It has been obvious for some time that President Bush relies totally on a trusted few advisers, and everyone else is pretty much occupying space. And he doesn't even treat the few trusted ones with much respect. In his book "The Price of Loyalty," journalist Ron Suskind recounts how Bush once ordered White House Chief of Staff Andy Card, a former Cabinet secretary, to run out and get him a couple of cheeseburgers. "He all but raced out of the room," Suskind reports.
Now, Bush is paying the price. As people leave his administration, some are starting to open up about its utter dysfunction and the problems it created. For example, Andrew Natsios, former director of the Agency for International Development, recently told Newsweek magazine that his agency's efforts to help rebuild Iraq were totally undermined by a lack of planning and competence at the Coalition Provisional Authority, which handled the occupation of Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein's government.
Michael Brown, the ousted head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, was blamed by the White House for all the mistakes following Hurricane Katrina. But he is starting to make a persuasive case that those well above his pay grade -- including Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff and even President Bush -- share a lot of that blame.
Not surprisingly, The New York Times reports that the White House is having great difficulty finding a new FEMA chief. It seems that everyone qualified to do the job has turned it down. Oddly, the prospect of a job where one would have to take full responsibility for everything that goes wrong but have little power to actually run the agency seems unattractive to them.
Unlike FEMA, the Treasury still has some cachet -- it's cool to know that you are sitting in Alexander Hamilton's chair. So the White House will eventually find someone with a name to do that job. But I wouldn't recommend it to anyone.
Bruce Bartlett is a former senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis of Dallas, Texas. Bartlett is a prolific author, having published over 900 articles in national publications, and prominent magazines and published four books, including Reaganomics: Supply-Side Economics in Action.
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