Another Story On GOP Concerns With Administration Failings, Which Misses The Point
For the second time in two days, a major newspaper is running a story about emerging concerns within the GOP about the Bush political team’s recent screw-ups, this time centering on its economic team and message. In a Page One piece in today’s Washington Post, Jonathan Weisman and Mike Allen write about all the mistakes recently just in the economic arena, from the release of the Economic Report of the President (containing the 2.6 million 2004 jobs and outsourcing praise) that apparently no one read before going out, to the lack of vetting that led to the withdrawal of Bush’s months-late choice for manufacturing czar because he himself chopped a thousand jobs and outsourced them to China.
The interesting message in this piece is that Bush’s outspoken and disagreeing first economic team of Paul O’Neill, Larry Lindsey, and Glenn Hubbard were a better team even if they clashed a lot because they at least had ideas that could be debated. By comparison, according to this piece, the current team was chosen because they would shut up and stay out of the papers but are now found to be bereft of new ideas to help the president with his message or results. However, such an argument is false for one good reason. The president doesn’t want new ideas and the experience with O’Neill demonstrates that a man with an opinion at odds with Bush’s preconceived notions will be ignored and shut out.
Allen and Weisman write this piece as if the problem is with everyone else except Bush. The O’Neill book, if they had read it, demonstrates that even though occasionally Bush will ask an intelligent question and at least look at alternatives to his own thinking (like the time he questioned why the second-year tax package was still steering money to the well-off instead of the middle class), due to his pliability and lack of intellectual curiosity and grounding he can be easily steered away from such inquiry back to the self-serving dogma of others like Rove and Cheney.
The other issue that at least Allen and Weisman touch on is that Bush allows Rove to not only run the political operation daily but also the campaign operation, a task that is too large for one man, even one of such deviousness and alleged track record of Karl Rove. As O’Neill said in his book, there is no policy making function in the White House; it starts and ends with whatever Rove says is good politics. As a result, your campaign strategy dictates your economic policy. When the economic policy flames out and is managed by the guy who built his election campaign strategy around it on the assumption that 1) we are always right, and 2) it is more important to please our rich corporate base, you have no flexibility to move in a different direction when things fail. Add to the mix a gullible and intellectually-lacking president and a manipulative VP, and what you get is the mess Mr. Bush deservedly finds himself in now.