Book Tells Of Dissent In Bush's Inner Circle
White House Granted Author Unusual Access
By Michael Abramowitz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 3, 2007; Page A01
Karl Rove told George W. Bush before the 2000 election
that it was a bad idea to name Richard B. Cheney as
his running mate, and Rove later raised objections to
the nomination of Harriet E. Miers to the Supreme
Court, according to a new book on the Bush presidency.
In "Dead Certain: The Presidency of George Bush,"
journalist Robert Draper writes that Rove told Bush he
should not tap Cheney for the Republican ticket:
"Selecting Daddy's top foreign-policy guru ran counter
to message. It was worse than a safe pick -- it was
needy." But Bush did not care -- he was comfortable
with Cheney and "saw no harm in giving his VP
unprecedented run of the place."
When Rove, President Bush's top political adviser,
expressed concerns about the Miers selection, he was
"shouted down" and subsequently muted his objections,
Draper writes, while other advisers did not realize
the outcry the nomination would cause within the
president's conservative political base.
It was John G. Roberts Jr., now the chief justice of
the United States, who suggested Miers to Bush as a
possible Supreme Court justice, according to the book.
Miers, the White House counsel and a Bush loyalist
from Texas, did not want the job, but Bush and first
lady Laura Bush prevailed on her to accept the
nomination, Draper writes.
After Miers withdrew in the face of the conservative
furor, Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. was selected and
confirmed for the seat.
Roberts rejected Draper's report when asked about it
"The account is not true," said Supreme Court
spokeswoman Kathy Arberg, after consulting with
Roberts. "The chief justice did not suggest Harriet
Miers to the president."
In recounting the Miers nomination and other
controversies of the Bush presidency, Draper offers an
intimate portrait of a White House racked by more
internal dissent and infighting than is commonly
portrayed and of a president who would, alternately,
intensely review speeches line by line or act
strangely disengaged from big issues.
Draper, a national correspondent for GQ, first wrote
about Bush in 1998, when he was the Texas governor. He
received unusual cooperation from the White House in
preparing "Dead Certain," which will hit bookstores
tomorrow. In addition to conducting six interviews
with the president, Draper said, he also interviewed
Rove, Cheney, Laura Bush, and many senior White House
and administration officials.
Draper writes that Bush was "gassed" after an
80-minute bike ride at his Crawford, Tex., ranch on
the day before Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast
and was largely silent during a subsequent video
briefing from then-FEMA Director Michael D. Brown and
other top officials making preparations for the storm.
He also reports that the president took an informal
poll of his top advisers in April 2006 on whether to
fire Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.
During a private dinner at the White House to discuss
how to buoy Bush's presidency, seven advisers voted to
dump Rumsfeld, including Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice, incoming chief of staff Joshua B.
Bolten, the outgoing chief, Andrew H. Card Jr., and Ed
Gillespie, then an outside adviser and now White House
counselor. Bush raised his hand along with three
others who wanted Rumsfeld to stay, including Rove and
national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley. Rumsfeld
was ousted after the November elections.
The book offers more than 400 footnotes, but Draper
does not make clear the sourcing for some of the more
arresting assertions -- such as the one about
Roberts's role in the Miers nomination, which has
previously not come to light. Roberts's nomination was
highly praised by conservatives, and they criticized
Miers as lacking conservative credentials.
White House spokesman Tony Fratto said yesterday that
he had no comment on the book, including the claim
about the Miers nomination.
Draper offers some intriguing details about Bush's
personal habits, such as his intense love of biking.
He reports that White House advance teams and the
Secret Service "devoted inordinate energy to
satisfying Bush's need for biking trails," descending
on a town a couple of days before the president's
arrival to find secluded hotels and trails the boss
would find challenging.
He also makes new disclosures about the
behind-the-scenes infighting at the White House that
helped prompt the change from Card to Bolten in the
spring of 2006. By that point, he reports, some close
to the president had concluded that "the White House
management structure had collapsed," with senior aides
Rove and Dan Bartlett "constantly at war."
He quotes Gillespie as telling one Republican while
running interference for Alito's Supreme Court
nomination: "I'm going crazy over here. I feel like a
shuttle diplomat, going from office to office. No one
will talk to each other."
It has been reported that Card first suggested he be
replaced to help rejuvenate the White House. But
Draper writes that Bush settled on Bolten, then
director of the Office of Management and Budget, as
the new chief of staff before telling Card. When Card
congratulated Bolten on his new assignment, he writes,
Bolten "could tell that Card was somewhat surprised
and hurt that Bush had moved so swiftly to select a
Rove, meanwhile, was not happy, Draper writes, with
Bolten's decision to strip him of his oversight of
policy at the White House, directing his focus instead
to politics and the coming midterm elections. Bolten
noticed that other staffers were "intimidated" by
Rove, and Rove was seen as doing too much,
"freelancing, insinuating himself into the message
world . . . parachuting into Capitol Hill whenever it
Draper offers little additional insight on or details
of Cheney's large influence in administration policy.
But he writes that the vice president did find himself
ruminating over mistakes made, chief among them
installing L. Paul Bremer and the Coalition
Provisional Authority to run Iraq for a year after the
invasion. Instead, Draper suggests, Cheney believes
that the White House should have set up a provisional
government right away, as Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi
National Congress recommended from the beginning.
Several of Bush's top advisers believe that the
president's view of postwar Iraq was significantly
affected by his meeting with three Iraqi exiles in the
Oval Office several months before the 2003 invasion,
He writes that all three exiles agreed without
qualification that "Iraq would greet American forces
with enthusiasm. Ethnic and religious tensions would
dissolve with the collapse of Saddam's regime. And
democracy would spring forth with little effort --
particularly in light of Bush's commitment to rebuild
In the CIA leak scandal, Rove assured Bush, Draper
reports, that he had known nothing about Valerie
Plame, a CIA operative whose covert status was
revealed by administration officials to reporters
after Plame's husband criticized the administration's
case for war in Iraq. "When Bush learned otherwise,"
he said, "he hit the roof."
Bush considered whether to cooperate with the book for
several months, Draper reports. The two men met for
the first time on Dec. 12, 2006, and at the
conclusion, the president agreed to another interview.
In one of the interviews, he looked ahead to his
post-presidency, talking of his plans to build an
institute focused on freedom and to "replenish the ol'
coffers" by giving paid speeches.
He told Draper he could see himself shuttling between
Dallas and Crawford. Noting that he ran into former
president Bill Clinton at the United Nations last
year, Bush added, "Six years from now, you're not
going to see me hanging out in the lobby of the U.N."