The day it became apparent that GWB would be our president for another four years, I made a pledge to give him the benefit of doubt for 100 days into his new term. Like it or not, he was the president. I'm quite sure there are folks who think I broke that pledge, that I've been overly critical of the President since that day, that I've not given him the benefit of doubt in his actions. To those folks all I can say is "Wait for it." By comparison, you'll see how much I held back. The honeymoon was a chance for him to prove my misgivings unfounded. He has failed.
Day 100 of the second term of George W. Bush we find an administration resistant to learning from its mistakes, an administration with three central and tragic flaws. I'll cover two today (the third is larger and requires more cites...I'm working on it):
- An allergy to accountability
- A priority of perception over reality
Allergy to Accountability
One need look no further for how totally corrupt this administration's attitude toward accountability is than the biggest PR disaster of Bush's presidency: Abu Ghraib. As Bob Herbert rightly noted:
When soldiers in war are not properly trained and supervised, atrocities are all but inevitable. This is one reason why the military command structure is so important. There was a time, not so long ago, when commanders were expected to be accountable for the behavior of their subordinates.
That's changed. Under Commander in Chief George W. Bush, the notion of command accountability has been discarded. In Mr. Bush's world of war, it's the grunts who take the heat. Punishment is reserved for the people at the bottom. The people who foul up at the top are promoted.
And this fish most definitely stinks from the head down. Even Donald Rumsfeld, arguably the most arrogant man in the world, knew that the right thing to do in the light of Abu Ghraib was submit his resignation. Bush, however, who has never had to clean up any of the messes he's made in his life, couldn't understand that inclination and so refused Rummie, apparently twice. The message this sends is that so long as you're a loyal team player you can be a world-class f*ck-up and keep your job. We've seen how well that management style has served Bush in business ("El-Busto" anyone?). Shouldn't he be discouraged from conducting the government in the same fashion? As my Father is fond of saying, "A fool is someone who keeps doing the same thing over and over again but expects different results."
The buck WILL stop. The only question is whether when it does, it stops where it should. A president with dignity would ensure it stopped with him. Honor counts.
Perception over Reality
The best thing that can be said about last night's performance art piece in the East Room of the White House is that the lead actor's tie matched the stage's carpet. I know images carry more impact than words, but if he's going to just phone it in, let him use a phone for chrissake. The man's got loads of brush to clear on his ranch. Why drag the whole MSM over there, make everyone dress up, take their assigned seats, and act out the absurd charade?
...Ted Koppel is analyzing the press conference & had on Dana Milbank of the Washington Post, John Harwood of the Wall Street Journal, & a British journalist with the Financial Times, Lionell Barber... .
..Barber said that these press conferences are stage craft, with assigned seating & assigned questions, that don't say or do anything. Koppel then compared the way the BBC & the British media ask question of Tony Blair, where the media gives Blair "a going over". Koppel then turned to Milbank & Harwood, and asked why no reporter has the guts to stand up & tell Bush that he isn't answering their questions, & it isn't sufficient to regurgitate his speech from his traveling tour.
Milbank & Harwood's response tells you everything you need to know about what's wrong with the media. Both said that you can't be 'too hard' with Bush. That if you ask a hard question of Bush, you won't get an answer. Dana Milbank said you need to ask it "as an essay question" to him. Koppel then asked both of them "which question" asked as an essay tonight, did the reporters get a substanitive answer to? Neither one of them had an answer for Ted Koppel.
Perhaps, as a nation, we can't handle the truth. But I suspect it's the other way around: the truth is something Bush can't dispense, and so we get these staged puppet shows instead. But these are just the public face of a wrong-headed "boy in the bubble" presidency so out of touch, his handlers decide it would disrupt things too much to let the leader of the free world encounter dissent, even when he's supposedly seeking it out (think SS town meetings). A president with courage would seek out real dissent, combat it when it was wrong, and consider it when it was right, even it that involved the occasional painful moment of *gasp* introspection.