Saturday :: May 13, 2006

Madeleine Albright on President Bush


by Mary

Recently Madeleine Albright has been making the rounds discussing her new book, The Mighty and the Almighty: Reflections on America, God and World Affairs. During her interviews, she is frank about her concern that Bush is abusing the Constitution when he claims he has God on his side.

Madame Secretary continues to show that she will speak her mind even when meeting with the President of the United States. Showing how much the President's position has changed since the beginning of the year, in the meeting on Friday, he had to act like he had called together the former Secretaries of State so that he could listen to their thoughts.

The last time President Bush invited a big group of former secretaries of state and defense to ask him questions about Iraq — a bipartisan consultation, as advertised by the White House — he gave them no more than 10 minutes and left many of them seething.

This time, with his approval rating scraping record lows, Mr. Bush changed course. The 10 former secretaries of state and defense who met with him privately in the Roosevelt Room on Friday got a 45-minute briefing from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Then they plunged into what was described as a robust give and take with Mr. Bush.

"Last time I thought it was just a photo opportunity," said Madeleine K. Albright, President Clinton's second secretary of state, referring to the first meeting in January. "I had a sense this time that it was viewed as a useful dialogue. I know I had the opportunity to say what I thought."

Ms. Albright said she told the president that a senior member of the administration should give a speech outlining the current strategy to persuade Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions. While it should not necessarily be a response to a recent letter to Mr. Bush from Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Ms. Albright said she told the president that the administration "needs to lay out more clearly what we stand for in the battle of ideas."

Mr. Bush, she said, listened and appeared open, another contrast with the meeting in January. Back then, Ms. Albright asked Mr. Bush if all the energy focused on Iraq had not let the nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea spin out of control. "I can't let this comment stand," Mr. Bush shot back, asserting that the administration "can do more than one thing at a time."

Even back in that January meeting, Madeleine Albright spoke her mind. As she told Jon Stewart, she felt that because she'd been critical of Bush publicly, she needed to be upfront with him when she met him personally.

The meeting was in January, and I have to say that when you are asked to go to the White House, even if you don't agree with everything that is going on, you kind of have to go. And I felt that I wasn't going to there and be a potted plant. And that I'm basically critical of the President publicly, so if I was face-to-face with him, I should tell him what I think.

Albright also was recently on KQED's Forum with Michael Krasny. During that show, she reminded me about what is so refreshing about her: she is direct and to the point, unlike our current Secretary of State who just seems to be haranguing when she's telling others what they need to do to line up with Bush. During that show, Albright again told Krasny about her January visit with Bush and how she felt she must be honest with Bush when she had the opportunity to talk with him. She also mentioned that she was very happy to be outside of Washington because right now, "Washington is toxic". As she says no one is talking to each other anymore and it was great to be on the west coast out of the toxic stew. She also was frank about the fact she'd been wrong in the 90s when she answered a question in the affirmative about whether the sanctions on Iraq were worth the death of half a million Iraqi children.

I regret the statement. It was patently stupid.

Albright has always been a tough cookie, but in important ways was a much better and more humane person than our present Secretary of State. Can you imagine Condi talking in another 7 years about the mistakes she has made or the regretting the lies? I can't.

Mary :: 9:18 PM :: Comments (25) :: TrackBack (0) :: Digg It!