An awful lot of websites have seized on the following quote from Bush as a sign of a "messiah complex," or even as grounds for invoking Hitler. Here's the quote:
'I'm the commander,' [Bush] told journalist Bob Woodward for the book, Bush at War. 'See, I don't need to explain -- I do not need to explain why I say things. That's the interesting thing about being the president. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don't feel like I owe anybody an explanation.'The quote is almost always reprinted with the implication that Bush was referring to the American people in general. But he was simply referring to the manner in which he conducts Cabinet meetings. Here's the full context from the original Washington Post story (as available on LEXIS, or as reprinted here):
Bob Woodward, A Course of 'Confident Action'; Bush Says Other Countries Will Follow Assertive U.S. in Combating Terror, Washington Post, Nov. 19, 2002, at A1.One can still disagree with this "manager-as-provocateur" approach on pragmatic or attitudinal grounds. On the other hand, the quote isn't all that shocking, given that many managers or bosses, if speaking frankly, would probably admit that they don't feel the need to justify themselves to their subordinates.
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On Wednesday, Sept. 26, just two weeks after the terrorist attacks, Bush surprised his war cabinet, which had been debating when to begin the bombing of targets in Afghanistan, by declaring: "Anybody doubt that we should start this Monday or Tuesday?"
National security adviser Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld eventually convinced Bush that planning was incomplete and the bombing should not begin for another week. Bush said he was intentionally prodding his aides.
"One of my jobs is to be provocative," he said. "Seriously, to provoke people into -- to force decisions, and to make sure it's clear in everybody's mind where we're headed. There was a certain rhythm and flow to this, and I was beginning to get a little frustrated. . . . It was just not coming together as quickly as we had hoped. And I was trying to force the issue without compromising safety."
Did he ever explain what he was doing?
"Of course not," he said. "I'm the commander -- see, I don't need to explain -- I do not need to explain why I say things. That's the interesting thing about being the president. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don't feel like I owe anybody an explanation."