Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Bush is not stupid, but so what?
Pandagon points out a great quote from a Philosoraptor post that I manages to miss the first time around.
"All evidence suggests" that Bush doesn?t arrive at ANY conclusions independently. During the campaign of 2000, we were told that Bush would be our first "CEO president." Sure, he didn't know many, you know, facts, and sure, he wasn't a very good, you know, reasoner, but he'd surround himself by good advisors. And recently we found out that he doesn't even read the papers, but gets his information from those advisors, too. Leading one to wonder: why, exactly, does Bush need to be a part of the decision-making process at all? Either he follows the advice of his advisors to the letter, in which case he is basically irrelevant to the process or he deviates from their advice in which case the decision is made by the uninformed person rather than the informed people.

For Philosoraptor, this is just a throw-away point on his way to a discussion of what he calls "hiving" and the "great unhinging." The whole essay is a thoughtful exposition on a problem that bloggers and society in general need to address. But, for the moment, I want to stick with the decision-making capacity of the leader of the free world.

Pandagon suggests out that this borders on a betrayal of the public trust:
Would you feel better if you knew that Bush made the decisions or if he didn't? It's a tough one, and it strikes at the heart of this next election. We elect a president, not a cabinet. As such, we elect someone because we trust their ability to make the decisions that come across their desk. If Bush isn't actually making the decisions then he has, in a strange way, subverted the way we choose our government by having us choose a spokesperson and not a president.

Though a bit overstated, Pandagon nails the problem. The essence of delegation of responsibility (which is what we do when we elect someone) is trust. We trust our representative to make decisions in a way that we will approve of. Unfortunately, one of those decisions is who to listen to and whether to delegate further. Bush?s behavior as our delegate is an extreme case but not unique.

It's interesting that the 2000 campaign used the image of the "CEO president" to describe Bush, because the best parallel I can think of for his style is a bad business executive. Anyone who has worked in the bottom three-quarters of a corporation of any size has experienced the executive who has the trust and even affection of his peers and higher, but is generally regarded as a drooling idiot by everyone below. Typical comments from the productive classes are "Who hired that idiot?" and "Does he actually do anything around here?" Conference calls and charging lunch to the company seem to be their only visible skills, yet they do not seem to be aware of their intrinsic lack of worth. To hear them describe it, their value comes from something called "keeping track of the big picture." I'm not sure what would happen to that big picture if they stopped keeping track of it and I probably will never find out because they are ever vigilant in their track keeping.

All of the - admittedly anecdotal - evidence I've seen about Bush the businessman and Bush the politician fit that mold. Bush doesn't like to make decisions. He doesn?t like to be bothered by details. He doesn't like to be questioned and he doesn't like to be challenged (in either sense of the word). He likes to give commands. When someone brings a problem to his attention, he likes to be able to say, "Solve that problem," and not think about it again until it is time to celebrate the victory.

Bush is also the least curious person ever to inhabit the White House. He is uninformed, un-intellectual and often anti-intellectual. None of this means he?s stupid; it is said that he has a high level of political cunning. But combined with his management style, this leaves him shockingly isolated from the real world. Bush does have a few pet issues (winning the family penis back from Saddam was one), but as long as those are taken care of, his handlers pretty much have free reign to do as they please.

Bush shares another characteristic with the bad executive I've described: he has a very narrow conception of to whom he is responsible. Though millions of people took part in hiring him, he only cares about the couple thousand who paid for the election. The bad executive might be perfectly amiable to those below, or he might be a perfect bastard, but the bottom line is, the people below just don't matter. Only the big boys matter. Bush might do great things for the common people or he might destroy the lives of millions. In either case it would be an entirely unintentional side effect of helping the people who (to him) really matter. It is more likely to be the latter than the former because Bush's big boys are a corporate kleptocracy that seems intent on looting America and anything else they can get their hands on for short-term gain. I don't think he is bought and paid for by these people. I don't think he has an evil master plan. I think he just wants to please the only people who matter to him. If he wasn't such a disaster for so many people, he would be pathetic.

Some critics of Reagan commented that it was a shame the United States had combined the positions of head of state and head of government. Reagan, they said, was a crappy head of government, but would have made a good king. He looked great on horseback. He was a graceful and charming host for visiting dignitaries. Bush would be happy with that kind of job description, but sadly doesn't ride horses and is a rather tactless host. Since we can't kick him upstairs we'll have to let him go.

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