George W. Bush is the first president to have a master's degree in business administration. Let's hope he's the last.
I like President Bush, and I support most of what he's trying to do. But friends as
well as critics of this administration have reason to wonder whether these guys can
organize a two car funeral.
I think President Bush made the right decision when he went to war in Iraq. But
once the decision was made, one egregious mistake was piled on top of another.
One of the most disturbing aspects of Mr. Bush's management style is that he neither
rewards success nor punishes failure. This tends to result in less success and more
Another unfortunate tendency is to appoint mediocrities to critical positions. Few
on either the left or right have kind things to say about Attorney General Alberto
Gonzalez, with good reason. Karen Hughes is brilliant as a strategist in domestic
politics, but is dangerously out of her depth as Undersecretary of State for public
diplomacy. And then there was Michael Brown at the Federal Emergency Management
The flaws in the federal response to Hurricane Katrina existed mostly in the fevered
imaginations of journalists and Democratic politicians. The most egregious mistakes
were made by the mayor of New Orleans and the governor of Louisiana, not by federal
But while the Coast Guard and the military were magnificent, and most at the worker
bee level in FEMA performed well, those at or near the top did not. President
Bush's praise of the hapless Mr. Brown (Brownie, you're doing a heckuva job) belongs
in the managerial cluelessness hall of fame.
New Defense Secretary Robert Gates responded appropriately to the revelations in the
Washington Post of the squalid conditions in which some of our wounded soldiers are
being kept. He fired the general commanding Walter Reed Army hospital, and demanded
the resignation of the Secretary of the Army.
But the problems at the hospital didn't arise yesterday. How could Army officials,
military and civilian, have overlooked them for so long?
Even when the president does his job well, he does a poor job of telling the
American people what he is doing and why. This leaves the shaping of the narrative
to his enemies. Wasn't there anything on the syllabus at the Harvard Business
School about the importance of communicating with customers?
President Bush's greatest flaw as a manager is the extent to which he has permitted
people who ostensibly work for him to buffalo, bamboozle and betray him, without
consequence. The president is supposed to run the government. But this president
is intimidated by his bureaucracies.
All of the president's flaws as a manager are displayed in the conviction of I.
Lewis "Scooter" Libby for allegedly lying about something that wasn't a crime.
That this case went to trial is chiefly the product of truly awesome mendacity by
Joseph C. Wilson IV, many journalists, Democrats in Congress, and Special Prosecutor
Patrick Fitzgerald. But missteps by the Bushies played a significant role.
The "Bush lied" meme essentially began when Mr. Wilson charged that President Bush
was lying when he said in his 2003 State of the Union address that "the British
government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of
uranium from Africa." The president poured gasoline on the fire when he apologized
for the sentence, even though every word of it was true. (Saddam did try to buy
uranium in Africa, concluded the Senate Intelligence Committee, the Robb-Silberman
commission on prewar intelligence, and the British Butler Commission.)
Despite the fact his subordinates didn't think a crime had been committed, Attorney
General John Ashcroft (another mediocrity) appointed a special prosecutor. Deputy
Secretary of State Richard Armitage never bothered to mention to the White House
that he was the source of the leak, and the White House evidently had no clue.
Why was Mr. Libby prosecuted, but not those who leaked about the National Security
Agency's interception of terrorist phone calls, or the Treasury Department's
monitoring of terrorist financing? Why is Mr. Libby facing a decade in jail, when
former Clinton National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, caught stealing top secret
documents from the National Archives, got off with a slap on the wrist?
I'm attracted to Rudy Giuliani in part because, for better or worse (and it was
mostly very much for the better), he ran the city of New York. It's nice to have a
president who means well. It'd be nicer to have a president who actually does well.