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Citations of George W. Bush as Uncurious, Explained

Web pages linked here all describe George W. Bush as uncurious, even if they don't use that exact word.
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2007 | Apr–Dec 2006 | Jan–Mar 2006 | 2005
Oct–Dec 2004 | July–Sep 2004 | May–June 2004 | April 2004 | March 2004 | February 2004 | January 2004
Oct–Dec 2003 | Jul–Sep 2003 | Jan–Jun 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | 2000 and earlier

The Question We Should Be Asking (washingtonpost.com)
The Washington Post
By William Raspberry
Monday, March 29, 2004; Page A23
Also in the Tacoma WA News Tribune March 29 under headline Where's how-to-exit-Iraq commission?

Was a naive President Bush duped into war by those in his administration who had a deeper purpose? Or was Bush himself calling the shots while members of his administration scrambled to provide the necessary pretext?

I had tended toward the Bush-as-puppet theory, primarily because of the president's preelection incuriosity about the rest of the world, and because certain members of his administration were on record as having a keen interest in rearranging the Middle East.

TheStar.com - Ousting Saddam justified U.S.-led invasion
Toronto Star
Mar. 25, 2004

The U.S.-led invasion of Iraq last year was such a remarkable affair that even people who supported it don't necessarily sound that way.

Take Peter Galbraith, a former U.S. ambassador to Croatia who is now a fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation in Washington.

A widely respected authority on Iraq, he has just returned from yet another visit to the country, where almost nothing is going as planned — mainly, he says, because almost nothing was planned.

Galbraith blames U.S. President George W. Bush.

"The fundamental responsibility rests with the president," Galbraith said yesterday.

"The Bush administration exhibited a dangerous combination of arrogance and ignorance. We have a stunningly incurious president."

Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | Bush's brand new enemy is the truth
Clarke's claims have shaken the White House to its foundations
Sidney Blumenthal
Thursday March 25, 2004
The Guardian
Sidney Blumenthal is former senior adviser to President Clinton and Washington bureau chief of Salon.com
This piece also appears at Salon.com | Bush's war -- against Richard Clarke

Terrorism was a Clinton issue: "soft" and obscure, having something to do with "globalisation", and other trends ridiculed from the Republican party platform. "In January 2001 the new administration really thought Clinton's recommendation that eliminating al-Qaida be one of their highest priorities, well, rather odd, like so many of the Clinton administration's actions, from their perspective," Clarke writes in his new book, Against All Enemies. When Clarke first met Rice and immediately raised the question of dealing with al-Qaida, she "gave me the impression she had never heard the term before". . . .

General Donald Kerrick served as deputy national security adviser under Clinton and remained on the NSC into the Bush administration. He wrote his replacement, Stephen Hadley, a two-page memo. "It was classified," Kerrick told me. "I said they needed to pay attention to al-Qaida and counterterrorism. I said we were going to be struck again. They never once asked me a question, nor did I see them having a serious discussion about it ... I agree with Dick [Clarke] that they saw those problems through an Iraqi prism. But the evidence, the intelligence, wasn't there." . . .

Bush protests now: "And had my administration had any information that terrorists were going to attack New York City on September 11, we would have acted." But he had plenty of information. The former deputy attorney general, Jamie Gorelick, the only member of the 9/11 commission to read the president's daily brief, revealed in the hearings that the documents "would set your hair on fire" and that the intelligence warnings of al-Qaida attacks "plateaued at a spike level for months" before September 11. Bush is fighting public release of these PDBs, which would show whether he had marked them up and demanded action. . . .

In Clarke's account, as in the memoir of former secretary of the treasury Paul O'Neill, Bush is disengaged, incurious, manipulated by those in the circle around him; he adopts ill-conceived strategies that he has played little or no part in preparing. Bush is the Oz behind the curtain, but unlike the wizard, the special effects are performed by others. Especially on terrorism and September 11, his White House is at "battle stations" to prevent the curtain from being pulled open.

Strange Doctrines: Incuriosity Bush's Alibi
Incuriosity Bush's Alibi
March 24, 2004

Bush's alibi [for not being in the White House Situation Room with Richard Clarke] is that on the day after the White House, Pentagon and World Trade Centers were targeted for destruction, Bush couldn't be bothered to step into the room wherein counterterrorism policy was being discussed and formulated.

A new volume from Bush's fairy-tale administration
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Tuesday, March 23, 2004
By Tony Norman

Between "The Price of Loyalty," Paul Suskind's account of Secretary O'Neill's misadventures in the Bush Cabinet, and Clarke's book, a less-than-flattering picture of a White House has emerged as a possible election issue.

These books by former Bush insiders echo a theme that resonates with the president's critics: Despite talent and experience, the Bush administration is hobbled by reliance on scripts that don't conform to reality and a president who values the perception of decisive action over curiosity and intellectual clarity.

Membranophonist's Ramblings
A few thoughts on Clarke's interview
Posted by Membranophonist at March 22, 2004 04:42 PM

One of the things that Clarke mentioned in his "60 Minutes" interview which has not been discussed much is his belief that Bush is carefully fed filtered information by what Paul O'Neill (it may have been Suskind) called his "Praetorian Guard." I imagine this is comprised of most of the cabinet members and Karl Rove, who provide incurious George with whatever they think it is that he wants to hear and some degree of deniability when it is shown to have been manipulated. The existence of this information filtration system is certainly not a revelation, but it is an important thing to consider when Bush talks about making the best decisions he can with the information he has.

Gergen criticizes Bush in speech at Tech
The Roanoke Times
Friday, March 19, 2004
By Kevin Miller

"It's one thing to stay the course; it's another to be blind to realities," said Gergen, the guest speaker for the [Virginia Tech] corps' [of Cadets] annual Cutchins Distinguished Lecture.

Responding to an audience member's question about Bush's reading habits, Gergen said he wished the president demonstrated more curiosity.

"A lack of curiosity can get you into a lot of trouble, and I would be a lot more comfortable if he did read the newspapers every day," he said.

The Gentlemen's C Presidency | The Village Gate
The Village Gate (formerly The Right Christians):
where religious progressives gather
The Gentlemen's C Presidency
Submitted by Allen on Sat, 04/03/2004 - 7:43pm
Reorganizing the archives has messed up the dates. This entry was referenced by two weblog postings dated March 18, 2004, and it references Joe Klein's March 13 piece below, so we are declaring its date as March 18, 2004.

Without Karl Rove's ruthlessness and the Bush family's arrogance, George W. Bush's incuriosity and inability to see things in terms other than black and white would have harmed few other than some gullible oil patch investors, but in the realm of world and national leadership, there is no "Gentleman's C." It's time for the American people to give Bush the kind of fair and true evaluation of his ability and effort that his teachers at Andover, Yale and Harvard Business School never did.

TIME.com: Bush and 9/11: What We Need to Know
The investigative panel is getting ready to grill the President. Here's what they should ask
Saturday, Mar. 13, 2004

It is easy to cast blame in hindsight. Even if Bush had been obsessed with the terrorist threat, 9/11 might not have been prevented. But the President's apparent lack of rigor—his incuriosity about an enemy that had attacked American targets overseas and had attempted an attack at home—raises a basic question about the nature and competence of this Administration. And that is not a question the Republicans want you to take to the polls in November.

HoustonChronicle.com - Learning from 9/11: President and commission should work more closely
March 11, 2004, 9:24PM
Copyright 2004 Houston Chronicle

The president himself seems incurious about the lessons that should be learned from the 9/11 attacks. If he already knows why U.S. intelligence agencies failed to pull together all the strands of warning before 9/11, he should tell the American public and act to prevent future intelligence lapses, such as the CIA's failure to accurately assess Iraq's threat before the U.S.-led invasion.

In the case of 9/11, U.S. officials failed to detect a threat. Regarding Iraq, the top U.S. spies saw a threat that was highly exaggerated and perhaps did not exist at the time of the invasion.

Op-Ed Columnist: J.F.K., Marilyn, ’Camelot’
The New York Times
Published: March 7, 2004
Widely republished, including the March 9 Grand Rapids Press and Milwaulkie Journal Sentinel.

When I gave George W. Bush a culture quiz in 2000, he gamely struggled to come up with one answer in each category, calling baseball his favorite "cultural experience."

Mr. Kerry, on the other hand, struggled to stop coming up with a cascade of things in each category, rarely settling on a definite favorite. . . .

In culture, as in policy, the senator and the president proved very different creatures — the complicated versus the concrete, the "insatiable," as Teresa Heinz Kerry calls her husband's interests, versus the incurious.

Kerry vs Bush
The Independent
The Candidate: A landslide for Kerry. But can he now unseat Bush?
By Rupert Cornwell in Washington
04 March 2004

From character flows a person's entire approach to governing. Mr Bush, famously, doesn't do nuance. For this utterly uncurious President, the world is black and white. In the Bush world view, it is a case of "either with us or against us."

subscribers of Independent may read the above online at independent.co.uk news.

Boston.com / A&E / Books / A Treasury trove of recollections about Bush
By Rich Barlow, Globe Correspondent, 3/3/2004

Paul O'Neill, the fired Treasury secretary whose documentation and recollections are the backbone of the book, may be remembered less for what he did in office than for his observation that the incurious Bush at Cabinet meetings was "like a blind man in a roomful of deaf people." . . .

News followers know that the book's most serious indictments are, one, that the fix was in on the Iraq war from the very first days of the administration, and two, the president's anti-intellectual bent and the ideological rigidity of his advisers produced an administration pursuing ruinous goals poorly grounded in reasoned analysis.

Zeek: Bush the Exception: Ignorance as Ideology
Zeek: March 2004
Samuel Hayim Brody
Ron Suskind, The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O'Neill
Simon & Schuster, 2004

For O'Neill, the Bush administration was completely uninterested in process or reasoned argument. Its philosophy was, and presumably still is: "The base likes this, and who the hell knows anyway."

That destructive maxim was applied to energy, the economy, Social Security, global warming, and plenty of other issues you would think would be important enough to merit consideration of opposing views. . . .

Suskind reports interview after interview between Bush and O'Neill in which Bush is described as sedate, silent, and uninquisitive. At one point, O'Neill tries to get Bush to consider moderating his radical tax cut policy by agreeing to "triggers," by which the tax cuts would be stretched out over a few years and conditional upon the actual appearance of budget surpluses. Bush repeats a mantra of his: "I'm not going to negotiate with myself." To O'Neill this is anathema, since negotiation with and reassessment of one's views is the very essence of good government. To Bush, however, dissent is destabilizing, including the internalized dissent of self-doubt. . . .

The way Suskind frames it, Bush and O'Neill are completely opposite poles: one self-interested, prejudiced, uncurious, and stubbornly ideological; the other disinterested, intellectually ravenous, and practical. The administration's failure to include multiple perspectives is emphasized again and again: the Vice President's Energy Task Force is only made up of government officials and industry representatives, with no outside experts. O'Neill and Whitman are the only ones who seem to even believe in global warming, or in environmental regulations of any type. The President's Social Security Commission, intended to investigate policy options on Social Security, and advertised as such to the media, consisted entirely of figures preapproved as supporters of private accounts.

February 2004

TIME.com: TIME Magazine Archive -- Death, Be Not Proud -- Feb. 21, 2000
Death, Be Not Proud
Nothing is as certain as the pace of executions in Bush's Texas
Feb. 21, 2000

It is curious that Bush, who seems ambivalent about so many things, would be so unflinchingly sure of himself when it comes to carrying out the death penalty.

Ridiculopathy.com: Bush Touts Rise in Exports [Jobs, Dollars]
Friday February 20, 2004
Humor, not real news

Some in the media have criticized the President for his lack of intellectual curiosity regarding the issues of the day. Bush rebuffed the concerns, explaining that any combination of the words "curious" and "George" constituted a reference to the beloved children's book character and was probably meant to mock him- though he later admitted that if it was a joke, he did not quite get it.

Post-Crescent - State not big among campaign bankrollers
The Post-Crescent
Appleton-Neenah-Menasha, Wisconsin
Posted Feb. 16, 2004
Staff and wire reports
This is the oldest, and so far the only, known use of the word "noncurious" apropos of George W. Bush. However, there are earlier citations for "non-curious" with the hyphen.

Bob Huber, of Appleton, said he gave money to Howard Dean, and now to Sen. John Kerry, in reaction to Bush’s first four years in office, and after reading that Bush said he doesn’t read newspapers.

“I’m an avid reader of newspapers and it scares me a little bit to have a president that is that intellectually noncurious,” he said.

“I fear for a man who has his information processed for him and summarized by high-paid political handlers.”

TIME.com: TIME Magazine Archive -- When Credibility Becomes An Issue -- Feb. 16, 2004
Time Cover Story
When Credibility Becomes An Issue
As the 2004 campaign kicks up, the Administration finds its word questioned on several fronts. TIME looks at Bush's predicament—and his counterattack
Feb. 16, 2004

Bush's fired Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill greeted the President in the New Year with revelations in a tell-all book that made Bush out to be at best incurious and at worst deceitful, bent on war with Iraq from the very first days in office. The manned mission to Mars was rolled out with a flourish and then muted when the polls showed people thought it was a ridiculous waste of money. . . . Next came the admission by the Administration's handpicked weapons hunter, David Kay, that after hundreds of interviews and months of hunting, we had not found any weapon stockpiles after all.

Nor was the link between Saddam and al- Qaeda ever proved. . . .

Talking Politics | Target: JFK
Boston Phoenix
Issue Date: February 13 - 19, 2004

In the past few weeks Bush has a) been forced to admit that he was wrong about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq; b) been shamed by former weapons inspector David Kay into naming a commission to study intelligence failures; c) submitted a budget proposal so deficit-riddled and intellectually dishonest that the conservatives in his own party are furious; d) come under increasing scrutiny on the question of whether he’d gone AWOL from the Texas Air National Guard in the early 1970s; e) been attacked by his former treasury secretary, Paul O’Neill, as an incurious, disengaged stooge of Vice-President Dick Cheney; and f) watched in presumed horror as the investigation into the exposure of CIA undercover agent Valerie Plame moved ever closer to Cheney’s office. All that and the laughable man-on-Mars mission, too. [many paragraphs later, on page 2 . . . ]

The notion that the intelligence agencies somehow failed Bush is a grotesque rewrite of recent history. Last spring, in long, detailed reports, John Judis and Spencer Ackerman (in the New Republic) and Seymour Hersh (in the New Yorker) wrote about how the White House repeatedly p ressured the CIA and other intelligence-gathering groups to give it what it needed, what it wanted, to make the case for war in Iraq.

Article available without subscription:
CNN.com - When credibility becomes an issue - Feb. 10, 2004

The Washington Monthly
Political Animal
By Kevin Drum, formerly of Calpundit
Two relevant comments.

Lemme get this straight.

They took away the pretty pictures when Incurious George took office?

No wonder he never looked at a single intel report.

Posted by: scarshapedstar on February 11, 2004 at 11:18 PM
Can you imagine the feelings of sadness and futility that must overcome people who work hard every day to read, comprehend and boil down reams of complex and crucial intelligence information into a daily briefing book due before dawn every morning to be placed on the desk of a hollow and vacuous man without curiosity who doesn't bother reading that briefing book but rather sits blanky while Karl, Andy, Condi, Scott, Dick, and various other minions try to summarize it and tell him what to think and do and say that day, even though they know that their simplified summaries of world events have little chance of sinking in unless such phrases as "terra" and "shadowy networks" are repeated over and over and over?

Must suck for the intelligence peoples' morale, is all I'm saying.

Posted by: Featherstone on February 12, 2004 at 12:00 AM

Late Night Thoughts...
by Emma
Monday, February 09, 2004
Hating George Bush

For my part, at least, I'd like to say that I don't hate George Bush. I don't hate anyone, that I can think of; it's too time-consuming and unproductive. . . .

However, I will admit that George Bush is not my favorite person in the whole world, but I have reasons. Clear reasons that you might not agree with, but cannot claim to be irrational:

1. He comes across as the most incurious person I've ever encountered. My mother, with a fourth grade education, seems more engaged with the world than the President of the United States. It's not a single thing that I can point to; maybe it's just that I have yet to hear the man give an unscripted talk about any subject, off the cuff.

February 8, 2004 - Is our leader dumb as a post, a liar, or mad as a hatter?
Just Above Sunset

That leaves the idea Bush just doesn't know much, and doesn't want to know much - that he's an incurious fellow who doesn't like details.

MSNBC - Talk Transcript: Making Sense of it All
Thursday, Feb. 5, 2004
Transcript of a chat with members of the public and NEWSWEEK's Investigative Correspondent Michael Isikoff

Spring City: Which is worse; Bush willfilly lied or was ideologically blinded and incurious about the truth?

Michael Isikoff: I think the latter charge--incurious about the truth may be the one the president will have to most seriously answer for.

Blame, Blindness . . . (washingtonpost.com) The Washington Post
By Richard Cohen
Tuesday, February 3, 2004; Page A19
Also appeared February 2 in New York Daily News - News & Views Columnists - Richard Cohen: Iraq was a failure of national leadership, and February 4 in The Miami Herald | 02/04/2004 | I, too, jumped on the bandwagon.

Finally, though, there was smugness -- the sort of American exceptionalism that so rankles non-Americans. No one better exemplified that than Bush himself. He proclaimed a divine right to unilateralism, oozed a smugness bred of incuriousness and an airy dismissal of dissent. He knew what he knew with such fiery certainty that even now he seems incapable of facing reality. He's like a kid who refuses to accept the fact that there is no Santa Claus.

By all means, proceed with the independent commission. A huge mistake has been made, and we need to know why. But if for a moment we think that it was the CIA alone that took us to war, then we will have learned nothing from what happened. That would be the gravest intelligence failure of them all.

In the Belly of the Beast: The Bush Administration Exposed
The New York Observer 2/2/2004
Book Review by Ward Just
The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O’Neill, by Ron Suskind. Simon and Schuster, 248 pages, $26.

Then, newly sworn in as Secretary of the Treasury, Mr. O’Neill met George W. Bush for lunch. . . . The Treasury Secretary had sent the President a memo, talking points, a sort of tour d’horizon of the economy, which was then perhaps entering a mild recession, perhaps not. . . . There were a number of obvious questions the President would want to ask: How large was the surplus actually? How large a tax cut? Any thoughts on reforming Social Security and Medicare? But the President was silent, incurious, unreadable.

Citations, Explained, 2007
Citations, Explained, April–December 2006
Citations, Explained, January–March 2006
Citations, Explained, 2005
Citations, Explained, October–December 2004
Citations, Explained, July–September 2004
Citations, Explained, May–June 2004
Citations, Explained, April 2004
Citations, Explained, March 2004
Citations, Explained, February 2004
Citations, Explained, January 2004
Citations, Explained, October–December 2003
Citations, Explained, July–September 2003
Citations, Explained, January–June 2003
Citations, Explained, 2002
Citations, Explained, 2001
Citations, Explained, 2000 and earlier

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