His Job Was Telling Bush Things He Didn’t Want To Hear

Meet John Nixon, an ex-CIA leadership analyst.

Credit Ralph Alswang

Given the dangerous job of telling the President of America, arguably the most powerful man in the world, bad news, John Nixon took it in stride. He had briefed President George W. Bush on Saddam Hussein twice and had correspondence with him many times. He even wrote a book about it called “Debriefing the President: The Interrogation of Saddam Hussein.” Of course, being in such proximity to such a titular figure means making certain observations, especially when you’re a CIA leadership analyst.

 Listed below are various things Nixon has noted during his correspondence with President Bush:

#1 Presidents are isolated

President George W. Bush is introduced during the American Enterprise Institute Annual Dinner, February 26, 2003, at the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C. Photo by Paul Morse, Courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Library.

Unsurprisingly, holding that much power means that people don’t often come to see you. It also means that you have to view the world differently so that you can do the right thing. Nixon recalls a story where he went to the Oval Office and found cans of Diet Cokes with the POTUS insignia on them. While a meaningless observation at first glance, if you look carefully, it means something else entirely. The President is so isolated from the rest of his world that even his drinks have to be marked a certain way before he drinks them.

#2 Presidents are arrogant

WASHINGTON – JANUARY 20: In this handout photo provided by the White House, Former U.S. President George W. Bush looks out over the U.S. Capitol as his helicopter departs January 20, 2009, in Washington, D.C. Bush is heading to Andrews Air Force Base following the inauguration ceremonies for U.S. President Barack Obama. (Photo by Eric Draper/The White House via Getty Images)

“I thought they had an unrealistic and unrealistically negative view of him and didn’t quite appreciate some of the nuances and certainly some of the pressures he was facing. In many ways, it was similar to how we viewed Saddam. And that’s the thing that really kinda struck me after my meeting with him that day. Y’know, these people have learned nothing.”

Nixon had seen a rise in terrorist insurgency because people assumed that when Saddam was ousted, things would calm down. They were wrong. And then Bush made the same exact assumption about Muqtada al-Sadr, even though Nixon explicitly advised against this.

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