By Stephen F. Knott

University Press of Kansas, $29.95, 246 pages

Washington Times on June 5, 2012, published Joseph C. Goulden’s book review of Stephen F. Knott’s book “Rush to Judgment”. Excerpts below:

Stephen F. Knott, a professor of national security affairs at the United States Naval War College, lays out these critics’ briefs in a provocative book that, while not intended as a defense of the Bush years, argues that these scholars, from the very beginning, “abandoned any pretense of objectivity in their critiques and seemed unwilling to place Bush’s actions in a broader historical context.”

Mr. Knott qualifies as an expert on the subject. He has written a splendid analysis of Alexander Hamilton, who was an early proponent of the necessity of strong executive powers. His several book-length works on covert operations during the course of American history – must reads in intelligence schools – buttress his views.

He quotes approvingly John Locke, one of the most influential Enlightenment thinkers, who wrote in his “Two Treatises of Government” that the executive “has the power to act according to discretion, for the public good, without the prescription of the Law, and sometimes even against it. Many things there are, which the law can by no means provide for and those must necessarily be left to the discretion of him that has the executive power in his hands.”

Mr. Knott makes the … important point that unwise and untrustworthy congressional oversight of the intelligence community handcuffed Mr. Bush as it has no prior president. For instance, President Kennedy waged an undeclared war against Fidel Castro for more than three years (including assassination plots galore), with his brother acting as de facto field marshall. Not a word of protest was uttered in Congress.

While still a senator, Vice President Joseph R. Biden, who was privy to classified intelligence briefings, boasted that he “twice threatened to go public with covert action plans by the Reagan administration that were harebrained,” causing cancellation of the operations.

Those of us who follow what passes for contemporary American politics would add a footnote to Mr. Knott’s important book. Essentially, the Bush presidency was doomed to leftist academic (and media) scorn by the contested presidential vote in Florida in 2000. To keep its blood flowing hot, the left needs villains. Richard Nixon for decades served that role because of his exposure of Alger Hiss as a handmaiden of Soviet espionage in the 1940s. After his defeat of Al Gore in a “stolen election,” Mr. Bush segued into the new must-be-hated villain.

The justification for many of Mr. Bush’s actions will remain locked away in top-secret government files for decades. Some day, perhaps, objective historians will be able to make an informed judgment on his presidency.

Joseph C. Goulden’s most recent book is “The Dictionary of Espionage: Spyspeak Into English” (Dover Publications, 2012).


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