Wednesday, November 15, 2006
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Will Bush 43 become like Bush 41?
The purported dichotomy between 41 people (good!) and 43 people (bad!) is dramatically overstated.... Paul Wolfowitz was on the Bush 41 team. So was Condoleezza Rice. And, of course, so was Colin Powell. Don Rumsfeld, meanwhile, wasn't. The reality is that presidents almost always -- especially in the first terms of their administrations -- appoint reasonably diverse groups of people to national security positions. They proceed to disagree with each other. The President of the United States then decides what he wants to do. Bush 41 had some real nutters working for him who pushed some nutty ideas inside his administration. Bush 43 had some reasonably sensible people working for him who pushed some reasonably sensible ideas inside his administration. The difference wasn't in the advisors, it was in the presidents. More often than not, Bush 41 made reasonable choices while Bush 43 made bad ones.This is a fair point, but it does not necessarily mean that the Gates/Rumsfeld switch doesn't matter. The key question is whether Bush 43 has learned from his decision-making failures. One could argue, in fact, that the Gates/Rumsfeld switch is evidence suggesting that he has decided to switch tack.
Or, it could be a PR stunt.
As I said when debating Matt, I'm not sure which it is. I assume my readers will have fewer doubts one way or the other.posted by Dan on 11.15.06 at 06:59 PM
"The key question is whether Bush 43 has learned from his decision-making failures. One could argue, in fact, that the Gates/Rumsfeld switch is evidence suggesting that he has decided to switch tack."
Wouldn't the collected evidence from the past six years suggest that Bush learning from his failures and switching tack in response is...what's the word I'm looking for...well, incredibly unlikely? In what percentage of cases of failure has this actually happened, to our knowledge? I'd wager to say it's well below any reasonable number. So let's not pretend these two possibilities are equally likely.posted by: Terp on 11.15.06 at 06:59 PM [permalink]
Of course Gates replacing Rumsfeld will matter. We just don't know how it will matter.
That's partly because we don't know how Gates, who has never run an organization even close to the size of the Defense Department, will function at the Pentagon, who he will bring with him, and how many of Rumsfeld's people (in and out of uniform) will still be there in three to six months. It's also because Rumsfeld expanded the Pentagon's already long reach into such areas as foreign affairs and intelligence; we don't know how much of that turf Gates will want to give up, and we don't know whether other department heads will be able to take over the turf he does surrender. Finally, there is no guarantee that this administration's well-known proclivity for slipping into protracted internal stalemates over policy directions and even personnel will not inhibit Gates from taking a larger role as Secretary of Defense than that of caretaker.
I'm not making a prediction. Gates is a smart and observant guy; if I were him I wouldn't have taken the job without getting explicit assurances from the President about the things I felt were important with respect to personnel and policy. I also wouldn't hesitate to threaten resignation upon getting too much interference from the Vice President's office. I don't know enough about Gates to say whether I think he's going into this corner with his elbows up. If he is, he may be able to accomplish some things; otherwise he's in for the most frustrating two years of his life, and to the rest of us it will seem that the Pentagon is just, as the saying goes, moving sideways.posted by: Zathras on 11.15.06 at 06:59 PM [permalink]
By the way, Dan, what does it mean to "switch tack"? Is that one of the peculiar Boston expressions you're starting to pick up at Fletcher?posted by: Zathras on 11.15.06 at 06:59 PM [permalink]
It's nautical, very "when I was sailing my forty-footer off Cape Cod..." Truly, an abomination born of the menage-a-trois of Bermuda shorts, polo shirts and topsiders.posted by: Adrian on 11.15.06 at 06:59 PM [permalink]
And wind chill, if that is what Dan is wearing at this time of year.posted by: Zathras on 11.15.06 at 06:59 PM [permalink]
wrong. It's quite clear given how things have played out that if the election had gone the other way Rumsfeld would still be master of his domain - so Gates hire is just... well, it's not what it's supposed to appear to be.
I imagine Bush gleaning wisdom from mistakes made will leave stage looking much like it does at the end of Hamlet - another tragedy involving 'decision making failures' and hard lessons learned.posted by: saintsimon on 11.15.06 at 06:59 PM [permalink]
> Gates is a smart and observant guy; if I
Well, my parsing of the scant available news is that Gates didn't even know about his appointment until after it was announced, so I personally would doubt he put any conditions on it.
In any case, I seem to remember a lot of discussion on the various economics blogs (conservative and less-conservative) about the new guy at the Treasury, um, Bill something?, Fred? Alice? can't remember his name now. Anyway, about how grown-up and connected he was and how he as going to dictate economic policy to the White House and get W back in line, fiscally speaking. How's that project going?
Crankyposted by: Cranky Observer on 11.15.06 at 06:59 PM [permalink]
Nothing like the presidency of Bush 43 to rehabilitate the image of Bush 41, I guess.posted by: mobile on 11.15.06 at 06:59 PM [permalink]
AND let's not forget Dick Cheney was in 41, too :)posted by: WaltzFan on 11.15.06 at 06:59 PM [permalink]
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