Bush, the Middle East and the full Bilbassy


President Bush and Condoleezza Rice blitzed us this weekend with apologias for their Middle East policies.

Bush spoke to the Saban Forum Friday evening (how are Shabbat-observant Jews supposed to attend what is, after all, a key Jewish-funded event? Just asking.) A White House fact-sheet accompanied the release of the speech (unusually, the White House released the whole speech – not just excerpts – early Friday.  Does this make the Bushies more Shabbat-sensitive than Martin Indyk?). And then Bush made his case to Nadia Bilbassy of Saudi-owned MBC.

Rice, meantime, did a half-Ginsburg, making her case to CNN, ABC and Fox. (Barack Obama crowded her out on NBC.)

Key themes:

-Israel-Palestinian is in a better place than it was in January 2001;
-Democratization is working;
-The world is a better place with Saddam Hussein dead.
-Iran: umm. Gee. Dunno.

See if you can tease out a vindication from the Iran passage in Bush’s speech:

The defeat of Saddam also appears to have changed the calculation of Iran. According to our intelligence community, the regime in Tehran had started a nuclear weapons program in the late-1980s, and they halted a key part of that program in 2003. America recognized that the most effective way to pursue — persuade Iran to remove its nuclear weapons — renounce its nuclear weapons ambitions was to have partners at our side, so we supported an international effort led by our allies in Europe. This diplomacy yielded an encouraging result, when Iran agreed to suspend its uranium enrichment.

Sadly, after the election of President Ahmadinejad, Iran reversed course and announced it would begin enriching again. Since then, we’ve imposed tough sanctions through United Nations resolutions. We and our partners have offered Iran diplomatic and economic incentives to suspend enrichment. We have promised to support a peaceful civilian nuclear program. While Iran has not accepted these offers, we have made our bottom line clear: For the safety of our people and the peace of the world, America will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.


Is it me, or does that sound a lot like "We had a shot in 2003, but, um"?

We at JTA have requested an exit interview. Who knows if we’ll get it, but if we do, I want the full Bilbassy: a Rose Garden tour and this:

Q I have a few questions about just Syria and Lebanon, but my time is over.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you for your — you’re a beautiful interviewer.

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