"'The media won't let go of these ridiculous cocaine rumors,' I heard Bush say. 'You know the truth is I honestly don't remember whether I tried it or not. We had some pretty wild parties back in the day, and I just don't remember.'
"The overheard comments struck me and stayed with me to this day -- not for what it revealed or concealed about the young George W. Bush, but for what it said about Bush as an older man and political leader, especially as revealed through my later experiences working for him.
"I remember thinking to myself, How can that be? How can someone simply not remember whether or not they used an illegal substance like cocaine? It didn't make a lot of sense.
"I compared Bush's memory, or lack of it to my own experience. When I was young, I had my moments of excessive drinking at parties or out on the town with friends. There was also a time or two when I was around others who smoked marijuana. But I always drew the line at illegal drugs. The closest I ever came was holding a smoldering joint in my hand at a friend's home, gazing at it for a second as if tempted -- more to tease my friends than anything else -- and then passing it along to the person next to me, saying something like, 'Thanks but no thanks.' After that happened a couple of times, my buddies knew better than to even tempt me.
"Whether or not I smoked pot isn't that important. The point is, I know what happened. And I found it hard to understand how George Bush could say he simply had no idea about what happened in his own past.
"I know Bush, and I know he genuinely believes what he says. He isn't the kind of person to flat-out lie, particularly when speaking in private to a supporter or a friend. So I think he meant what he said in that conversation about cocaine. It's the first time when I felt I was witnessing Bush convincing himself to believe something that probably was not true and that, deep down, he knew was not true. And his reason for doing so is fairly obvious: political convenience. He is certainly not the only politician to embrace the hazy memory defense, especially in our ever-more transparent political culture where voters are exposed to more outlets for news than ever before and just about everything is considered fair game to some.
"In the years to come, as I worked closely with President Bush, I would come to believe that sometimes he convinces himself to believe what suits his needs at the moment. It is not unlike a witness in court who does not want to implicate himself in wrongdoing, but is also concerned about perjuring himself. So he says, 'I do not recall.' The witness knows no one can get into his head and prove it is not true, so this seems like a much safer course than actually lying. Bush, similarly, has a way of falling back on the hazy memory defense to protect himself from potential political embarrassment. Bush rationalizes it as being acceptable because he is not stating unequivocally anything that could be proven false. If something later is uncovered to show what he knew, then he can deny lying in his own mind.
"In other words, being evasive is not the same as lying in Bush's mind. The former is acceptable, but the latter is not. I've seen it happen during other private moments, around people he trusted, as well as at times during press availabilities and news conferences."
So, what do you call someone who convinces himself to believe something that deep down he knows is not true? "Pathological liar" is a term I would use, although McConnell is too nice to call GWB by that name. But McConnell admits that he saw Bush repeatedly say things in private moments and news conferences that simply were not true. I think it's an astounding admission from a press secretary about a sitting president. Impeachment anyone?
Want more of the same? Vote McCain.