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October 01, 2003

Running It Like A Business

I don't know how many deeply probing journalists read Cobb, but I think now is the time to look quite closely at the relationships between Andrew Card and Carl Rove and determine exactly who is in charge at the Bush White House.

Now is the time for George W. Bush to be called on the table for his management style. Aside from the 'character' issue that was made for Bush the candidate, the biggest boast about this new White House was what a tightly run executive ship it was going to be. So is there a shadow government or not? It is entirely inconsistent with everything that was made about the efficiency of this administration to suggest that the top dogs don't know. If there are 300 people in an organization, even if there are 3000, the CEO can find out who sent such a message in a day or a week at most.

It's time to look at the difference between the theory and the reality. Looking back at some interesting comments, here's a TNR exerpt:

Throughout last year's campaign, George W. Bush described the role of president as akin to that of a corporate CEO--part visionary, part manager, part talent scout. "My job is to set the agenda and tone and framework," Bush wrote in A Charge to Keep, "to lay out the principles by which we operate and make decisions, and then delegate much of the process to [staff members]." Sure enough, as Bush has picked his Cabinet nominees, what began as a campaign strategy to neutralize criticism of his inexperience has become his administration's governing theory. "I'm going to work with every Cabinet member to set a series of goals ... for each area of our government," Bush told reporters at a recent press conference. "I hope the American people realize that a good executive is one that understands how to recruit people and how to delegate." A Bush adviser told The New York Times that the administration would be returning to the model of the 1950s: "Bush is going back to the Eisenhower-type cabinet, where it's more like a board of directors."

So who is the Cabinet member in charge of destroying political enemies? Who set the tone for beating up on the CIA?

This is the biggest challenge yet for the Bush White House itself. I really want to hear what Andy Card has to say about all this. Consider this angle by Marty Peretz from Slate:

George W. is not the first president to promise us Cabinet government. A very smart article by Ryan Lizza in the next issue of the New Republic--you can already see it this morning on the TNR Web site--explains why we won't have one. Dwight Eisenhower was the last president who presided over something remotely akin to Cabinet government, and even his dissipated over time. The phrase itself connotes a gravity that it cannot have here in America, and that is because it is a concept that has intrinsic functions in the parliamentary system where Cabinets are in a way extensions of majorities (or coalitions) in legislatures, like in Great Britain and (to take an extreme case) Israel. In the United States, it used to be a matter of presidential style: A relaxed president who truly wanted strong structures around him would defer to other personalities strong in character and in opinion. But that meant they had to be strong in those areas themselves.

This is not the case with poor Dubya, whose presidency--which does not begin until Saturday--is already being defended as if it had been under siege for years. But this is pre-emptive defense since no one has even touched him yet. This also speaks of the man's fright. And George W. won't have a genuine Cabinet because he is such a frightened man that he will need to have the decision-makers real close, like in the next room.

My guess is that he also has a terror of press conferences. Can you imagine Bush fielding the highly complicated queries with consequences for life-and-death policy, which, unlike those during a campaign, will be put to him?

His supporters know of his inner fright. No one who struts like he does, no one who smirks like he does is truly secure. I think there must be moments when he wishes that he'd been made baseball commissioner in a straightforward deal rather than been forced on the country as president in a brazen robbery.

Posted by mbowen at October 1, 2003 11:43 AM

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