LEADERSHIP, C'EST MOI
How do you learn to be a great leader? Some would say it requires experience; others would recommend reading books about great leaders' lives.
Or you could just be in the presence of George W. Bush and absorb leadership skills -- Bush is, after all, the embodiment of leadership. That's clearly what Bush would say, to judge from this excerpt from Robert Draper's new book, Dead Certain, which appears in Slate today:
...Bush acknowledged to the Iraq Study Group (as some of its members would recall in interviews) that "my job is to give confidence to the Maliki government." ... the president's job was to "inspire" the novice politician....
Bush's decision to appoint General David Petraeus as the new commander in Iraq didn't please some in Maliki's government who remembered Petraeus's empowerment of former Baathists in Mosul. "I know you have concerns about this," Bush said. "But let me just tell you, leader to leader: I have a lot of respect for this man. Trust me on this."
A week later, Maliki appointed First General Aboud Jenber to be his new Baghdad security commander. General George Casey contacted Bush to register his concern. Jenber, he said, was an unknown quantity. Bush got Maliki on the phone.
Maliki said to Bush, I have a lot of respect for this man. Trust me on this.
Turning the tables on him -- Bush loved it!
You sound just like me, Nouri! I like the cut of your jib!
"He's learning to be a leader," Bush said a few weeks later. "And one of my jobs as the president and his ally is to help him be that leader without being patronizing. At some point in time, if I come to the conclusion that he can't be the leader -- he's unwilling to lead or he's deceptive -- then we'll change course. But I haven't come to that conclusion. As a matter of fact, his recent actions have inspired me."
I decide whether he can run Iraq -- because I believe in democracy!
... Bush would cut Maliki some slack. "Everybody tells him the same thing -- you better get moving, or else," Bush would say. "That's what I told [Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman] Carl Levin. I said, 'You went to Iraq and you told him point blank, You better get moving.' I said, 'Thank you for doing that.'
"He said, 'Why don't you do the same thing?' I said, 'I've got other audiences. My message isn't just to the Iraqi government. It's to U.S. troops, the enemy, the Iraqi people. And therefore I've got to be careful about how I deliver the message. I want to be viewed more as a mentor than a scolder."
Yes, because Maliki's success or failure will be determined by how people perceive me in relation to him. If he becomes a great leader, it's my doing.
Yes, Bush really sees himself this way, as the guy who's mastery of statecraft is unquestioned -- a gift to pass on to future generations.
Think he also talks about Nicolas Sarkozy and Gordon Brown and Angela Merkel as if he's the Big Cheese and they're trainees?
(Also see the Mahablog for an analysis of another excerpt from Draper's book.)