Monday, January 26, 2009


This is an odd lede in The Washington Post today:

Obama Using His Personal Appeal to Put Change Into Motion

If George W. Bush saw himself as a CEO president, an efficient "decider" who relied on an administration of like-minded thinkers to get things done, President Obama is proving something else altogether. In his first week in office, Obama is giving clear signs that he is willing to trade on his own popularity, personal suasion and loose-limbed ease in the spotlight to help him lead the nation....

Is that really the difference between Bush and Obama -- that Bush was an aloof guy who governed from his office and didn't talk to anybody?

That's not how I remember it. It seems to me that Bush was just about as willing as Obama to interact with people -- he just found it intolerable if any of them disagreed with him. He occasionally tried to trade on whatever level of popularity he had, in his own fashion -- remember "I earned capital in the political campaign and I intend to spend it," from November 2004? That was followed by his speaking tour to garner support for Social Security privatization, a tour was that could be called Obama-esque -- except for the fact that he was selling a lousy, unpopular idea and did no outreach to critics, who were excluded from his handpicked audiences.

Within Washington, Bush did like to gather congressional leaders around conference tables, grinning like an idiot as shutters clicked, but he preferred to roll opponents rather than work with them (see: Iraq). That's not the mark of an aloof CEO -- it's the mark of a bully.

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