Monday, September 12, 2005

The Bad News Bearers

When everyone's afraid to tell the captain the ship's sinking, you have more problems than just a sinking ship. You have a dysfunctional organization and a bad captain.

It was no surprise to me to read this account in Newsweek 's article "How Bush Blew It"
It's a standing joke among the president's top aides: who gets to deliver the bad news? Warm and hearty in public, Bush can be cold and snappish in private, and aides sometimes cringe before the displeasure of the president of the United States...

The bad news on this early morning, Tuesday, Aug. 30, some 24 hours after Hurricane Katrina had ripped through New Orleans, was that the president would have to cut short his five-week vacation by a couple of days and return to Washington. The president's chief of staff, Andrew Card; his deputy chief of staff, Joe Hagin; his counselor, Dan Bartlett, and his spokesman, Scott McClellan, held a conference call to discuss the question of the president's early return and the delicate task of telling him...

We're not talking about a bunch of kids on summer internships. We're talking about Mister Bush's most senior advisors, drawing straws to see who gets yelled at.


Short tempers and an unwillingness to hear what you don't want to hear from your subordinates is a trademark of the Bush administration. Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld are both infamous bullies. Little wonder they considered John Bolton the perfect man for the United Nations Ambassador slot.


Don't want to hear about no terrorist attacks. Don't want to hear the intelligence on Iraq is wrong. Don't want to hear we need more troops. Don't want to hear the insurgency's getting out of control. Don't want to hear 'bout no hurricane.

Can't be distracted by all that right now. Remakin' the whole world in your own image is hard work. Just tell me what I want to hear or get out.


Q: What's the difference between a crony, a yes man, and a sycophant?

A: A crony is a yes man you've known since your Texas days. A sycophant is a crony who actually hisses as he says "yessssssss."


Direct quote from Mister Bush's press conference today:

"Of course I rely on good people."

And from the standard echo menu:

Blame game... Blame game... Blame game...

Problem solvers... Problem solvers...

We're moving forward...forward...forward...

If talking points were horses, beggars would ride.


We don't know too much about Osama bin Laden's leadership style, but he must be doing something right. With no army, no navy, no air force, no national treasury--shoot, the guy doesn't even have a country--he's managed to stand the most powerful nation in history on its ear.

Virtually everything the Bush administration does plays into bin Laden's grand strategy. It's telling that the US Army can't meet its enlistment quotas, but bin Laden's organization has no trouble recruiting a sufficient number of suicide bombers.

And as fundamental Islam grows more popular in the Middle East daily, support for the Bush administration--both foreign and domestic--dwindles by the hour.

It might be overstatement to call bin Laden a political and strategic genius, but based on his results so far, he's looking like a far sharper tack than the one that's stuck himself in our collective foot.


  1. Ckrisz1:11 PM

    It helps to be going up against the American equivalent of Nicholas II.

  2. I bet Nicholas II didn't read the papers or pay attention to polls either.

    Thanks for stopping by, Kris.


  3. OBL has a great deal of personal charisma; apparently, it runs in the bin Laden family. This also explains his ability to recruit the suicide bombers. However, within his own immediate family, he seems to be an ordinary father whose children would sometimes act like brats.

    Beyond that, he is undeniably brave since he put his ass on the line in the Soviet-Afghan war.

    He has a degree in finance but has never traveled in the West so he lacks first-hand knowledge of Europe or the U.S. He claims to have lost a great deal of money when he went to Sudan and invested in various businesses. I suspect that the "investment" may have been a payoff to provide a haven for him and his group.

    His two fatwas were very well-written but many believe they were ghost-written by Zawahiri. Some believe that Zawahiri is the actual brains behind the group and bin Laden provides the inspiration.

    Bin Laden is notorious for his careful planning and high level of security. Still, his mother has visited him over the years which makes me wonder how the U.S. kept missing him. Sheer incompetence?

    I don't think that bin Laden is some sort of super evil genius but he has the right combination of qualities at the right point in history. He has certainly re-affirmed the power of the individual in society. Most Americans just lie down helplessly and whine about how they're powerless to change anything.

  4. When I taught at the University of Texas, we had a less than stellar chief resident one year. Something interesting happened that year. This chief's team worked quite well . . . without him. The chief got to operate all he liked while the second year resident, intern, and med student(s) actually ran the service. No one wanted to tell the chief anything because he never had anything intelligent or useful to add to any discussion, and, frankly, he didn't seem to care anyway.

    Everything flowed smoothly until a patient care crisis occurred. BIG crisis, biggest kind possible. (Sorry, can't cough with the details on something like this.) And that's when it became painfully obvious how dysfunctional this team had become.

    Anyway, that's my 2c regarding the Bush administration. Like Reagan before him -- hell, like Daddy before him -- the junior residents (Cheney et al.) have kept Dubya out of the loop because he (GWB) had nothing useful to add, was disinterested or frankly hostile to news. Everything would have been fine, except for 9/11, the Iraq Fiasco, and NOLA.

  5. I thought this was a fun read...from Rolling Stone's latest issue...


  6. TL,

    I think you're right-right combination of things, right moment in history, right opponent.


    I've seen that quite a bit. Headless oranizations that work fine till there's a crisis.


    This anti-enviromnment business seems to be a point of pride with the neos and their supporters. Hard to figure why. (Wreck the environment BECAUSE WE CAN?)

  7. Anonymous11:17 AM

    Wow, I've made your blogroll. Thank you, I'm truly flattered ... if I was the flattering type. ;)

    Jeff, I don't remember how I stumbled across your blog, but I've become a big fan. You give me hope that all is not lost.

    Regarding the Newsweek article, I was glad to see the criticism of Bush's leadership style. More needs to be written of the dangers of top-down, authoritarian leadership in a country that is supposed to work as a democracy. (And more needs to be exposed about what really happens in the WH these days.) Sure it seems so obvious, but I think some very basic concepts of good governing have been removed from the public's consciousness.

    Keep writing and I'll keep linking!


  8. I'm not much of a conspiracy theorist, but I did read a guardian article last summer that said that the CIA met with bin Laden in July 2001.

    Bush Sr's organization (he still gets all the important intel) meets with the terrorist who single-handedly saved Bush's early failure of a presidency 2 months later? OK, I'll bite.