Bush styles himself a "CEO president," but the world is full to bursting with CEOs who have goals they would dearly love to attain but who lack either the skill or the fortitude to make them happen. They assign tasks to subordinates without making sure the subordinates are capable of doing them â€” but then consider the job done anyway because they've "delegated" it. They insist they want a realistic plan, but they're unwilling to do the hard work of creating one â€” all those market research reports are just a bunch of ivory tower nonsense anyway. They work hard â€” but only on subjects in their comfort zone. If they like dealing with people they can't bring themselves to read all those tedious analyst's reports, and if they like numbers they can't bring themselves to spend time chattering with distributors about their latest prospect.
And most important of all, weak CEOs are unwilling to recognize bad news and perform unpleasant tasks to fix it â€” tasks like like confronting poorly performing subordinates or firing people. Good CEOs suck in their guts and do it anyway.
George Bush is, fundamentally, a mediocre CEO, the kind of insulated leader who's convinced that his instincts are all he needs. Unfortunately, like many failed CEOs before him, he's about to learn that being sure you're right isn't the same thing as actually being right.
So sure: George Bush is genuinely committed to winning in Iraq. He just doesn't know how to do it and doesn't have the skills, experience, or personality to look beyond his own instincts in order to figure it out. America is about to pay a heavy price for that.
Either the president knows the situation [in Iraq] is [as bleak as can be] or he (and perhaps his advisors too) is just too out of touch to have any idea what's happening. Increasingly, I think that the president is just too small-minded and vainglorious a man to come to grips with the situation.
A strong president, a good president, would put his country before his pride and throw himself into saving the situation even if it meant admitting previous mistakes and ditching past policies and advisors. But I don't think this president has the character to do that.
Making a clean sweep, firing some of his most compromised advisors, admitting some past mistakes -- not for effect, but so that those mistakes could be more thoroughly and rapidly overcome -- might well doom the president politically. But I doubt there's any question they'd be in the best interests of the country.
This president seems either disinclined to or unable to do more than preside over a drift into disaster while putting on a game face.
Update: An article in the LA Times takes a look at what the recent insider books tell us about Bush:
President Bush styles himself as the first CEO president, applying the rigor and authority of his MBA education to the job of chief executive of the nation.
But that's not the picture that emerges from three recent insider accounts of the workings of the Bush administration, experts in decision-making and presidential management say. On the contrary, they say, the president appears to have a highly personal working style, with little emphasis on systematic analysis of major decisions.
"There seems to be almost an absence of any analytical or deliberative process for mapping the problem or exploring alternatives or estimating consequences," said Graham Allison, a professor of government at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
And Bush appears to give greater weight to his own instincts than to experts or other sources of advice and information. The president has a "bias for action," said Roderick M. Kramer, a professor of organizational behavior at Stanford's Graduate School of Business. "I've been struck by [how] Bush's sense of personal identity as a leader shapes his decisions," he said.
For the last three years, experts on the presidency have largely withheld judgment about how the Bush White House â€” considered the most secretive since Richard Nixon's â€” makes major decisions. The experts thought they had inadequate information to reach general conclusions.
That has changed. Scholars of management and government have begun to pore through this spring's crop of insider books and draw preliminary assessments of how Bush operates as president. And their main conclusion is that he makes decisions primarily on instinct, not analysis.
Greenstein said that one striking thing about all three books was what they don't show. There are few examples, for instance, of Bush presiding over meetings in which subordinates presented problems, weighed evidence and aired differing views.
"I think a lot of policy is made on the fly," he said. "It isn't a process in which people assemble and go back and forth in a rigorous way."
Another thing largely missing from the books was any indication that documents or memos weighing policy alternatives are circulated and discussed. Harvard's Allison said one of the few documents the administration did prepare in advance of the Iraq war â€” the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate that concluded that Iraq probably had weapons of mass destruction â€” was quickly compiled and not very well done.
"The more it's examined, it seems quite sloppy," he said. "At this point, if there had been some good analysis of the issues on paper, we would have seen some evidence of it.
"The contrast with the textbook conception of informed decision making is distressing," he said.
Without a framework for analysis, many important policy discussions appeared to have been disorganized at best, the management specialists say.
Stanford's Kramer said though Bush showed little interest in the kind of number-crunching analysis taught in business school, his style of management does conform to the popular image of chief executives as forceful and "decisive." "There seems to be a lot of value attached to showing resolve and demonstrating resolve," he said.
But Jay Lorsch, a professor at Harvard Business School and author of "Decision Making at the Top," said the decision-making techniques taught at that school â€” from which Bush received an MBA â€” focus on understanding the nature of decisions, not simplifying them.
"What we teach around here is that you've got to understand the complexity of the territory you're trying to affect," he said. "You don't make a decision until you've surveyed all the possible ramifications. The binary idea that you're either right or wrong is just foolishness."
Another critical part of MBA-style analysis is understanding and compensating for your own assumptions, Lorsch said.
Decision makers who are inadequately aware of their assumptions leave themselves vulnerable to two errors: First, subordinates learn to tell them what they want to hear. Second, they are less rigorous in processing data and gauging its validity.
Martha Joynt Kumar of the University of Maryland said the books also depicted Bush as being largely unconcerned with the quality of information he received.
"He doesn't like long meetings. He likes truncated meetings. That means you're not going to have the kinds of sessions â€¦ that are going to bring in lots of different kinds of information," Kumar said.
Greenstein said that when weighing an important decision such as whether to go to war, specialists in the presidency generally think it is better for presidents to hold meetings in which dissenting views are heard and weighed. That way, the president is seen as considering all the angles.
"It is generally seen as less desirable to see your advisors individually" as Bush appears to have done before deciding to wage war on Saddam Hussein, Greenstein said. "That will raise the question of, does the person who talks to the president last have undue influence? And it also gives influence to those who are better at bureaucratic turf battles."
In practice, Bush appears closest to the style of Reagan, said Bert A. Rockman, director of the School of Public Policy and Management at Ohio State University.
"The decisiveness part is certainly there," he said. "The imperviousness to facts and analysis is also there. So what we have is someone who is going on raw instinct."
A corollary, Rockman said, is that though Bush likes making decisions, his organizational style is not very good at implementation or follow-up.
Richard K. Betts, director of the Institute of War and Peace Studies at Columbia University, said that though Bush's style was similar to Reagan's, he seemed to rely on a narrower circle of advisors.
"Bush appears to rest his confidence in a few people whose judgment corresponds to his gut instincts" he said. "He seems to be obsessive about being decisive, but willing to make hard and fast decisions on the basis of ideology more than evidence."
hostile to science
lacking in empathy
lacking in public spirit
out of control
Thanks to: Breeze, Chuck, Ivan Raikov, Kaiju, Kathy, Roger, Shirley, S.M. Dixon
i've got a little list...
Steven Abrams (Kansas BofE)
Howard Fieldstead Ahmanson
Roger Ailes (FNC)
Alan Bonsell (Dover BofE)
Bill Buckingham (Dover BofE)
George W. Bush
Bruce Chapman (DI)
The Coors Family
William A. Dembski
Leonard Downie (WaPo)
John Gibson (FNC)
Fred Hiatt (WaPo)
James F. Inhofe
Philip E. Johnson
by Joel Pelletier
(click on image for more info)
Stephen C. Meyer (DI)
Judith Miller (ex-NYT)
Sun Myung Moon
Elspeth Reeve (TNR)
Martin Peretz (TNR)
Richard Mellon Scaife
Susan Schmidt (WaPo)
John Solomon (WaPo)
Richard Thompson (TMLC)
Bob Woodward (WaPo)
All the fine sites I've
Be sure to visit them all!!
Arthur C. Clarke
Daniel C. Dennett
Philip K. Dick
Stephen Jay Gould
"The Harder They Come"
Ursula K. LeGuin
The Marx Brothers
Michael C. Penta
Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
"The Red Shoes"
"Singin' in the Rain"
Talking Heads/David Byrne
Hunter S. Thompson
"2001: A Space Odyssey"
If you read unfutz at least once a week, without fail, your teeth will be whiter and your love life more satisfying.
If you read it daily, I will come to your house, kiss you on the forehead, bathe your feet, and cook pancakes for you, with yummy syrup and everything.
(You might want to keep a watch on me, though, just to avoid the syrup ending up on your feet and the pancakes on your forehead.)
Finally, on a more mundane level, since I don't believe that anyone actually reads this stuff, I make this offer: I'll give five bucks to the first person who contacts me and asks for it -- and, believe me, right now five bucks might as well be five hundred, so this is no trivial offer.