SEPTEMBER 5, 2003 – Ok, all
Governors have some learning to do when they come into office.
President Bush was no exception. He was
no braniac either. Remember the assurances that, although he didn’t
seem to know much about much, that he would surround himself with
the right people and was capable of making a decision? Remember
this exchange with Jim Lehrer in an interview given on April 23,
LEHRER: …as President of the United
States you're going to be called upon to make decisions about
sending hundreds, thousands, conceivably, of young Americans to a
battlefield somewhere…On what should the American people base their
judgment as to what your judgment might be in those kinds of
matters, those larger issues, that involve even larger numbers of
THEN GOV. BUSH: …That's really the
fundamental question of the race for the presidency…I guess to
answer your question - the first question - what kind of person am
Unfortunately, Jim didn’t ask what
sort of person that was. It could have saved us a whole lot of
trouble. The then-Gov. continued:
GOV. BUSH: …Secondly, am I willing to
listen and who would I be listening to, who are the people that
would come and provide counsel or would I listen at all, and, if so,
and if I did listen, when I made a decision, would it be based upon
principle, or would it be based upon polls?
There was another possibility Gov.
Bush had left out that, unfortunately for us, Jim didn’t follow up
on: when he made a decision, would he have the intelligence and
knowledge to make a good one; because in the end, principle must be
based on something useful or it doesn’t help much – a point Jim, and
the rest of the press, entirely ignored, and ignore now with regard
to Schwarzenegger. Bush continued:
GOV. BUSH: Secondly…
No, this isn’t a typo. He did
actually say, “Secondly,” a second time. So I guess that is
secondly secondly, which, if you do the math, to you and I adds up
to thirdly. He continued:
GOV. BUSH: Secondly, I am going to be
surrounded by the best that any president has ever brought to
Washington, DC. People ask who.
Yes, and should have asked a bit more
than just that. Look at the dream team he then lists:
GOV. BUSH: Dr. Condaleeza Rice.
Wonderful, except that every piece of
advice she has given has been wrong – which has only been outweighed
by her propensity for lying. He went on to name dream team member
GOV. BUSH: Larry Lindsay has been an
economic adviser of mine.
Ok, now flash forward to December,
2002: “Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and White House Economic
Advisor Larry Lindsay handed in their resignations at the request of
President Bush on Friday.” Remember, he was given above by
then-Gov. Bush as an example of, “the best that any president has
ever brought to Washington, DC.” Guess that’s strike two –
one strike for foreign policy, one for the economy. He continued:
GOV. BUSH: I just announced my vice
presidential search headed by Dick Cheney.
As further proof of Bush’s wonderful
judgement, follow this story to it’s conclusion. He asks Mr. Cheney
to help him figure out who would make the best Vice Presidential
partner, and guess what? In the end, Dick says, funny, only I – in
this whole entire nation - seem to be qualified. As the person who
hired Dick do you A) Believe him? or B) Fire him, because you hired
him to sort through a list you had given him, not to replace all the
names on the list with himself, himself, and himself. “Let me tell
you what to do, choose me – don’t worry, this is prudent, unbiased
advice, not self-serving BS,” said Dick. “It has nothing to do
with me wanting to get my hands directly on government contracts.”
Then the Gov. turns to his own best
GOV. BUSH: A leader is somebody who must
Prophetic words. Except, once again,
Jim didn’t ask the appropriate follow-up: Doesn’t it help if you
have the intelligence and knowledge to do something useful with what
GOV. BUSH: ..and so I think the quality
of the administration and the quality of my presidency will be
determined by the people I bring to Washington.
Yes, he said a mouthful. It’s funny,
but to some people “listening” is something that is done on a wider
basis than just listening to the people you bring with you (who say
wonderfully unsuspect things like, “Pick me, pick me.”) But wait,
the Gov. is about to talk about his personal qualifications on
Jim asked him to rate himself.
GOV. BUSH: I would rate myself as
somebody who is going to have the best foreign policy team.
OK, let’s try that again. You
already went on about the wonderful team of Rice the failure,
Lindsay, the one you went on to fire for sucking, and Dick the
self-promoter. But now he is asking about you – after all, it is
you, not them, who are running for President - as it would be
Arnold, not his "people," who would serve as Governor.
GOV BUSH: …Listen, I'm not going to play
like I've been a person who's spent hours involved with foreign
policy. I am who I am.
Again, Jim missed the all-important
follow-up, “And who would that be?” The then-Gov. hadn’t even spent
hours, never mind some years, involving himself with learning about
foreign policy. Video games, yes. Those weird people who
live other places, no.
JIM LEHRER: Do you think about that with
relish, with excitement, that you're sitting there and you're going
to have some difficult decisions to make, or does that - oh, my
goodness, what a tough job I'm signed on to - trying to sign on to…
More importantly, what do we think
now? But let’s let George answer first:
GOV. BUSH: I understand what it means to
assemble a good team.
You’re going to surround yourself
with people? Really? We’ve never heard you say that before, except
10 other times in the past 20 seconds.
GOV. BUSH: I take great comfort in
knowing that I'm a persuasive person and will bring really good
people to help make decisions.
Really, you're going to bring people?
On another note, it is
nice that you are persuasive, but the question was about
decision-making ability. Persuasiveness is good at getting
people to go along with your decisions no matter how wrong and
misguided they may be – which, as we now see, is not necessarily a
good thing – but in no way helps make sound decisions.
GOV. BUSH: The presidency is more than
just a person.
Really? Do you mean you are going to
surround yourself with people – people who aren’t you because, you
know, you are who you are, as you were nice enough to clarify
earlier. The Presidency, in fact, is not more than just a
person, it is not a person at all - it is an office that a person
holds, power that a person executes. And yes, in the end, it
is one person that wields that power, just as with the office of
GOV. BUSH: The presidency is an
administration, and I'm going to have a great administration.
Dare we say: Enough about the other
GOV. BUSH: And so I take great comfort
in -- in knowing that.
He took great comfort in knowing
there would be other people there with him. Does it comfort you
Well, now, almost three years,
several hundred billions in debt, hundreds of lives lost, and no
major international situation handled usefully, it seems he is
listening again – this time to the people he ignored the first time,
who said go to the UN, talk to North Korea, make a plan for winning
the peace before starting the war. Funny how it works, listening in
and of itself didn’t work out to be foolproof. No, in the end,
there was this surprising moment called “making the decision,” that
required judgement, intelligence, and knowledge. He may have
surrounded himself with goldfish bearing those names, but it didn’t
make the result any better.
The problem with the model that it is
ok to be stupid and unqualified as long as you surround yourself
with smart, qualified people, has shown itself to have one fatal
flaw: how can the stupid person who will be in charge really
tell if the people he is surrounding himself with are qualified and
smart? Maybe they are really just idiotic (like "best... ever
brought to the White House" Lindsay) or full of it (like Rice and
Cheney.) Unfortunately, it takes someone smart and
knowledgeable to know the difference.
So, do you still care to vote for Arnold and his
“people”? Before you answer, remember, President Bush hasn’t come
around to listening with regard to the economy or his destructive
tax cuts yet.