Bush said Bandar should pick what was important, so Bandar provided a tour of the world. As the oil-rich Saudi kingdom's ambassador to the United States, he had access to world leaders and was regularly dispatched by King Fahd on secret missions, an international Mr. Fix-It, often on Mission Impossible tasks. He had personal relationships with the leaders of Russia, China, Syria, Great Britain, even Israel. Bandar spoke candidly about leaders in the Middle East, the Far East, Russia, China and Europe. He recounted some of his personal meetings, such as his contacts with Mikhail Gorbachev working on the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. He spoke of Maggie Thatcher and the current British prime minister, Tony Blair. Bandar described the Saudi role working with the Pope and Reagan to keep the Communists in check. Diplomacy often made strange bedfellows.
"There are people who are your enemies in this country," Bush said, "who also think my dad is your friend."
"So?" asked Bandar, not asking who, though the reference was obviously to supporters of Israel, among others.
Bush said in so many words that the people who didn't want his dad to win in 1992 would also be against him if he ran. They were the same people who didn't like Bandar.
"Can I give you one advice?" Bandar asked.
"Mr. Governor, tell me you really want to be president of the United States."
Bush said yes.
"And if you tell me that, I want to tell you one thing: To hell with Saudi Arabia or who likes Saudi Arabia or who doesn't, who likes Bandar or doesn't. Anyone who you think hates your dad or your friend who can be important to make a difference in winning, swallow your pride and make friends of them. And I can help you. I can help you out and complain about you, make sure they understood that, and that will make sure they help you."
Bush recognized the Godfather's advice: Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer. But he seemed uncomfortable and remarked that that wasn't particularly honest.
"Never mind if you really want to be honest," Bandar said. "This is not a confession booth. If you really want to stick to that, just enjoy this term and go do something fun. In the big boys' game, it's cutthroat, it's bloody and it's not pleasant."
Bandar changed the subject. "I was going to tell you something that has nothing to do with international. When I was flying F-102s in Sherman, Texas, Perrin Air Force Base, you were flying F-102s down the road at another Texas base. Our destiny linked us a long time ago by flying, without knowing each other." He said he wanted to suggest another idea.
"If you still remember what they taught you in the Air Force. I remember it because I spent 17 years. You only spent a few years. Keep your eye on the ball. When I am flying that jet and my life is on the line, and I pick up that enemy aircraft, I don't care if everything around me dies. I will keep my eye on that aircraft, and I will do whatever it takes. I'll never take my eye off."
Former President Bush continued in his efforts to expand his son's horizons and perhaps recruit future staff.
"George W., as you know, is thinking about what he might want to do," he told Condoleezza Rice, the 43-year-old provost of Stanford and one of his favorite junior National Security Council staffers from his White House years. "He's going to be out at Kennebunkport. You want to come to Kennebunkport for the weekend?"
It was August 1998. The former president was proposing a policy seminar for his son.
Rice had been the senior Russia expert on the NSC, and she had met George W. in a White House receiving line. She had seen him next in 1995, when she had been in Houston for a board meeting of Chevron, on which she served, and Bush senior invited her to Austin, where W. had just been sworn in as governor. She talked with the new governor about family and sports for an hour and then felt like a potted plant as she and the former president sat through a lunch Bush junior had with the Texas House speaker and lieutenant governor.
Excerpted from State of Denial by Bob Woodward. Copyright © 2006 by Bob Woodward. Excerpted by permission of Simon and Schuster Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Blood at the Root
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