In 1999, Armitage attended five meetings with Bush and various Vulcans. He found good news and bad news. The best news was that Bush wanted Powell to be his secretary of state.
At the first Vulcan meeting in February 1999, Bush had asked, "Is defense going to be an issue in the 2000 campaign?" The advisers said they didn't think it would. Bush said he wanted to make defense an issue. He said he wanted to transform the military, to put it in a position to deal with new and emerging threats.
To do that, the advisers said, the military would need new equipment to make it more mobile and modern, and more advanced training and intelligence gathering. This might take 15 to 20 years before the real advantages would be realized. It would certainly be beyond a Bush presidency, maybe not in their lifetimes.
Bush indicated he was willing to make that investment. Armitage and the others worked on a speech that Bush gave at The Citadel, the South Carolina public military university, on September 23, 1999.
"I will defend the American people against missiles and terror," Bush said, "And I will begin creating the military of the next century.... Homeland defense has become an urgent duty." He cited the potential "threat of biological, chemical and nuclear terrorism.... Every group or nation must know, if they sponsor such attacks, our response will be devastating.
"Even if I am elected, I will not command the new military we create. That will be left to a president who comes after me. The results of our effort will not be seen for many years."
Armitage was pleased to see realism in a presidential campaign. He thought that terrorism, and potential actions by rogue states such as Iraq, Iran and North Korea, could be trouble, but not lethal. The big issues in defense policy were the great power relationships with Russia, China and India.
But there was also bad news about Bush. "For some reason, he thinks he's going to be president," Armitage told Powell. It was like there was some feeling of destiny. Bush talked as if it was a certainty, saying, "When I'm president..." Though not unusual for candidates to talk this way in speeches, Bush spoke that way privately with his advisers. It was as if Bush were trying to talk himself into it.
And there was Bush's smirk, Armitage said.
The big problem, Armitage thought, was that he was not sure Bush filled the suit required of a president. He had a dreadful lack of experience. Armitage told his wife and Powell that he was not sure Governor Bush understood the implications of the United States as a world power.
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.
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