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When Gaddis paid his visit last summer, he was surprised to learn that the President was asking aides to read a book that was not wholly supportive of the Administration's foreign policy. "The book is quite critical, but this did not seem to cause a problem," he says. "His questions were not the kind that indicated defensiveness." Bush quizzed his guest about Otto von Bismarck. The author had written that the 19th century German Chancellor shared the President's belief in the benefits of showing military might but also had a diplomat's touch for handling the messy aftermath. Bush seemed to be looking for a softer approach to foreign policy after waging two wars. "There was a recognition that not everything has gone as expected in Iraq," says Gaddis, "that a lot of friction has been generated and that one has to take that into account."
Six months after his visit, Gaddis says he hasn't seen Bush emulate Bismarck much. That may be fuel for a new debate for Bush's critics: Can a President who finds support for his beliefs in history also learn from it? ???