Jewish World Review May 28, 2004 / 8 Sivan, 5764
Carl P. Leubsdorf
Ironically, Prez relied on seasoned advisers for gravitas and now he's being made the scapegoat for their screw-ups
http://www.jewishworldreview.com | As a candidate, President Bush boosted his credentials by surrounding himself with veteran national security advisers. As president, he has depended heavily on their experience. Now, Bush appears to be in increasing political difficulty because he has accepted their advice.
Most key national security advisers - headed by Secretary of State Colin Powell and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld - are unlikely to stay in a second Bush presidential term. The irony is that the president's willingness to follow their lead - and his refusal to hold them responsible for mistakes - may cost him an opportunity to have one.
To offset his lack of national security experience, Bush picked former Defense Secretary Dick Cheney as a running mate and enlisted highly regarded veterans of his father's administration such as Powell and Condoleezza Rice.
Once elected, he recalled Rumsfeld to the Pentagon job he held under President Gerald Ford and kept George Tenet as central intelligence director. After the 2001 attacks, their presence helped buoy shaken Americans. But several events and disclosures of the past year have undercut that optimism.
Articles this week in Newsweek and The New Yorker suggest Rumsfeld played down the degree to which the White House was involved in decisions to ease Geneva Convention strictures to get more information from prisoners. Administration officials have denounced the accounts.
The chaos in Iraq has confirmed the fears of officials from the first Bush administration who resisted efforts to overthrow Saddam Hussein because they feared it would create instability.
Meanwhile, Bush's Democratic rival, Sen. John Kerry, has chosen to say less rather than more, recognizing the situation plays into his hands politically. He has stressed his own national security expertise and displayed the kinds of people who would be his top advisers.
They include such foreign policy experts as former U. N. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, who devised the successful plan to stabilize the Balkans in the 1990s; former rival Gen. Wesley Clark; and key senators in both parties, such as Democrat Carl Levin of Michigan and Republicans John McCain of Arizona and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska.
In the end, however, as Bush is learning, the president gets the credit or the blame, not the big-name advisers.
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