Excerpts from a profile of the President in today’s USA Today:
People who know Bush well say the strain of war is palpable. He rarely jokes with staffers these days and occasionally startles them with sarcastic putdowns. He’s being hard on himself; he gave up sweets just before the war began. He’s frustrated when armchair generals or members of his own team express doubts about U.S. military strategy. At the same time, some of his usual supporters are concerned by his insistence on sticking with the original war plan.
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Friends say the conflict is consuming Bush’s days and weighing heavily on him. ”He’s got that steely-eyed look, but he is burdened,” says a friend who has spent time with the president since the war began. ”You can see it in his eyes and hear it in his voice. I worry about him.”
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He has a special epithet for members of his own staff who worry aloud. He calls them ”hand-wringers.” Two days after combat began, he has said acidly, some people were already asking ”how the unconditional surrender talks were going.”
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Bush believes he was called by God to lead the nation at this time, says Commerce Secretary Don Evans, a close friend who talks with Bush every day. His history degree from Yale makes him mindful of the importance of the moment. He knows he’s making ”history-changing decisions,” Evans says. But Bush doesn’t keep a diary or other personal record of the events that will form his legacy. Aides take notes, but there’s no stenographer in most meetings, nor are they videotaped or recorded.
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On March 17, before he delivered a 48-hour ultimatum to Saddam, Bush summoned congressional leaders to the White House. They expected a detailed briefing, but the president told them he was notifying them only because he was legally required to do so and then left the room. They were taken aback, and some were annoyed. They were just as surprised by his buoyant mood two days later at another White House meeting.