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February 12, 2006

Comments

There is so much blame to go around with Katrina. I really think this one was a combination of sheer incompetence at the top (Chertoff as much as Brown) and the effects of focusing exclusively on terrorism (and then doing it badly) for 4 years. Add to that Bush's reluctance to hear bad news and the top-down control that leaves people unable to operate with any initiative. Steve Clemons has a story about military offers to help that went nowhere.

Ithink one way to dent Bush on national security is to show how he can't provide it; it is just a myth, and I think more people see it now.

Worst Article Ever

Kingdaddy on QDR Spin

A quote:"In Henry's world, No plan for the occupation translates into a highly adaptable and dynamic plan."

Greenspan is a Fox

Mark Thoma on Greenspan

A quote:"He spoke in opaque prose and avoided precision because he thought the constantly shifting structure of the economy made certainty and precision impossible."

I am not yet able to articulate my intuitive connection between the philosophy described in these articles and Iraq and Katrina but I do believe we are not seeing incompetence but a management style that intentionally weakens and makes less responsible the middle layers of an organization. That "breaks" the chain of command so footsoldiers have their most direct loyalty to the guy at the top. So the guy at the top has all the real power but can evade responsibility.

There are no rules, no organization, no heirarchy, no procedures. Just brilliant charismatic leaders and the loyal stalwart grassroots. I think some brilliant people been studying political theorey and are putting it into practice.

You ecer seen O'Neill's or DuIulio's description of the WH and Bush style. No patience for policy and long dicussions, overcritical sharp and nasty with subordinates, slow to make decisions or provide guidelines. Always blaming others for failures.

So somebody like Christy Whitman knows she can't make policy or decisions, is always scared and unsure, always watching her subordinates to ensure they don't screw her up with the boss, and knows her only certainty and chance of survival is loyalty to the big guy.

There is no incompetence. There is a method.

There are no rules, no organization, no heirarchy, no procedures. Just brilliant charismatic leaders and the loyal stalwart grassroots.

I think you're right, in large part because I've seen this "management style" at work in the private sector. In some organizations, top executives feel threatened by competent middle managers, so they emasculate this layer through a variety of techniques (appointing sycophants, underfunding projects, bypassing them when the opportunity arises, etc.). In American business culture, these executives are often "screamers," whose outbursts are designed to keep middle managers off-balance and rank and file employees terrified.

It's also a common "management style" of political dictators. Create overlapping responsibilities among different subordinates, rotate your selection of your current favorite among them, reward slavish loyalty over necessary competence...You're right, it has been done in politics already many times.

Bingo once again, DemFromCT -- only I think the emPHASis is on the wrong sylLABle. As so many (you and mimikatz, and me, included) have noted in the past, the incompetence is the inevitable byproduct of the ideology. (As you say: "When faced with any choice of private vs public reponse they preferred private...") Or as bob mcmanus put it: "There is no incompetence. There is a method." And that "management style" fits their "governing" philosophy perfectly, completely consistent with the Heritage-prescribed gutting of the civil service by replacing career professionals with loyal true-believers. Because they know what they want to accomplish, and it has literally nothing to do with governing in the public interest. They create a Potemkin government because they don’t believe in government.

I’m waiting for signs that some Democrat with a megaphone has finally gotten this. Our opportunity (and our obligation, it seems to me) isn’t just to run on "competence" or "clean government" but to make clear that all the corruption, cronyism and incompetence is the inescapable product of the philosophy of modern conservatism. And it’s not a complicated story to tell, what with Exhibits A (Katrina – sheesh, Allbaugh called FEMA an entitlement program!), B (Iraq – thanks, 60 Minutes, for finally starting to tell the real reconstruction story), and C (the prescription drug plan, maybe the most politically effective). Any given politician can be incompetent, or corrupt, but when you have a governing philosophy that rejects the very legitimacy of government, the consequences will obviously be orders of magnitude greater. The fact is that these folks can’t govern, but it’s not because they can’t shoot straight (the latest headlines aside) -- they’re just aiming at a whole different target.

If the Dems can finally zero in on this, it gives them everything (well, close): a line of attack that can finally kill this pernicious movement, and an easy-to-invoke foil by which they can define themselves. (And yes, against Bush’s Potemkin security edifice as well.) When "government bad" types get control of the government, this is the type of government you get.

"When "government bad" types get control of the government"

We have little evidence of this general attitude toward government in the Bush administration. Some programs have been cut, but in general government has gotten considerably larger and more expensive. They consider, obviously, some aspects of government bad and other uses quite good.

The cronyism, corruption, and incompetence are benefits. The purpose is control.

(If anybody’s still checking in here…) I agree completely that what drives these guys – certainly the guys at the top – is power. But I disagree that the dollars spent on certain aspects of the government apparatus equates to approval of those aspects of government, at least as most people understand it. The massive expenditure involved in the prescription-drug plan, for instance, doesn’t change the fact that it’s a Rube Goldberg invention designed for the benefit of the drug companies rather than the people (indeed, Medicare itself is virtually cut out of the mechanism altogether). And that’s where the corruption and incompetence are shown to be the direct result of contempt for government – ie, contempt for the idea of government as a direct instrument of the public good. The contrast between the modern conservative movement and the descendants of FDR couldn’t be clearer.

I think there’s also a connection between the authoritarian impulse and the “government bad” impulse, though I’m still working through that. It all may come down to something like a perverse glorification of the individual, oneself and/or the object of one’s fealty. But the fundies certainly reflect at least the overlapping circles here -- and to reiterate my point of disagreement with you, their love of the faith-based money for their private use is not at all the same as respect for the purposes and uses of government as Americans have understood it for the better part of a century.

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