The SanityPrompt

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Monday, September 12, 2005

LBJ Redux

Dan Froomkin of the WaPo does a run down of post- Katrina coverage and the sudden willingness of the press to reveal a different side of George Bush. Where he used to be portrayed as jovial and decisive -- they are now showing a different side of him.

How Bush Blew It - Newsweek Hurricane Katrina Coverage - Newsweek & MSNBC.com by Evan Thomas

By Evan Thomas
Newsweek
Sept. 19, 2005 issue - 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
....

President Bush knew the storm and its consequences had been bad; but he didn't quite realize how bad.

The reality, say several aides who did not wish to be quoted because it might displease the president, did not really sink in until Thursday night. Some White House staffers were watching the evening news and thought the president needed to see the horrific reports coming out of New Orleans.


Froomkin summarizes Mike Allen of Time thusly:

Mike Allen writes in Time: "Longtime Bush watchers say they are not shocked that he missed his moment -- one of his most trusted confidants calls him 'a better third- and fourth-quarter player,' who focuses and delivers when he sees the stakes. What surprised them was that he still appeared to be stutter-stepping in the second week of the crisis, struggling to make up for past lapses instead of taking control with a grand gesture. Just as Katrina exposed the lurking problems of race and poverty, it also revealed the limitations of Bush's rigid, top-down approach to the presidency. . . .

"Bush's bubble has grown more hermetic in the second term, they say, with fewer people willing or able to bring him bad news -- or tell him when he's wrong. Bush has never been adroit about this. A youngish aide who is a Bush favorite described the perils of correcting the boss. 'The first time I told him he was wrong, he started yelling at me,' the aide recalled about a session during the first term. '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.' . . .

"The result is a kind of echo chamber in which good news can prevail over bad -- even when there is a surfeit of evidence to the contrary. For example, a source tells Time that four days after Katrina struck, Bush himself briefed his father and former President Clinton in a way that left too rosy an impression of the progress made. 'It bore no resemblance to what was actually happening,' said someone familiar with the presentation."

Allen has an exclusive look at the administration's "three-part comeback plan."

Part one: "Spend freely, and worry about the tab and the consequences later."

Part two: "Don't look back."

Part three: "Develop a new set of goals to announce after Katrina fades. Advisers are proceeding with plans to gin up base-conservative voters for next year's congressional midterm elections with a platform that probably will be focused around tax reform."


Live in hermetically selaed bubble. Make policy fit for hermetically sealed bubble.

The history of Vietnam repeatedly makes mention of this trait as characteristic of Johnson during the Vietnam War. Former Sec of Defense Bob McNamara recounts as much in the documentary The Fog of War. Now we confirm what liberal bloggers have long speculated. This administration is run in pretty much the same way. With pretty much the same tragic consequences.

So what's the upshot of all this? Let's go back to Froomkin for some insight as he rounds up the coverage:

Yochi J. Dreazen writes in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required): "The Bush administration is importing many of the contracting practices blamed for spending abuses in Iraq as it begins the largest and costliest rebuilding effort in U.S. history.

"The first large-scale contracts related to Hurricane Katrina, as in Iraq, were awarded without competitive bidding, and using so-called cost-plus provisions that guarantee contractors a certain profit regardless of how much they spend."


&

Reuters reports: "Companies with ties to the Bush White House and the former head of FEMA are clinching some of the administration's first disaster relief and reconstruction contracts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

"At least two major corporate clients of lobbyist Joe Allbaugh, President George W. Bush's former campaign manager and a former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, have already been tapped to start recovery work along the battered Gulf Coast."


No snarky commentary necessary.






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