Where seldom is heard a discouraging word
And the skies remain cloudy all day...
--Traditional, "Home on the Range"
I haven't been insulated, but I have been missing in action for days from the blog due to a triple whammy of a herniated disc in my shoulder and a lingering stomach virus and a persistent coughing computer that needed medical attention. The computer now feels better. Hopefully, I'm in the "last throes" of my ailment(s).
But we all know somebody who lives a life of xtreme insulation -- and I'm not talking about asbestos behind the ceiling tiles. No books or reality TV for this guy. Just soma-fueled Hallmark Briefings.
From Newsweek -- "Bush in the Bubble" by Evan Thomas and Richard Wolffe:
What Bush actually hears and takes in, however, is not clear. And whether his advisers are quite as frank as they claim to be with the president is also questionable. Take Social Security, for example. One House Republican, who asked not to be identified for fear of offending the White House, recalls a summertime meeting with congressmen in the Roosevelt Room at which Bush enthusiastically talked up his Social Security reform plan. But the plan was already dead -- as everyone except the president had acknowledged. Bush seemed to have no idea. "I got the sense that his staff was not telling him the bad news," says the lawmaker. "This was not a case of him thinking positive. He just didn't have any idea of the political realities there. It was like he wasn't briefed at all." (Bush was not clueless, says an aide, but pushing his historic mission.)
In subtle ways, Bush does not encourage truth-telling or at least a full exploration of all that could go wrong. A former senior member of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad occasionally observed Bush on videoconferences with his top advisers. "The president would ask the generals, 'Do you have what you need to complete the mission?' as opposed to saying, 'Tell me, General, what do you need to win?' which would have opened up a whole new set of conversations," says this official, who did not want to be identified discussing high-level meetings. The official says that the way Bush phrased his questions, as well as his obvious lack of interest in long, detailed discussions, had a chilling effect. "It just prevented the discussion from heading in a direction that would open up a possibility that we need more troops," says the official.
Bush generally prefers short conversations -- long on conclusion, short on reasoning. He likes popular history and presidential biography (Theodore Roosevelt, George Washington), but by all accounts, he is not intellectually curious. Occasional outsiders brought into the Bush Bubble have observed that faith, not evidence, is the basis for decision making. Psychobabblers have long had a field day with the fact that Bush quit drinking cold turkey and turned around his life by accepting God. His close friends agree that Bush likes comfort and serenity; he does not like dissonance. He has long been mothered by strong women, including his mother and wife. A foreign diplomat who declined to be identified was startled when Secretary of State Rice warned him not to lay bad news on the president. "Don't upset him," she said.
Don't upset him with facts and unscreened questions from non-handpicked audiences.
[Cartoon by Jeff Danziger]
All of this buzz that Bush is going to "shake up" his team ignores the insulation and cronyism that are staples of Bush's modus operandi. A man who prefers pre-screened audiences and paid off journalists isn't about to go into a "team of rivals" mode as Doris Kearns Goodwin writes of Lincoln. Even Reagan, whom Bush says he admires, understood compromise and turned to moderate Howard Baker as his chief of staff. Can you imagine Bush doing a random shuffle and appointing his father's chief of staff, Brent Scowcroft, to a position in the administration? Or, better yet, admitting that Iraq isn't going as well as expected and asking Richard Clarke to come back on board?
Not a chance. He'd rather clear the brush out of his shorts. Andy Card may be dealing himself a new hand, but you'll not hear a discouraging word from any BushCo droid. The insulation's been blown thick, and the toady-like are too busy nodding and applauding and generally doing a heckuva job.
Now here's a Bush bubble I can enjoy.