Reader Bill H. noticed my review of Watchdogs of Democracy? by Helen Thomas and e-mailed to tell me that he noticed another strange passage in the book:
Helen Thomas has an odd alleged quote of the current President Bush, asserting that he stated to the Houston Chronicle that he wanted to be a “war president” before he even entered office. I can’t find that quote anywhere else in the world, and the quote makes no sense.I’ve e-mailed her twice, and I have received no response… I thought there might be an editor out there that might check these things.
The quote to which Bill is referring appears on page 137:
President Bush’s self-proclaimed desire to be known as a “war president,” even before the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon on 9/11, should have triggered some skepticism. In fact, in a preelection interview with a Houston Chronicle reporter, he had said he wanted to be known as a war president.
A Nexis search of Houston Chronicle articles from 1998 to 2000 containing both ”Bush” and “war president” turns up nothing that resembles what Thomas reported. I did several other searches to see if maybe a Chronicle reporter mentioned this in another news outlet, but I didn’t find anything. Does anyone out there know what Thomas is talking about? If this quote actually exists somewhere, I’d like to see the context. Given the numerous distortions I found when writing my review of her book, I’m not inclined to take her word for it.
UPDATE: James F. writes that Thomas was probably talking about an article by Russ Baker published in October of 2004. Here’s the exact quote:
“He was thinking about invading Iraq in 1999,” said author and journalist [and Houston Chronicle reporter] Mickey Herskowitz. “It was on his mind. He said to me: ‘One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as a commander-in-chief.’ And he said, ‘My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait and he wasted it.’ He said, ‘If I have a chance to invade….if I had that much capital, I’m not going to waste it. I’m going to get everything passed that I want to get passed and I’m going to have a successful presidency.”
James writes, “If this is what she’s referring to, it didn’t come out until 2004, so if it’s valid, it could hardly have ‘triggered some skepticism.’ in anyone but Herskowitz himself during the 2000 election.”
Gerald B. adds: “Do you not see the terrible irony in asking the question: ‘Does anyone out there know what Thomas is talking about?’ Loads of folks have been asking that for at least 5 years – well before she put out a book.”