Monday, August 30, 2004

Curious and Curiouser

There were two points that jumped out at me from a recent interview that President Bush gave to the New York Times. The first item is how out of the loop Bush appeared regarding a major scientific finding emanating from the upper most echelons of his own administration which underpins the rationale for environmental policy and legislative action. In an historic break from prior stances and declarations, the Bush administration acknowledged the reality that global warming is occurring and the role that man made emissions play in contributing to the process. The problem is, no one seems to have told the president.

On environmental issues, Mr. Bush appeared unfamiliar with an administration report delivered to Congress on Wednesday that indicated that emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases were the only likely explanation for global warming over the last three decades. Previously, Mr. Bush and other officials had emphasized uncertainties in understanding the causes and consequences of global warming.

The new report was signed by Mr. Bush's secretaries of energy and commerce and his science adviser. Asked why the administration had changed its position on what causes global warming, Mr. Bush replied, "Ah, we did? I don't think so." [emphasis added]
The second part, left me scratching my head in disbelief. When probed about the nuclear capacity of North Korea and Iran, and what his foreign policy initiatives would be in this arena and in non-proliferation in general, Bush gave an answer that seemingly contradicts his infamous showdown with Saddam Hussein.

He said that in North Korea's case, and in Iran's, he would not be rushed to set deadlines for the countries to disarm, despite his past declaration that he would not "tolerate" nuclear capability in either nation. He declined to define what he meant by "tolerate."

"I don't think you give timelines to dictators," Mr. Bush said, speaking of North Korea's president, Kim Jong Il, and Iran's mullahs. He said he would continue diplomatic pressure - using China to pressure the North and Europe to pressure Iran - and gave no hint that his patience was limited or that at some point he might consider pre-emptive military action. [emphasis added]
Is this the same man who gave the famous deadline to Saddam Hussein to abdicate his leadership and flee Iraq or face invasion? Is this the same president who set deadlines for weapons disclosures and inspections backed up by the very real threat of force? Is this a kinder gentler Bush, or just an amnesiac one? Perhaps President Bush is developing a "sensitive" side.

"I'm confident that over time this will work - I certainly hope it does," he said of the diplomatic approach. Mr. Kerry argued in his interview that North Korea 'was a far more compelling threat in many ways, and it belonged at the top of the agenda,' but Mr. Bush declined to compare it to Iraq, apart from arguing that Iraq had defied the world community for longer than the other members of what he once called "the axis of evil." Nor would he assess the risk that Pyongyang might sell nuclear material to terrorists, though his national security aides believe it may have sold raw uranium to Libya in recent years.
No more mister tough guy.

[Update: Josh Gibson at Metablogic did the hard work in digging up this quote which exemplifies the Bush's contradiction in policy toward dictators:

"Saddam Hussein and his sons must leave Iraq within 48 hours. Their refusal to do so will result in military conflict, commenced at a time of our choosing."
-George Bush, March 17, 2003]

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