Did Bush and Obama make a secret deal in 2008?

Around the time George W. Bush’s memoir was released, Alex Barker posted this bizarre anecdote at the Financial Times’s Westminster Blog.

George W. Bush’s bombastic return to the world stage has reminded me of my favourite Bush anecdote, which for various reasons we couldn’t publish at the time. Some of the witnesses still dine out on it.

The venue was the Oval Office. A group of British dignitaries, including Gordon Brown, were paying a visit. It was at the height of the 2008 presidential election campaign, not long after Bush publicly endorsed John McCain as his successor.

Naturally the election came up in conversation. Trying to be even-handed and polite, the Brits said something diplomatic about McCain’s campaign, expecting Bush to express some warm words of support for the Republican candidate.

Not a chance. “I probably won’t even vote for the guy,” Bush told the group, according to two people present.“I had to endorse him. But I’d have endorsed Obama if they’d asked me.”

Time Magazine later quoted a Bush “spokesman,” who said Barker’s anecdote was “ridiculous and untrue.”

“President Bush proudly supported John McCain in the election and voted for him,” said Bush spokesman David Sherzer to Politico.

Nevertheless, President Obama has gone to great lengths to protect members of the Bush administration from any accountability for the crimes they committed while in office. The Justice Department defended John Yoo, author of the torture memo. Justice also went to court to defend the Bush administration’s use “state secrets privilege” to excuse NSA domestic spying. They defended Donald Rumsfeld against charges related to torture.

Recently it was learned from formerly secret cables released by Wikileaks that the Obama administration pressured Spain to drop criminal charges against six Bush officials. David Corn writes:

In its first months in office, the Obama administration sought to protect Bush administration officials facing criminal investigation overseas for their involvement in establishing policies the that governed interrogations of detained terrorist suspects. A “confidential” April 17, 2009, cable sent from the US embassy in Madrid to the State Department—one of the 251,287 cables obtained by WikiLeaks—details how the Obama administration, working with Republicans, leaned on Spain to derail this potential prosecution.

The Bush officials were charged with

“creating a legal framework that allegedly permitted torture.” The six were former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales; David Addington, former chief of staff and legal adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney; William Haynes, the Pentagon’s former general counsel; Douglas Feith, former undersecretary of defense for policy; Jay Bybee, former head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel; and John Yoo, a former official in the Office of Legal Counsel.

The Republicans who helped Obama pressure Spain were Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) and Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.). Corn again:

Back when it seemed that this case could become a major international issue, during an April 14, 2009, White House briefing, I asked press secretary Robert Gibbs if the Obama administration would cooperate with any request from the Spaniards for information and documents related to the Bush Six. He said, “I don’t want to get involved in hypotheticals.” What he didn’t disclose was that the Obama administration, working with Republicans, was actively pressuring the Spaniards to drop the investigation.

In general, as anyone with half a brain has noticed, the Obama administration has carried on Bush’s policies and sometimes has taken them even further–for example with Obama’s claiming the power to unilaterally order the assassination of American citizens.

Why would Obama defend Bush administration policies so assiduously? Is it just because Obama wants to hold onto the “enhanced” executive powers that Bush claimed during his tenure as president? Or are these two supposed political opponents actually engaged in a collaborative effort to expand the powers of the presidency?

Let’s look back at the 2008 general election campaign. In late September, Barack Obama and John McCain were preparing for the first presidential debate, to be held at the University of Mississippi on September 26, shortly after news of the financial meltdown broke. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson had proposed the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) to Congress on September 20.

On September 24, John McCain announced that he was suspending his campaign in order to return to the Senate. Obama said he would continue preparing for the debate. But when President Bush invited both men to participate in talks at the White House, Obama agreed to attend.

At the “bipartisan” meeting, Obama sat next to Secretary Paulson, whom he said he had been talking with daily by telephone. While McCain argued against a bailout of the banks and for more loosening of regulations, Obama appeared to be supportive of some kind of government solution to the financial meltdown.

You may recall that McCain was actually doing quite well against Obama before the economic crisis hit. But the momentum shifted to Obama’s campaign afterwards.

When the time came for a vote on TARP, both McCain and Obama voted in favor; and Obama “pledged to telephone wavering House of Representatives members to urge them to support the legislation.” Obama was particularly instrumental in convincing members of the Black Caucus to change their votes on TARP from nay to aye.

Shortly after Obama was elected President, he had a private two hour meeting with Bush in the Oval Office.

President-elect Obama and President Bush met in the Oval Office, their first substantive one-on-one session, while first lady Laura Bush and Obama’s wife, Michelle, talked in the White House residence….

It was Obama’s first visit to the Oval Office. The agenda was kept private, although he and Bush were expected to discuss their transition of power and such pressing issues as the war in Iraq and the country’s economic downturn.

According to CNN,

Bush and Obama “had a broad discussion about the importance of working together throughout the transition of government in light of the nation’s many critical economic and security challenges,” said Stephanie Cutter, spokeswoman for Obama’s transition team.

“President-elect Obama thanked President Bush for his commitment to a smooth transition, and for his and first lady Laura Bush’s gracious hospitality in welcoming the Obamas to the White House,” Cutter said.

A day earlier, a leader of Obama’s transition team said the president and president-elect were expected to discuss “a broad range of issues,” focusing on the economy.

“It’s clear that we need to stabilize the economy, to deal with the financial meltdown that’s now spreading across the rest of the economy. The auto industry is really, really back on its heels,” transition team leader John Podesta told CNN’s “Late Edition” on Sunday.

Andrea Mitchell reported that according to an anonymous source:

Obama focused on three economic issues during his conversations with President Bush this afternoon. The top topics: a stimulus package in the lame duck session, aid to the auto industry, and help for homeowners with adjustible-rate mortgages in order to prevent more foreclosures.

According to the source, Obama told Bush that action is needed on a stimulus package now – in a lame duck session – and cannot wait until after the inauguration.

Throughout the transition period, Obama and Bush continued their friendly collaboration. On January 12, 2008, ABC News reported:

President-elect Barack Obama asked President Bush today to request the release of the second $350 billion in federal bailout funds so he would have “ammunition” if the country’s fragile economy weakened further.

The White House said that Bush has agreed to request the money. [….]

Obama and Bush have teamed up to get the money released. Bush has agreed to request the funding, and Obama will lobby for it by arguing that he will “rebrand” the program and make better use of the money.

There’s that vaunted “11 dimensional chess” that Obama’s “progressive” follower kept buying into.

In a letter to congressional leaders, Obama’s top economic adviser Larry Summers called the need for the second round of funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program is “imminent and urgent.”

In his letter, Summers said the money would be used for a “sweeping effort” to save homeowners threatened with foreclosure, and make the money available to small banks and businesses along with corporate giants.

Hmmm….that never happened, did it?

“I have talked to the president-elect about this subject,” Bush said at his farewell news conference today.

“I told him if he needed the $350 billion on my watch, I’d be willing to ask for it.. if he felt like it needed to happen on my watch,” Bush said.

What was going on between Bush and Obama back then? And were they collaborating even before Obama won the nomination? Obviously, I don’t know the answers to these highly speculative questions. I only know what I have seen happening over the past two years–the advancement of Republican policies generally, a deliberate refusal to investigate Bush era crimes, and the use of the Justice Department to defend the members of the Bush administration who committed those crimes.

In general, Obama has gone out of his way, and even risked losing many supporters, in his efforts to support Bush policies and to aid Bush’s friends (the “have mores”) every step of the way. Why would he take all these actions to protect Bush, members of Bush’s administration, and Bush’s elite political base while running as a Democrat and claiming to govern as a Democrat?

Was there some kind of deal struck with the Bush family or with Bush’s wall street supporters to carry on Bush’s domestic and foreign policies? If so, what does Obama get out of it? Is it worth the humiliation of losing in 2012? We’ll all asked these questions many times, and I don’t know the answers. I just know that as time goes on, my suspicion that Bush and Obama are collaborators grows stronger and stronger.

What do you think?

40 Comments on “Did Bush and Obama make a secret deal in 2008?”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Taking my tinfoil hat off now….but only temporarily.

  2. Pat Johnson says:

    What I think:

    The GOP knew in 2008 that they had no chance of winning the WH after 8 years of Bush/Cheney. The GOP even got stuck with the nomination of McCain whom few in the Party liked or trusted. Few had kind words for this man, even going so far to acuse him of being a little nuts.

    But I believe that “deal” was made sometime around 2006 with Nancy Pelosi taking over the role of Majority Leader and stressing over and over that impeachment was “off the table”. The question never answered was “why?” Obama had even indicated that his wish was to “turn the page” sending the message that this brigade of lawbreakers were basically safe from accountability.

    If Obama was the choice of the DNC as far back as 2004, then taking impeachment off the table in 2006 could have served as the first signal that the Dems knew this election “was in the bag” with the promise from the GOP to remain silent about his lack of qualifications and his willingness to support the policies of the administration once in office. Obama stated repeatedly his admiration for Ronald Reagan which acted as a “red flag” to those of us who were paying attention.

    Obama has acted accordingly with his support of all Bush policies, backtracked on any that carries the flavor of FDR Dems, and has responded with such acquiescence to the current GOP leadership that it would not surprise me in the least to suggest that something happened during that meeting that satisfied both parties and has led to the confusion surrounding a Dem president who is not acting like one.

    It is the only thing that makes sense. The truth of who he is may have been right out there in the open all along.

    • bostonboomer says:

      That totally makes sense. I didn’t even think about the Pelosi connection.

      But what does Obama get out of it, since he very likely won’t even be reelected and he ends up looking like a lilly livered, spineless tool of the Republicans?

    • Minkoff Minx says:

      I think that no matter who was in office before Obama, he would have not changed much in the way of policies. I think that his past Senate performance, voting present all the time, really signals that he is not the kind of person that fights for anything.

      He is not a leader, and what the country needed in 2008 was a strong person. An FDR or an LBJ, you know a real hard ass. I thought that things were bad a couple years back. But now I just don’t see any chance of getting out of this mess we are in. Tin foil hat or not. I just feel that way. It is so disheartening to see every chance of assistance get shot down by the powers that be. There is such a disconnect with the politicians that represent us.

      • bostonboomer says:

        I totally agree. I don’t see any hope for restoring the Constitution, ending the senseless wars, creating jobs…I can’t think of anything positive to hold onto except the hope that the American people rise up and fight back.

        I certainly don’t see any real leaders on the horizon now that Hillary says she’s leaving politics.

        • paper doll says:

          I agree with this assessment…sigh

        • Thursday's Child says:

          What would it look like if the American people rose up and fought back?

          • Zaladonis says:

            It would, IMO, look glorious. And messy as hell. But I, for one, have never been afraid of getting messy if the cause is good and my companions are true.

            But it’s not going to happen unless things get a lot worse. The control that government/media/corporate giants have over us is far greater than most people imagine. And the worst part is we handed over that power to them ourselves.

          • Sima says:

            @Zaladonis Yep, glorious and messy. And I believe you are right, things will have to get a lot worse. The trick is, can the Repubs and their sleeper agents (aka Obama and friends) keep things just bad enough to get what they want, but not bad enough to trigger a ‘mess’?

          • Zaladonis says:

            That’s exactly the trick, Sima!

            And even though I believe those three behemoths I mentioned are monumentally powerful, I also believe we’re a precarious house of cards. Teetering between making it okay and on the edge of meltdown, some essential elements, like food supply, are under control but could very quickly take a disasterous turn.

      • Zaladonis says:

        Minkoff Minx — absolutely spot-on.

        Except I’ll add one thing:

        There is such a disconnect with the politicians that represent us.

        With statements like this the MSM has to be included with politicians now. While the MSM says they are commited to “keeping them honest,” that’s now a total deception and the truth is they’re in cahoots with whichever politician (usually Bush or Obama, the past decade) they want to snuggle up with.

        I point this out because I think politicians couldn’t have pulled off this disaster without the help of The New York Times, Time, WaPo, MSNBC, Fox, etc.

    • Dario says:

      If Obama was the choice of the DNC as far back as 2004, then taking impeachment off the table in 2006 could have served as the first signal that the Dems knew this election “was in the bag”

      It’s been clear that Obama was “The Chosen One”. That’s inescapable. There’s no way someone that inexperienced, who is recently elected to the senate, gets the support he did in 2007. He collected as much money, or was at least close, as Hillary in 2007. If the DNC chose Obama to be the nominee, then people higher than G.W. selected Obama, and G.W. knew. Pelosi knew. She was clear that Hillary should not be the V.P. nominee. I think the deal is much bigger than G.W, and whoever selected Obama, wants G.W. protected.

      • Dario says:

        Btw, I think Hillary knew, but she couldn’t do anything about it. And I’m also convinced that she got the cabinet post in exchange for her support and campaign in 2008. I’m convinced that when she met with Obama in Feinstein’s home, she extracted a “cabinet post of her choice” from him. And when Obama was elected, she chose SoS, and Obama had to give that position to her. Kerry had that post, but was pushed aside when Hillary took SoS.

        Whoever chose Obama, doesn’t want Hillary to be president.

        • bostonboomer says:

          Yeah, I think she told Obama she didn’t want VP and SOS was the price for her campaigning for him.

    • gweema says:

      My theory is close to yours, but I think the GOP picked Obama because they knew they probably couldn’t win in 2008, or they thought they could with Romney, but they didn’t want to be holding the key to the WH when the economy crashed. Obama was the one they knew they could lead….his life history was following the carrots being dangled by people who could make things happen for him. They also knew that if they ever got found out as his puppeteers, they would get the same treatment Rev Wright did….”not the people I knew and I’ll never talk to them again” style.

      I also think they picked McCain because they were pretty sure he would be the easier candidate for Obama to beat. I don’t think they realized they would break the D party into two pieces that put their plan at risk, though.

      There were deals made with the DNC, and the DNC then put the deals into demands for their congressional members…they probably didn’t know the promises of getting a Dem elected for them was going to end up quite like it has.

  3. grayslady says:

    Nicely constructed and supported, BB. But I think the answer is simpler than that: Obama has always been a Republican. He ran as a Democrat in Illinois because, in Illinois, if you’re black you run as a Democrat–period. That doesn’t mean you believe in Dem principles (or what used to be Dem principles), it’s just that you won’t have a chance of getting elected otherwise. But I’m willing to place a small wager that his grandparents, with whom he lived growing up, were Repubs. Certainly his grandfather’s authoritarian personality would be in keeping with the Repub voter profile. I think he and Bush were just peas in a pod, except that Bush came from a wealthier background.

    • alibe says:

      Honk! The third term of GW Bush. We knew it. Why are people surprised. Worse than Bush. It is why I voted for McCain. I knew the Democratic Party would be neutered if 0bama was President. Selected, not elected. Only the real selection was in the Primary.

    • bostonboomer says:

      I don’t know, Grayslady. From what I’ve read, Obama’s grandparents were freethinkers and atheists. Where did you hear the grandfather was an authoritarian? I get the feeling Obama rebelled against his mom’s liberalism and freethinking. You probably know more about it than I do though.

      • grayslady says:

        Well, I don’t know that I know more than anyone else, but O’s grandfather was brought up as a blue collar Baptist. His grandmother was a Methodist who didn’t believe in drinking, playing cards or dancing, according to “Dreams of My Father”. It was O’s mother who was the black sheep and adopted a life of “causes”.

        • Zaladonis says:

          And the traditional-thinking white grandparents who were go-alongs with the constraining groups they joined, saved African-American Obama from his radical mother and father who –for better or worse– took bold chances and strived to set their own course, eagerly participating in the changing world.

          I’ve said before, if you read his books, especially his first, and look at all his choices that are public information, it’s not hard to recognize he is not at all the Obama his supporters have insisted he is. In fact he’s pretty much the opposite.

      • gweema says:

        Considering those books of Obama’s were nothing but embellished and fabricated tales of his life, it’s hard to know much about his family members. I do know, though, the story he told of his mother attending high school on a small island in WA State is the richest area of the city and always has been.

  4. janicen says:

    Oooohhhhh! I love a good conspiracy theory, and this is a good one! It makes perfect sense in so many ways. Obama gets to be President without any qualifications while the Republicans get to continue their agenda. The Clintons were the flies in the ointment and remain so. Thank goodness for them, they are the only hope we have.

    It reminds me of an interview Big Dog gave with an ABC correspondent, I forget her name, shortly before the election in Nov 08 when he said he was going to keep quiet until after the election but then he was going to start talking about what really happened in the election. He never did, but I always imagined that Hillary got the SOS job in exchange for Bill’s silence.

    • Woman Voter says:

      Did you all see this via Twitter:

      ObZen_ New Wave
      This is sad http://bit.ly/hNl8T1 #Wikileaks @BarackObama

    • Dario says:

      I don’t believe that Hillary got the SoS for Bill’s silence. See my post above. But I think is respectful of the administration because Hillary is SoS. Anything he said to undermine the administration would be a negative for Hillary. Bill has enough brains not to do that.

      • Zaladonis says:

        I think they made a considered decision to remain part of the Democratic establishment, and inherent in that choice was not undermining the Democratic President.

        There were some days there when I thought they might just say to hell with it and break away.

  5. Pat Johnson says:

    If we all took a look back to what we were saying and thinking about the sudden rise of Obama, I think we would find that we had some deep, underlying suspicions about this entire election.

    He came out of nowhere in 2004 and made a rousing speech. This was a man who was just running at that time for the Senate from Il. The Dems in that state “cleared his way” by getting rid of Ryan with allegations about his marriage and the field was wide open. Throwing Alan Keyes against him as an opponent sealed the deal.

    Yet this was a guy who had done virtually nothing at that time for the DNC to hop onboard and push for his nomination. Three hundred days in the Senate when he announced his intent was pretty slim. Yet the bandwagon and the drumbeat was established and with a youthful, attractive black man the AA vote was assured. Factor in a slobbering press who also must answer to their corporate masters and the result was almost guaranteed.

    However, I still maintain that Nancy Pelosi’s reluctance to open hearings, and the lack of interest to do so after he won, had underlying reasons that stunned most of us. The question goes still unanswered and we must rely on people like Assange, no matter what his motivations, to steer us into the direction that may explain why this man, elected as a Democratic president and who has essentially let down those who believed in what he said he would do, has not carried out one of those promises.

    We can analyze his personality for reasons in an attempt to explain him but I believe that the answer may just be that this was a “stealth candidate” who has no principles or passion beyond claiming the mantle and title of PoTus and “struck a deal” to attain just that. This is why he is so amenable and so malleable to the GOP agenda.

    • dakinikat says:

      I still can’t believe at how many illegal actions–like torture-were swept under the rug. The Democratic majority congress really lost their ability to take the high road after ignoring all that.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Very interesting points, Pat. The Alan Keyes thing is telling. Surely they could have found someone better.

  6. Pat Johnson says:

    Exactly. The torture, lies, outing of a CIA agent, the infiltration of the Justice Dept, voter fraud, oil and gas meetings with Cheney that never saw the light of day, so many lapses against the public’s right to know yet the Dems allowed it to slip away.

    If there ever was a time for serious investigations this was it. Instead we saw little beyond the Roger Clemens and steroid hearings that was good theater if nothing else.

    America has been sold a bill of goods and the only reason I can determine from reading Bush suggesting he would vote for Obama is that he knew upfront that his successor would do little or nothing about the policies he put in place.

    If Bush was seeking a “legacy” he found it in Obama.

  7. Boo Radly says:

    BB – it’s like oxygen reading your post. Garyslady said – Nicely constructed and supported, BB. Hear, Hear! We would not have Obumbles if Bu$hit had not been “selected”. Needless to say I concur with this theory – I just hate Bu$hes so much I am blinded and not able to pull in the links – I consider it fact. It is so boring reading blogs STILL wondering why BO is dithering – he’s not dithering, he is doing what he was/is told. It ain’t going to change. Anything BO has written is fake – he writes as he wants to be perceived – he has been caught in stupid statements(lies) and they just lay there unchallenged. It’s like a repeat of the previous 8 years of George – the smirking chimp. The media and pundits are all just repeating the same role they served then. BO has NO core values as George has none – he(BO) is not a Republican but available to serve any master that pays him. We got George because the “little people” were costing the government too much and the “low hanging fruit” was being gobbled up too quickly to suit the needs of greedy power mad entities. We now have no constitutional law. The DOJ is an arm of who is president and who his backers are. Actually, they are rewriting some laws but mostly just ignoring what they want to(Yoo torture memo). Term limits would help some but basically, we are a dishonest society now, “At first blush, a man is not capable of reporting truth; he must be drenched and saturated with it first.” – Henry David Thoreau, I to Myself. Near history clearly shows the expected results, Robber Baron Era – distant would be Fall of the Roman Empire. Hubris/greed reigns and is being lead in this country by absolute clowns e.g., GW and BO. I find smirking people disturbing – a sign of psychological problems. Why do they do that………in George’s case I know. In a sad way I find these two individuals humorous – but deadly. They are symptomatic of our society. It requires a number of “distracted” individuals going with the flow, accepting marketing without questioning veracity and looking out for only themselves.

    Marc Rubin at Tom in Paine has been writing some really good posts the last few weeks. Well, my rant has turned into rambling – I feel if the facts are known we can deal/fix it – one revolt at a time. Knowledge is power if pressure is applied.

    PJ at 11:10 pm – “If Bush was seeking a “legacy” he found it in Obama.”

    Bu$h started auditioning way back – 2004? Can’t have his excesses exposed. My only question is, wonder who else he considered, lol. How could the expert pundits fall for such a flagrant charade? If nothing else, we can laugh at the idiots. Bless Hillary for hanging in there and really making them expose themselves.

    Watching the “Kennedy Detail” the other night made me realize how far we have fallen. The agents were honorable – the country pulled together behind a man who basically did have a dream of equity for all Americans. I was a teenager then and my flag had meaning. My family was patriotic – they served in past wars and continued to support veterans. I stopped flying the American flag the day “Shock and Awe” started. I’m no stranger to marketing sound bits – I found it sickening. I recently dismantled the 35 foot flag pole that has been the focal point of this property for 60 years. I’ll put it back when we get our government back.

    There is no plan for increasing employment opportunities –

    • Zaladonis says:

      There is no plan for increasing employment opportunities –

      I’m so glad somebody else noticed!

      The jobs figures come in, pundits and politicians sort of discuss how they’re surprised (the folks at FOX barely contain their glee because it reflects badly on Obama): “The figures are below expectations.” Expectations? Based on what? Based on nothing at all but fantasy; the models are not reasoned calculations because there’s really nothing to calculate, there are no programs for jobs building or investment. “Expectations” are guesses out of thin air based on everloving hope.

      It’s stunning. Seriously stunning that when it’s clear our nation needs jobsjobsjobs, nobody in Congress or the WH is doing bubkus to help it along. And of course nobody in MSM talks about it. Hilda Solis, is that her name, the Labor Secretary, was on the financial cable network yesterday morning and I swear to god she’s completely clueless about what’s really going on — they asked her where the worst areas of unemployment are in the country and she looked like a deer in headlights then stuttered out, “California!”

      It really seems they’re expecting jobs will just start appearing by the hundreds of thousands, brought to us by the friendly job fairy.

  8. soupcity says:

    What a great post, totally plausible, explains alot and no tinfoil needed. Add Pat’s comments re: Pelosi and it fits too. Thanks bb.

  9. joanelle says:

    I’ve had this “theory” in the back of my head for a long time, but you’ve outlined it beautifully, BB.

    An it is the only explanation for what we have witnessed the last decade.

    Thanks for another brilliant post!