Friday, October 21, 2005

A Whitehouse in Disarray

The last two months has shown increasing evidence that the Bush Whitehouse staff is disorganized or at sea, with sequential blunders and mishandling of issues and crises, it is now very clear that the White House staff is not serving the President well.

From flying over Katrina on the way to a golf outing (the president should have been in waders passing out water bottles and meeting in the storm's command post- anyone who saw a satellite picture of the storm knew it was going to be BIG) to how the Meirs selection has come off, it is clear that the White House is not functioning very well.

With key staff members annoyed or worried about independent prosecutor Fitzgerald's investigation into the Valerie Plame affair, the needs of individual of staff is distracting efforts from the business of serving the nation. Not being able to fulfill one's duty to the president is a perfectly honorable reason to resign and a perfectly non-judgmental reason for dismissal.

Republicans should be increasingly worried of appearances, when the American public sees top Republican congressional leaders in legal difficulties that is a dangerous message to be carrying into the midterm elections. For the first time in years, the House chamber was rocking as Democrats suddenly found their voice on the new energy bill. Which policy would you like to carry into the next election: a comprehensive Manhattan program to wean America from foreign oil or tax credits for future exploration when oil prices and oil company profits are the highest ever recorded? Even if there are signs of an eventual wind-down in Iraq, Republicans can expect to hear ad nauseum about useless bridges in Alaska and tens of billions of highway bill pork.

But the Presidency is where Republicans will be judged first and Americans are seeing signs of an administration that has a tin ear. Part of the problem is second termitus: every single second term of the modern era has been fraught with problems and scandal. There are many reasons for this but it one thing is certain: Tthere has not been a successful second term in fifty years. If the Bush administration desires to break this pattern; they had better get down to business right away. For those Republicans who believe that Hillary Clinton is running in 2008, remember the first issue of her anticipated presidential run will be this administration's performance.

Katrina disaster clean up and repair is now well underway; the one thing we did not see in the New Orleans disaster was unity and leadership. Katrina was a watershed event of the Bush administration, pun intended. The Meirs nomination is already off to an inauspicious start, the second there is a problem or any sign of weakness, the wolves of politics and the press will descend to finish her off in a frenzy that will make the final reel of Jaws look like a pacifist's march.

It is their job of the White House staff to keep the president abreast of what is going on in the political and real worlds. This used to be part of Condi Rice's job; with her no longer there, the President is not getting the information he needs. It is also their job to protect the president's image and see that his in the right places at the right times. Rather than do a complete second term house cleaning, as most administrations do, something that is healthy and prevents the very ossification we are now seeing in 2005, the President has allowed himself to be walled up in the oval office and he is not seeing the problems ahead or hearing accurately what is going on around him.

The first duty to the nation is to have an effective administration; the time to reorganize for the remaining 3.3 years is right now.

Reagan brought in Howard Baker to get things back on track after Iran Contra. Clinton brought in Leon Panetta when it was clear that adult supervision was required.

The president will want someone of stature who knows how DC operates, the short list: Dick Armey, Zell Miller (best choice), Jack Welch, Warren Rudman, Fred Thomson or Alan Simpson all would be solid choices.

Mr. President, Andrew Card is not going to tell you to reorganize the White House and bring in a new Chief of Staff, you have to do it.

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