Bush Thought Obama Had 'No Clue': Former White House Speechwriter : The Two-Way President George W. Bush thought his successor wasn't "remotely qualified" to be president, didn't share the initial enthusiasm of many in his party for the choice of Sarah Palin to be the Republican vice presidential nominee and once bawdily desc...
NPR logo Bush Thought Obama Had 'No Clue': Former White House Speechwriter

Bush Thought Obama Had 'No Clue': Former White House Speechwriter

President George W. Bush thought his successor wasn't "remotely qualified" to be president, didn't share the initial enthusiasm of many in his party for the choice of Sarah Palin to be the Republican vice presidential nominee and once bawdily described Hillary Clinton sitting at the desk in the Oval Office.

Matt Latimer, former speechwriter for President George W. Bush.. Photo from Random House website hide caption

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Photo from Random House website

Matt Latimer, who was a White House speechwriter for nearly the last two years of the George W. Bush's presidency, offers those delicious details and more in his new book about what he saw and heard as the wheels came off the nation's economy and his boss' legacy.

The book "Speech-Less: Tales of a White House Survivor" is excerpted in the October issue of GQ magazine and I predict if the rest of the book is as good as the excerpted bits, Latimer's book should do pretty well. It's one of the best views from inside the Bush administration yet.

Latimer describes Bush opining on Hillary Clinton and Obama:

The president, like me, didn't seem to be in love with any of the available options. He always believed Hillary Clinton would be the Democratic nominee. "Wait till her fat keister is sitting at this desk," he once said (except he didn't say "keister"). He didn't think much of Barack Obama.After one of Obama's blistering speeches against the administration, the president had a very human reaction: He was ticked off. He came in one day to rehearse a speech, fuming. "This is a dangerous world," he said for no apparent reason, "and this cat isn't remotely qualified to handle it. This guy has no clue, I promise you." He wound himself up even more. "You think I wasn't qualified?" he said to no one in particular. "I was qualified."

Bush on Palin after Sen. John McCain announced her as his running mate, according to Latimer:

Speech-Less cover art.

I was about to be engulfed by a tidal wave of Palin euphoria when someone--someone I didn't expect--planted my feet back on the ground. After Palin's selection was announced, the same people who demanded I acknowledge the brilliance of McCain's choice expected the president to join them in their high-fiving tizzy. It was clear, though, that the president, ever the skilled politician, had concerns about the choice of Palin, which he called "interesting." That was the equivalent of calling a fireworks display "satisfactory."

"I'm trying to remember if I've met her before. I'm sure I must have." His eyes twinkled, then he asked, "What is she, the governor of Guam?"

Everyone in the room seemed to look at him in horror, their mouths agape. When Ed told him that conservatives were greeting the choice enthusiastically, he replied, "Look, I'm a team player, I'm on board." He thought about it for a minute. "She's interesting," he said again. "You know, just wait a few days until the bloom is off the rose." Then he made a very smart assessment.

"This woman is being put into a position she is not even remotely prepared for," he said. "She hasn't spent one day on the national level. Neither has her family. Let's wait and see how she looks five days out." It was a rare dose of reality in a White House that liked to believe every decision was great, every Republican was a genius, and McCain was the hope of the world because, well, because he chose to be a member of our party.

Bush on Joe Biden:

The president didn't think much of Joe Biden either. "Dana, did you tell them my line?" the president once asked with a smile on his face.

"No, Mr. President," Dana replied hesitantly. "I didn't."

He paused for a minute. I could see him thinking maybe he shouldn't say it, but he couldn't resist. "If bullshit was currency," he said straight-faced, "Joe Biden would be a billionaire." Everyone in the room burst out laughing.

Latimer does humor well. For instance, here's his description of the way many Republicans viewed McCain because of the senator from Arizona's maverick status within his party:

When White House press secretary Dana Perino was told that 77 percent of the country thought we were on the wrong track, she said what I was thinking: "Who on earth is in the other 23 percent?" I knew who they were--the same people supporting the John McCain campaign. Me? I figured there was no way in hell any Republican would vote for that guy. John McCain, the temperamental media darling, had spent most of the past eight years running against the Republican Party and the president--Republicans on Capitol Hill and at the White House hated him. Choosing John McCain as our standard-bearer would be the height of self-delusion. It would be like putting Camilla Parker Bowles in charge of the Princess Diana Foundation.

Some of the best material has to do with the financial and economic crisis that engulfed the Bush White House last year and that administration's general cluelessness about what to tell the American people.

In one passage, Latimer describes a frustrated Bush just before a major speech last September. The president and his aides were confused about the exact nature of their plan to deal with the economic implosion and the speech was to start in a matter of hours:

The president was clearly frustrated with what was going on, but there was little he could do at this late hour. He went up to take a nap, saying he was beat. He looked it. I'd never seen him more exhausted. His hair was out of place and shaggy. His face looked drained and pale. Even more distressing, he was wearing Crocs. As I looked at him I thought to myself, how many more crises can one guy take?

The president was wearing Crocs? Things were clearly worse than we thought.