ALL OF BUSH’S IDEAS ARE NECESSARILY GREAT…. The president’s odd combination of ignorance and arrogance has always been fascinating. Newsweek reported a few years ago, “It’s a standing joke among the president’s top aides: who gets to deliver the bad news? Warm and hearty in public, Bush can be cold and snappish in private, and aides sometimes cringe before the displeasure of the president of the United States…. Bush can be petulant about dissent; he equates disagreement with disloyalty.”
Similarly, there was a Time interview with a “youngish” White House aide, described as a Bush favorite, who said, “The first time I told him he was wrong, he started yelling at me. Then I showed him where he was wrong, and he said, ‘All right. I understand. Good job.’ He patted me on the shoulder. I went and had dry heaves in the bathroom.”
With this in mind, the latest report from Ron Suskind didn’t come as too big a surprise.
One morning in 2001, one of President Bush’s most senior economic advisors walked into the Oval Office for a meeting with the president. The day before, the advisor had learned that the president had decided to send out tax-rebate checks to stimulate the faltering economy. Concerned about deficits and the dubious stimulatory effect of such rebates, he had called the president’s chief of staff, Andy Card, to ask for the audience, and the meeting had been set.
As the man took his seat in the wing chair next to the president’s desk, he began to explain his problem with the president’s decision. The fact of the matter was that in this area of policy, this advisor was one of the experts, really top-drawer, and had been instrumental in devising some of the very language now used to discuss these concepts. He was convinced, he told Bush, that the president’s position would soon enough be seen as “bad policy.”
This, it seems, was the wrong thing to say to the president.
According to senior administration officials who learned of the encounter soon after it happened, President Bush looked at the man. “I don’t ever want to hear you use those words in my presence again,” he said.
“What words, Mr. President?”
“Bad policy,” President Bush said. “If I decide to do it, by definition it’s good policy. I thought you got that.”
The advisor was dismissed. The meeting was over.
Shortly after leaving his job as the president’s press secretary, the late Tony Snow defended the decision-making process in the Bush White House and said, “When people look back at this White House, they’re gonna find its one that had a lot of intellectual vigor.”
I doubt that very much.