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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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June 2004

Resolute in Rhetoric, Reagan and Bush Part Ways in Deed
Los Angeles Times
June 14, 2004
Ronald Brownstein
Washington Outlook
Resolute in Rhetoric, Reagan and Bush Part Ways in Deed

Bush's critics argue that Reagan demonstrated a more sophisticated outlook and a greater willingness to transcend his ideology than conventional wisdom assumes. They see Bush failing to meet Reagan's standard by implementing more tax cuts amid massive deficits and invading Iraq despite broad international opposition.

One of those ardently pressing that argument is Jack F. Matlock Jr., a retired Foreign Service officer who joined in a statement by former diplomatic and military officials, expected to be released Wednesday, arguing that Bush's foreign policy has damaged America's security and its standing abroad.

Matlock held a series of high-level diplomatic positions under Reagan. He was senior director for Europe and the Soviet Union on the National Security Council staff. He helped draft much of Reagan's key correspondence with Gorbachev and said he portrayed Gorbachev in planning sessions for the momentous summits Reagan held with the Soviet leader.

Reagan ultimately named Matlock ambassador to the Soviet Union, a position he maintained through the closing days of the Cold War under Bush's father, George H.W. Bush.

Matlock bristles at the comparisons between the younger Bush and Reagan. "This president seems to be remarkably uncurious," Matlock said. "He is a poor listener, it would seem."

Matlock alluded to the accounts in Bob Woodward's book "Plan of Attack" that Bush never directly asked either his own father or Secretary of State Colin L. Powell for their opinions before invading Iraq.

"I contrast this very much with Reagan, who kept a relatively open mind," Matlock continued. "He always was happy to listen. He consulted with many people, including people he didn't necessarily agree with, and he took it seriously. Reagan knew what he didn't know, and he liked to be educated about it. He was anything but arrogant, and he didn't close out things."

Boston.com / News / Boston Globe / Opinion / Op-ed / The 'likability' issue takes center stage
By Robert Hogan | June 13, 2004
Robert Hogan, president of Hogan Assessment Systems, is an international authority on personality assessment, leadership, and organizational effectiveness.

What we think about other people can be broken down into what psychologists call the "Five-Factor Model." . . . The final factor involves being practical, plain-spoken, and intellectually content at one end, and imaginative, curious, and visionary at the other. . . .

Factor five is where Bush's father got in trouble ("The vision thing"), and the current president is known to be incurious to the point of being anti-intellectual. . . .

Finally, if Bush loses appeal for his lack of curiosity and sophistication, Kerry is often criticized for being too nuanced in his views, too sophisticated in his lifestyle (he speaks French), and too flexible (a flip-flopper in GOP parlance).

First Reagan, Now His Stunt Double
By Frank Rich, New York Times
June 13, 2004
Originally appeared in The International Herald Tribune June 11, 2004 as "Seeking a kernel of emotional truth"

Where the boosters see both men [Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush] as refreshingly disdainful of intellectuals, critics see a smug lack of curiosity in any ideas but their own.

FT.com / Comment & analysis / Letters
Chalabi's fall shows that the US cannot match Mideast in the art of devious diplomacy
By John Brady Kiesling
Published: June 10 2004 5:00
From Mr John Brady Kiesling

President George W. Bush's lack of curiosity about Saddam Hussein's Iraq proved catastrophic to all concerned. . . .

John Brady Kiesling, Athens, Greece (Former US Embassy Political Counsellor)

American Prospect Onlline - ViewPrint
All the President's Handouts
Review of Plan of Attack
By Robert Kuttner
Issue Date: 06.07.04
Plan of Attack By Bob Woodward, Simon & Schuster, 480 pages, $28.00
On-line publication date not listed, but on or before May 14, 2004. Another excerpt appears in Uncurious Media. Reprinted on the same website on November 21, 2005.

As in his first hagiography, Bush at War, Woodward chooses to paint this president as a resolute and decisive leader, one who listens carefully to differing views among his cabinet and then makes astute choices. A more skeptical reporter could have taken the same raw material and emphasized that Bush doesn't read, has little curiosity about the complexities of foreign affairs, is easily manipulated, looks for "facts" that fit his preconceptions; not surprisingly, his policy turns out to be a disastrous blunder.

Word man spots trends in language
San Francisco Chronicle
Tuesday, June 1, 2004
by C.W. Nevius
Paul JJ Payack, president of the Global Language Monitor, is also known as the WordMan.

In March, Time magazine offered an essay about Bush in which it dusted off a rarely used word from the 16th century -- "incuriosity.'' A month later The New York Times weighed in with another "incuriosity'' reference.

In each case, the usage was directed to what Payack says the perception was that Bush was "lacking intellectual curiosity.'' Whether you believe that or not there is no question the word caught fire. The next step -- the headline "Incurious George'' -- pushed "incuriosity'' to the No. 1 political word on the index in April and it held on to third place last month.

May 2004

MSNBC - D-Day's Real Lessons
D-Day's Real Lessons
War leadership takes more than resolve and rhetoric. What Bush could learn from Churchill and FDR about his own fight.
By Jon Meacham
May 31, 2004
On-line publication date not listed, but on or before May 24, 2004.

Bush eschews complexity; FDR and Churchill embraced it. Bush prefers to decide, not go into details or revisit issues; FDR and Churchill were constantly examining their own assumptions and immersing themselves in postwar planning. Bush is largely incurious about the world; FDR and Churchill wanted to know everything. . . .

According to Bob Woodward's "Plan of Attack," Bush never held a meeting of his war council to debate whether invading Iraq would help or hurt the larger war on Al Qaeda, nor did he think out what a postwar Iraq would look like. In deciding to attack and staying on top of early combat, it seems, Bush believed his work was largely done. "The more he's been president, the more he's talked and the less he's listened," says a former Bush administration official. "The president gets impatient with debate; he doesn't play around with ideas."

Separate but Equine (washingtonpost.com)
The Washington Post
Separate but Equine
Hey, America -- let's stop being such horse's patooties about politics
By Gene Weingarten
Sunday, May 30, 2004; Page W07
Intended as a humor column, but not the least bit funny.

Unfair, incendiary stereotype No. 2: Bush's insistence on seeing things in moral absolutes -- which has embroiled us in a repugnant, unwinnable war on behalf of people who hate us -- bespeaks not a man with clarity of vision but a clueless, incurious, ignorant simpleton with vacant, deer-in-the-headlight eyes who must retreat in fear behind easy-to-understand, platitudinous, flag-flapping dogma so as to disguise his inability to comprehend the nuanced realities of international diplomacy and human affairs, all of which allows him to dimwittedly fall under the sway of Strangelovian political theorists and greedy war profiteers.

More conciliatory approach: President Bush doesn't drink alcoholic beverages anymore.

Vol. 9 No. 38 May 28 - June 3, 2004
by Jim Washburn

The White House insider accounts in recent books depict a president who is steadfastly uncurious about any viewpoints, analyses or options that might deviate from the shining path dictated by his instincts.

Scoping Out the Bushies - by Alan Bock
May 28, 2004
Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War on Terror, by Richard A. Clarke, Free Press, 304 pp. 27.00

The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O’Neill, by Ron Suskind, Simon & Schuster, 348 pp., 26.00

A few caveats aside, The Price of Loyalty is worth reading for a no-doubt partial picture of how the Bush White House functioned, and especially of the curiously incurious nature of the president himself. O’Neill met one-on-one with Bush about once every eleven days, and many were like the first one, where O’Neill recapitulated his memo on the state of the economy and kept up a monologue for 45 minutes.

"There were a dozen questions that O’Neill had expected Bush to ask. He was ready with the answers. How large did O’Neill consider the surplus, and how real? How might the tax cut be structured? What about reforming Social Security and Medicare, the budget busters. How will we know if the economy has turned?

"Bush didn’t ask anything. He looked at O’Neill, not changing his expression, not letting on that he had any reactions — either positive or negative."

Maybe it’s a management technique and maybe it’s not knowing what questions to ask. Hard to tell. . . .

But the picture that emerges of our president is of a person who makes up his mind fairly quickly (sometimes after a period, real or feigned, of listening to differing advice) and afterward finds it almost impossible to change his mind, adjust his views or admit that he might have had incomplete information (as everyone does most of the time) when he decided. That stubbornness . . . got us into the war when there was no good reason, from the perspective of actually defending the United States against an imminent or even a likely threat, to stage the invasion.

Chicago Tribune | President offers plan that is easier said than done
By Michael Tackett
Tribune senior correspondent
Published May 25, 2004

Bush's standing is far worse in the broader world, most notably Europe and most of the Middle East. And yet he now finds himself reaching out to the United Nations for another resolution on Iraq, with less leverage than ever before. A president seemingly incurious about the world finds himself increasingly dependent on the world view of him.

Newsday.com - New Columnists
Paul Vitello
Lessons in the simple life
May 25, 2004

The Hofstra grads and their families were ill-prepared for [graduation speaker and novelist E. L.] Doctorow's criticism of the president. This is what he should have said instead:

"The president of the United States does not read newspapers or books, and neither should you. Like him, you should be incurious. You should believe in the superiority of your experience to that of all other people's experience. You should never doubt that you know what you know. As George Orwell once said, Ignorance is strength. It is your birthright as an American. Never apologize.

"Never study the literature or speak the language of the French. All you need to know is that they are weasels like the Germans, the Russians, the Spanish and the Greeks. . . . Avoid knowing anything that does not make you richer in the literal sense. But most of all, avoid knowing anything that might be outsourced.

"Be literal-minded. If the news from far-away places is bad, ask yourself this simple question: 'What concern is that of mine?' The answer 99 out of 100 times will be 'none.' In the 100th case, call your broker and take it as a write-off.

"Be bold in your faith that 'things will work out for the best.' This is the secret of passivity disguised as machismo. Appearing to be macho matters more than having ideas. When things do not work out - even when the lack of the ideas at the core of your life is exposed - strive to live in complete denial. . . . Do not be afraid to shut people up. . . .

"See life simply. Where others see gray, see the black and the white. Where others see implications, consequences, complications, see yes and no, right and wrong. This is the secret of feeling justified in doing unjustifiable things. Learn it, and and you will never feel wrong in anything you do.

"... Strive always to keep dissonant voices outside, and to hear only the reassuring inner voice of your ignorance. Believe without question in the infallibility of your popes and presidents and emperors. They will never lead you wrong. And if they do lead you wrong - just ignore the evidence of your senses.

No Honor Among Thieves
Common Dreams News Center
Published on Monday, May 24, 2004 by CommonDreams.org
by Rosa Maria Pegueros
Rosa Maria Pegueros is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Rhode Island.

I often hear people insulting W’s intelligence. . . . Even if he was a legacy (that is, admitted to college because his father went there), the man graduated from Yale and Harvard. He was the governor of the largest state in the union. He may be playing dumb but he isn’t. He is intellectually incurious, a condition that makes those in the top 2% of IQs in the population shudder, but that doesn’t mean he’s stupid.

CNN.com - Transcripts
Aired May 23, 2004 - 12:00 ET

BLITZER: . . . Joining us now here in Washington, two senators: Republican Chuck Hagel of Nebraska. He serves on the Senate Foreign Relations and Intelligence Committees. Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California. She, too, is a member of the Intelligence Committee. . . .

BLITZER: . . . Senator Hagel, in the new issue of U.S. News and World Report, you're quoted as saying that the president may be more isolated than any president in recent memory and, therefore, susceptible to faulty advice. Is that an accurate quote?

HAGEL: It is an accurate quote.

BLITZER: What exactly are you saying?

HAGEL: What I'm saying is that, at a time that's as complicated and dangerous as any time in modern history, today, a president of the United States needs to hear other opinions. He must reach out. He must understand a bigger view, wider-lens view of the world.

To essentially hold himself hostage to two or three key advisers and never reach beyond that is very dangerous for a president. Any president gets isolated. That's not new. This one, I think, is particularly that way.

For example, it was acknowledged by the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Dick Lugar, a couple weeks ago in a New York Times article that he rarely hears from the White House. They rarely reach out and have him come down. . . .

HAGEL: . . . As I said, by Senator Lugar's own admission in a New York Times story a couple weeks ago, he said that they had not reached out. I'm aware of that. I'm aware, also, that they don't reach out to Democrats, which I think is astounding.

And, again, at a time the president and his team need a lot of clear-headed advice, experienced advice, it seems to me for the good of the country and to develop some precision and quality in our policy that you would want other points of view. This administration does not do that.

Bush doesn’t play fair; His tactics are not consistent with democracy.
by Paul Willett
May 22, 2004

For Bush, ideology trumps research and analysis, and facts are simply malleable tools used to pursue policies that that his “gut” has somehow selected. He shows disdain for academics and experts outside his own team, and states frankly that he doesn’t read the newspaper. His own speech writers have described him as “ill informed and incurious”. His administration picks, chooses, and further distorts facts that support its own positions, while deliberately suppressing contrary evidence. . . .

Who is so blind that he or she cannot foresee the proliferation of terrorism as we further alienate moderate Muslims?

Stupid is as
The Oregonian (Portland)
Friday, May 21, 2004
Stupidity (Movie Review)

. . . real dumbness is almost an act of volition, a willful disregard for thinking and an incuriousness about the world. . . .

Of course, President George W. Bush comes up, as a supposed symbol of Americans' pride in their own ignorance.

Escaping the Maelstrom
By Bernard Weiner, Co-Editor
The Crisis Papers
May 18, 2004


Because they run such a closed, incurious shop, Bush&Co. exemplify the garbage in/garbage out manner of policy-making. Bush doesn't read newspapers; doing so might confuse him, since, he tells us proudly, he makes up his mind from his "gut," and from information supplied him by Cheney and the White House staff. Had Bush opened himself to hearing other opinions, he would have learned that most of the world believed he was heading into a bear-trap in Iraq: his long-time allies were telling him not to invade, tens of millions of us ordinary citizens were out in the streets warning him not to invade, friendly Arab leaders were telling him not to go into Iraq. Even Colin Powell warned him, privately, that "if you break it, you own it." . . .

The Bush world, after all, is a simple one. It's all black and white. We are the Good Guys, God is on our side, thus we know what is best for the world, we know who the bad guys are, we'll take 'em out. No shades of grey, no wondering about possible mistaken judgments, no thought about the law of unintended consequences, no pondering whether we might make our country less secure against terrorists by running amok in the world like a rampaging cowboy on a moralist bender.

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: The Springs of Fate
Published: May 16, 2004
Doesn't use a form of the word "curious," but the point is made.

The Bush team, working on divine right, doesn't bother checking human precedent.

The president and secretary of defense boast about not reading newspapers, presumably because they don't want any contrary opinion or fact to shake their faith in the essential excellence of their policies.

It's astonishing the amount of stuff these guys don't bother to read, preferring to filter their information through their ideology. They certainly didn't read enough Iraqi history. They delayed looking at photos and reports on Americans abusing Iraqi prisoners. Paul Wolfowitz clearly wasn't bothering to read updated casualty reports. . . .

As Ms. [Barbara] Tuchman notes, wooden heads are as dangerous as wooden horses: "Wooden-headedness, the source of self-deception, is a factor that plays a remarkably large role in government. It consists in assessing a situation in terms of preconceived fixed notions while ignoring or rejecting any contrary signs."

The Washington Monthly
Posted by: Johnsamo on May 15, 2004 at 8:25 PM

The phenomena is what I like to call a Reader's Digest view of the world... i.e... We won World War 2 because we were the good guys. The alternative (and correct) view is, we won because we viciously beat the crap out of Germany and Japan until they couldn't take it anymore.

If you held the latter view, you'd have known that the Iraqui's would not be awed by the magnitude of our goodness, and thus, you might have some problems getting them to do as you say.

W is the epitome of a Reader's Digester... Not even wanting to recieve information that doesn't conform to his simplistic beliefs.

Dr. Susan Block: Bush's POW Porn
May 14, 2004
Dr. Susan Block is a sex educator, cultural commentator, host of The Dr. Susan Block Show and author of The 10 Commandments of Pleasure. Visit her website at http://www.drsusanblock.com
Far too long, full of speculation lighly sprinkled with actual facts.

"Their treatment does not reflect the nature of the American people," Bush tried to spin like a dervish when The Photos were first unleashed. "That's not the way we do things in America," he said. Later he clarified on Al-Hurrah TV, "What took place in that prison does not represent the America that I know."

Of course, it's not the America Dubya knew. That's because even though he did things that would have landed other guys in the can, Poppy's friends bailed him out before he had to spend any real time in an American prison.

UnCurious George also seems to have never heard of Rodney King, beaten by LAPD on tape, or Abner Louima, sodomized with the business end of a toilet plunger during an NYPD interrogation. Since the Shrub is a proud non-reader, he wouldn't know that according to U.S. corrections officials, inmates and human rights advocates, the physical and sexual abuse of prisoners, similar to what's in The Photos, takes place in American prisons every day. This is "the way" some people "do things" at many prisons in America, minus the cameras (so far). Bush should know, since he was governor of Texas, said to have some of the worst, most abusive prisons on Earth. But the only state he seems to govern with any skill is the state of Denial. . . .

But Bush doesn't care about problems like this, just as he hasn't cared about the mulitiple reports of abuse and torture from the Red Cross and other groups that have been crossing his desk for years. Now he cares. He's been caught! He's just "sickened" that the world has seen his secret stash of porn.

White House Insiders (washingtonpost.com)
White House Insiders
Mike Allen
Washington Post
Thursday, May 13, 2004; 11:00 AM

Richmond, Va.: Mike --
. . . Based on your exposure to President Bush in recent weeks, particularly during his campaign swings, to what degree do you sense he is able to maintain focus on the campaign vs. current events/crises? And, would you attribute his focus or lack of focus on how he manages information (or has his staff manage it for him) or on his lack of curiosity (as it is sometimes described)? . . .

Mike Allen: . . . The White House will tell you the president stays focused on both the campaign and current events/crises, and that the public understands he will do both and expects him to do both. But I know that I hardly need to point out that they are not, um, unrelated.

idaho mountain express : Bashing Republicans by Republicans — Commentary by Pat Murphy :  Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Newspaper cartoonists have caricatured President Bush as a child-like innocent in Buster Brown shoes sitting on the knee of a sneering and manipulative Vice President Cheney, repeating scripted rote without a clue and asking approval of "Uncle Dick."

Bush confirms the caricature: the incurious commander-in-chief takes pride in boasting he doesn’t read newspapers or watch TV news, and instead relies on advisers to keep him in touch with current affairs when they get around to it or even choose to.

The president did not even know of the Abu Ghraib photos or the report by Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba of mistreatment – although the conduct was known for months by Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld and others who deigned not to fully inform Bush of a matter now darkening the presidency and inviting global disdain for the United States.

The fiasco of Abu Ghraib - JAMAICAOBSERVER.COM
Tuesday, May 11, 2004

The images from Abu Ghraib have done what the reports of the mounting casualties in Iraq, military and civilian, have so far failed to do: galvanise people opposed to America's Iraq policy. The reason is that these images undermine the moral high ground that Americans often seek to stake out for themselves.

Which causes us to wonder why the US leadership was not more aggressive in dealing with the issue when it was first known there was a problem at Abu Ghraib, but no pictures were in the public domain. It seems to us that Mr Rumsfeld, and perhaps even the president, displayed a grave lack of curiosity when the initial allegations surfaced.

The Independent (London)
Image by image, confession by confession, the horror emerges
By Raymond Whitaker and RUpert Cornwell
09 May 2004

The insistence of the Defence Secretary and other senior figures that the military moved swiftly as soon as a soldier at Abu Ghraib blew the whistle has gone largely unchallenged.

What is clear, however, is that the US authorities simply did not want to know. Complaints from dozens, even hundreds of Iraqi detainees about their treatment were brushed aside. Detailed reports submitted to the American and British governments by human rights organisations, including the Red Cross and Amnesty, some dating back as much as a year, were ignored. Even previous investigations by the military were not followed up, or simply swept under the carpet. . . .

Last week it emerged that neither Mr Rumsfeld nor the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers, had read all of the devastating Taguba report until they found out that it had been leaked to Seymour Hersh, the legendary investigative journalist who now writes for The New Yorker. . . .

Within hours of this latest mini-rebellion by the reluctant warrior Powell, there were orchestrated leaks of Mr Bush's dressing-down of Mr Rumsfeld, held guilty of omitting to keep a famously uncurious President abreast of the unfolding scandal at Abu Ghraib.

The Misunderestimated Man - How Bush chose stupidity. By Jacob Weisberg
Jacob Weisberg is editor of Slate and co-author, with Robert E. Rubin, of In an Uncertain World.
Posted Friday, May 7, 2004, at 6:54 AM PT
Adapted from the introduction to The Deluxe Election-Edition Bushisms, published by Fireside Books/Simon & Schuster. Reprinted with permission; © 2004 Jacob Weisberg.

A second, more damning aspect of Bush's mind-set is that he doesn't want to know anything in detail, however important. Since college, he has spilled with contempt for knowledge, equating learning with snobbery and making a joke of his own anti-intellectualism. . . . By O'Neill's account, Bush could sit through an hourlong presentation about the state of the economy without asking a single question. . . .

The president can't tolerate debate about issues. Offered an option, he makes up his mind quickly and never reconsiders. At an elementary school, a child once asked him whether it was hard to make decisions as president. "Most of the decisions come pretty easily for me, to be frank with you." By leaping to conclusions based on what he "believes," Bush avoids contemplating even the most obvious basic contradictions: between his policy of tax cuts and reducing the deficit; between his call for a humble foreign policy based on alliances and his unilateral assertion of American power; between his support for in-vitro fertilization (which destroys embryos) and his opposition to fetal stem-cell research (because it destroys embryos).

A culture of torture... or of suppression? | Civilities
Jon Garfunkel May 06 '04

But domestically, the investigative lag is important. It reveals the rotten-to-the-core methods of the Bush government, where: (a) facts are suppressed, (b) government employees are uniformly threatened and punished if they disclose any facts which would harm the administration, and (c) the President's lack of curiosity and absurdist optimism allows this to happen. The New York Times reports that the President Bush has chastised Rumsfeld for sitting on this for months. Why was he not similarly interested in the faking of intelligence before the Iraq war, the lack of planning for postwar?

tomfodw: Incurious George
2004-05-06 11:32:00

We have the least intellectual president in my lifetime. Even Reagan was more on top of things than Dubya. He claims he did not know about the severity of the prisoner abuse scandal in Iraq until a week or two ago and says he's outraged that he wasn't told. Except - he WAS told there was a problem - way back in DECEMBER of last year! And the Taguba Report (by an Army major general) has been available since March - but nobody high up in the Bush administration appears to have read it.

Bush seems to have no ability or inclination to pursue even the most blatant of leads. We still have no official word from the White House who leaked the name of Valerie Plame last summer to Robert Novak - does anyone really think Bush could not find out the miscreant in five minutes if he truly wanted to? Either he knows or he honestly does not care. . . .

I know most Americans feel it's perfectly okay to have an idiot as president - he doesn't make them feel inferior by comparison, most of them didn't like school or read books, either. But his complete lack of imagination is becoming a major detriment - to his own plans, too. . . . The only reason he doesn't know what's going on in Iraq is because he really does not want to know. And, for the man who sent us in there when we didn't need to go, it's unforgivable for him to be so willfully ignorant.

U.S. Politics Today - Political News
How Incurious George Became Our War on Terror President
By Joe Rothstein
Joe Rothstein, editor of USPoliticstoday.com, is a former daily newspaper editor and long-time national political strategist based in Washington, D.C.
02 May 2004

How the President became a monument to Americans in the War on Terrorism is the story of one of the best public relations campaigns ever waged, taking full advantage of Americans’ inclination to rally ‘round its leader in times of trouble. . . .

It’s a lot of things. But it’s mostly fiction, not fact. When we turn to the facts we see a different story.

One fact is that incurious George W. Bush didn’t interrupt his month long 2001 vacation and endless photo ops just because he was getting daily briefings that a big terrorist act was about to happen. As the President told Bob Woodward for Woodward’s book, Plan of Attack, he just wasn’t focused on terrorism at the time.

Despite the legacy of information and warnings left behind by the Clinton administration, and the constant red flares sent up by the White House’s chief terrorism advisor, Rice, Rumsfeld and others in responsible positions also pushed protection from terrorists way down their priority “to do” list prior to 9/11.

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