I screwed up. I’ve learned from my mistakes, and I will try to do better.’ For all of the other aspects of this president that I think are very emotionally honest that I witnessed, that was one aspect that is not — his difficulty to own up to his mistakes. I think in a way he’s like a baseball umpire who feels like if you call a ball a strike, you’ve got to stick to that. Otherwise people will question you. They will think that your equivocation is a sign of a lack of certainty. . . .
“I think where the rubber meets the road there is that Bush, for all of his talk about him being so comfortable in his own skin, possesses insecurities like the rest of us. And Bush, due to his insecurities, really doesn’t like to be challenged. . . .
“This is a guy who really possesses a lot of insecurities, and I think that’s why he evinces this sort of incuriosity. There are only certain kinds of challenges that he can deal with. What is admirable about Bush is also part of his insecurity. I think because his insecurity drives him to want to be relevant and want to do big things, he’s willing to throw the ball long. And I think that because of that, history is not going to judge this man with indifference. They are not going to judge him as Franklin Pierce. He is either going to go down in history as a disastrous flop or a really monumental president.”
Salon also has an excerpt from John W. Dean’s new Bush book: “Broken Government.”