The Leaders We Have

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That's the title of George Will's column in the Washington Post. Primarily, it is about the Bob Woodward book that is causing such a political ruckus at the moment. But Will nails something here:

Some will regard "State of Denial" as Katrina between hard covers, a snapshot of dysfunctional government. But it is largely just a glimpse of government , disheartening as that fact may be to those who regard government as a glistening scalpel for administering social transformation.

Once, when President William Howard Taft was listening to an aide talk about "the machinery of government," Taft murmured, "The young man really thinks it's a machine." Actually, government is people, and not a random slice of the population. Those at government's pinnacle generally are strong-willed, ambitious, competitive, opinionated and have agendas about which they care deeply. That is why they are there. And why almost any administration, carefully scrutinized, looks much like a teaspoon of pond water viewed under a microscope — a teeming, disorderly maelstrom of sometimes rival life forms. That is especially true of an administration staffed with such canny Washington survivors as Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Colin Powell. A government of rookies or shrinking violets would be more harmonious. So, how much of a virtue is harmony?

"State of Denial" will take a toll on government collegiality and the candor of its deliberations. It is based on astonishing indiscretions — current and past officials making private memos and conversations public for motives that cannot be pure.

The book is hardly a revelation about supposed hidden chaos in Washington that produced the obvious chaos in Iraq. It does demonstrate that President Bush and others were shockingly slow to recognize Iraq's complexities and downward spiral. But we already knew that.

The book does not demonstrate that the president is in a state of denial. His almost exclusive and increasingly grating reliance on the rhetoric of unwavering resolve may be mistaken. It certainly has undermined his reputation as a realist. But he believes a president must be "the calcium in the backbone" of the nation, so the resolute face that he thinks he must show the nation does not preclude private anguish.

I mentioned earlier today the commenters who thought that a Democratic victory in November would bring everyone a pony. That is the naive level some operate at in this country when it comes to politics. Even though I thought Clinton should have resigned when it came out that he had flat-out lied about "Ms. Lewinsky" to the people of the US, then later under oath, I thought the Republican controlled House was out of its collective mind to impeach him. Because unlike the pony crowd, I know that "impeach" doesn't mean "remove".

In Will's opinion, Woodward's book is not so much about Bush as it is about – and against – Rumsfeld. I'll never read the book, quite frankly, so I'll take the word of people like Will. But if the book is ultimately really about the way Washington malfunctions, I am not at all surprised.

There won't be any ponies, no matter who wins.

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One Response to The Leaders We Have

  1. syn says:

    What Washington beltway and Pentagon fail to understand is that Rumsfeld’s actions now are not just about satisifying our military needs today. With the looming overpopulation of aging babyboomers weened on fifty years of entitlement mentality and an underpopulation of youth who will pay dearly for the babyboomer’s lifelong free party, Rumsfeld is quick to understand the future state of our military.

    Washington beltway is a state of denial. When city and federal governments go bankrupt due to the inability to fund public employee pension payouts Washington will kick the pony for not having prepared for the future.

    The road to serfdom is paved by socialism.

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