Presidential Briefing

In one of my classes, we just completed a policymaking simulation. The subject of this annual exercise for first years was Pakistan, a timely, multifaceted, and difficult issue. Our class was divided into teams and assigned to play different departments of government (State, Treasury, Defense, etc.) My team, the National Security Council, coordinated the effort. The Senate grilling I received Monday was part of this.

Today, our exercise culminated with a briefing of the President on our proposal. The President was played by a guy who knows that role well: George H.W. Bush, namesake of my school here at A&M. One of my NSC teammates briefed him on our final proposal. From time to time Bush interjected with questions for her or the agencies in the audience. It was a low-key, collegial affair with none of the belligerency of Monday night.

After the presentation, Bush talked a little about the operation of the NSC during his term, with Brent Scowcroft (who speaks here Monday night) as the National Security Adviser. Scowcroft's strong point, according to Bush, was his role as an honest broker who presented the opinions of each agency without inserting his own views, unless he was asked to do so. Bush also discussed the importance of the chief of staff in being a gatekeeper and scheduler.

Bush also went into the importance of politics, calling it a "noble calling." He said we shouldn't be turned off by the process, but rather get involved instead of "sitting around with a few cold ones complaining about how nothing gets done." He said that loyal friends are necessary to get elected, and he had many of them from his Yale days who supported him without even knowing his specific political views, because they trusted him as a person. He talked a little about the 1980 campaign, in which he started out as an asterisk in the polls before going on to win the Iowa caucuses. Bush mentioned that he called GOP rival John Connally a "bad name" during the campaign, which he said was a mistake. I can find no record of what that was.

One other interesting statement from the former President was that "Jeb may still have that political zest." Hhhmmm......

With that, Bush departed, shaking hands (including mine) and greeting students on the way out. It was a memorable experience for the Class of 2010.

Here's a photo, in case you don't believe me.