Sunday, September 02, 2007


Here's President Bush on management, as quoted by author Robert Draper:

"This group-think of 'we all sat around and decided' -- there's only one person that can decide, and that's the president."

That's from a story in The New York Times about Draper's forthcoming book on the Bush presidency, which was written with Bush's cooperation. Now here's a Bush on how that top-down approach to deciding actually works, from the same article:

Mr. Bush acknowledged one major failing of the early occupation of Iraq when he said of disbanding the Saddam Hussein-era military, "The policy was to keep the army intact; didn't happen."

But when Mr. Draper pointed out that Mr. Bush's former Iraq administrator, L. Paul Bremer III, had gone ahead and forced the army's dissolution and then asked Mr. Bush how he reacted to that, Mr. Bush said, "Yeah, I can't remember, I'm sure I said, 'This is the policy, what happened?'"

So, yes, only one person gets to be the Decider -- but that doesn't mean he cares about whether the decision is actually carried out. What matters is making the decision. That's the fun part.

That's the Bush presidency in a nutshell. What actually happens doesn't matter to Bush -- all that matters is that he gets to give the orders. In his mind, those orders should lead to certain results. But if they don't work as planned, or if they're not even carried out, he doesn't care -- it's the giving of the orders that's the point.


The Bush presidency hasn't gone very well -- not that Bush wants to whine about it or anything:

"Self-pity is the worst thing that can happen to a presidency," Mr. Bush told Mr. Draper, by way of saying he sought to avoid it. "This is a job where you can have a lot of self-pity."

Yeah, but if you have to have self-pity, make it into a competition!

In what Mr. Draper interpreted as a reference to war casualties, Mr. Bush added, "I'll bet I've shed more tears than you can count as president."

And name-drop -- definitely name-drop. In fact, name-drop the biggest possible name:

In response to Mr. Draper’s observance that Mr. Bush had nobody's "shoulder to cry on," the president said: "Of course I do, I've got God’s shoulder to cry on, and I cry a lot."

But by all means try to avoid self-pity:

Mr. Bush conveyed a level of sanguinity with his unpopularity. Mr. Draper recalled that in their last meeting, in May, Mr. Bush pointed outside to his dog, Barney, and said, "That guy who said if you want a friend in Washington get a dog, knew what he was talking about."

Yes, don't dwell on the negative: May he said that this fall it would be up to General Petraeus to convince the public that the Iraq strategy is working.

"I've been here too long," Mr. Bush said, according to Mr. Draper. "Every time I start painting a rosy picture, it gets criticized and then it doesn't make it on the news."

But he said he saw his unpopularity as a natural result of his decision to pursue a strategy in which he believed. "I made a decision to lead," he said, "... it makes you unpopular..."

Because nobody likes a whiner:

"Sixty-two is really young," Mr. Bush said, "and yet I'll be through with my presidency."

So let's commend the president for avoiding that self-pity trap!


I don't know why Bush opened up to this author -- but I can't help suspecting that it was because Dick Cheney had Stephen Hayes hanging around all the time, conducting interviews for his biography of the VP, which just came out. It wouldn't surprise me if Bush thought, or actually said, "Oh yeah? Well, I've got a guy writing a book about me, too! And I'm going to give him access, just like you're doing with that Hayes guy! So there!"


Most surprising revelation:

But as Mr. Draper described it, and as the transcripts show, Mr. Bush warmed up considerably over the intervening interviews, chewing on an unlit cigar...

He chews on unlit cigars? Er, Bill Clinton, when he wasn't using one as an erotic toy, also chewed on unlit cigars. I thought Bush refused to do anything Clinton did. What gives?

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