Questioning The Unquestioning

March 3rd, 2006at 01:42pm Posted by Eli

Interesting how Hurricane Katrina actually destroys spin (maybe it’s only when it brings the eye to bear, though).

Multiple (I think) Wanker Of The Day honoree John Dickerson observes that “I don’t think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees” wasn’t the only self-serving BushCo. lie destroyed by the August 28 Katrina briefing video:

Based on what I’d been told by White House aides over the years, I expected to see the president asking piercing questions that punctured the fog of the moment and inspired bold action. Bush’s question-asking talents are a central tenet of the president’s hagiography. He may not be much for details, say aides, but he can zero in on a weak spot in a briefing and ask out-of-the-box questions. I have been repeatedly told over the years that he once interrupted a briefing on national defense to pose a 30,000-foot stumper: What is the function of the Department of Defense?

(Ooo, ahh, what a bold and daring question – hell, he probably asked because he genuinely didn’t know…)

So, surely during this briefing about an impending natural disaster, the president would have had a few pointed inquiries. The experts assembled in boxes on his screen like guests on Hollywood Squares had just told him the coming hurricane “was the big one” and talked about “the greatest potential for large loss of life.” Yet according to the Associated Press, which is the only press organization that has reviewed the video, Bush didn’t ask a single question in the briefing, but told officials “we are fully prepared.”

You know you’re in trouble when Michael Brown outshines you. [OUCH!] But the president’s question-free briefing is more than a momentary bad piece of public relations. It’s a blow to a key Bush myth. The Bush management philosophy relies on him as an interrogator. He delegates, but that’s OK because he knows how to question those he empowers to make sure they’re focused. Question-asking is also a central public tool in the “trust me” presidency. We aren’t supposed to worry that the NSA wiretapping program goes too far because the president has asked all the questions. When the president was wrong about the level of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq or the strength of the insurgency, it wasn’t because he didn’t ask enough questions, we have been told, it was because he was given the wrong answers.

I too remember reading multiple times about what a brilliant and incisive leader Bush is in meetings, but perhaps it’s only true in meetings about issues that Bush actually cares about. Katrina couldn’t advance the Republican agenda in any obvious way, so it was just a nuisance to get out of the way as quickly as possible. The idea that whiffing on the disaster response might be a political disaster in its own right was apparently far too abstract for anyone to grasp, and I just can’t seriously believe that any of the Bush inner circle stayed up nights worrying about the possible deaths of a few thousand commoners (See: Gulf War II, The). And if it’s not a cause that Bush is personally committed to, his default position is, “I have people who take care of that.” It never even occurs to him that he actually has to take action himself to make things happen.

I bet there were a lot of meetings like this at Bush’s oil companies, right before they went under. I bet there were some key junctures where CEO Bush could have saved those companies with swift, decisive action, and he instead left it up to subordinates (who, I will also bet, were unqualified cronies) to figure it all out while he, ah, went to Margaritaville and frolicked in the snow.

I can certainly understand the appeal of the “CEO President” concept, but I can’t understand how it can be expanded to include CEOs who have never made a company stronger, or even kept it alive for more than a few years. How could anyone expect them to do better running the biggest corporation on Earth?

Entry Filed under: Bush,Favorites,Katrina,Media,Politics,Wankers


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