Posted by: mutantpoodle | September 3, 2007

George Bush: The Golden Years

bush_katrina_guitarThose of us who have been laboring under the impression that George Bush doesn’t think ahead, yesterday’s New York Times puts that thought to bed.

Geroge Bush is looking forward to his retirement.

“I’ll give some speeches, just to replenish the ol’ coffers.” With assets that have been estimated as high as nearly $21 million, Mr. Bush added, “I don’t know what my dad gets — it’s more than 50-75” thousand dollars a speech, and “Clinton’s making a lot of money.”

I’d have thought that after giving himself a massive tax cut, his coffers would be more than full. but there is the small matter of Jenna’s wedding…so maybe it’s not a bad idea to think ahead.

More importantly, he’ll be carrying on his mission of spreading democracy around the world, because that’s been working so well for him:

“We’ll have a nice place in Dallas,” where he will be running what he called “a fantastic Freedom Institute” promoting democracy around the world. But he added, “I can just envision getting in the car, getting bored, going down to the ranch.”

Because that freedom thing – it’s hard work. And, apparently, boring.

But seriously – have four sentences ever been so completely revealing?

First, the crack about the money – after suffering on $400,000 a year plus food and lodging as President, he’ll have to make do with a pension in 2009 that will be north of $183,000 (plus office expenses). No wonder he’ll need to book speeches to the Federation of Wingnut Kool-Aid Drinkers. I’m sure Fed Barnes, Sean Hannity, Charles Krauthammer, and Jonah Goldberg will be front row every time.

Second, not to get all psychoanalytic or anything, but I’m guessing he’ll be like Bill Russell was with Wilt Chamberlain: He’ll charge whatever George H.W. Bush charges for a speech, plus $1. Or $10,000. (Do you believe he doesn’t know exactly what Poppy Bush gets?)

Not that he has daddy issues or anything.

Third, the idealistic dream of a Freedom Institute – pardon me, that’s a “fantastic” Freedom Institute – is undercut a bit by the thought that he’s sure he’ll get bored and drive on down to the ranch.

I hope W hires good help to run this place, because otherwise it will be going down the tubes in a hurry.

Kevin Drum’s reaction to these quotes was succinct: “This guy is president of the United States? Seriously?”

Sadly, yes.

But back to W’s golden years. In a larger sense, what ex-President niche do you see Bush filling?

Jimmy Carter became heavily involved in issues of peace and justice, volunteers frequently for Habitat for Humanity, and runs the Carter Center, which focuses on human rights issues.

Gerald Ford served on numerous corporate boards, opened the Ford Presidential Library and Museum, and played a lot of golf.

Ronald Reagan, suffering from Alzheimer’s, got his library opened but wasn’t much in public, especially in the later years.

Poppy Bush has his library, and the speeches whose fees his son claims not to know. But he keeps pretty quiet, although we did find out about a month ago how hard it is that many people who like him are less taken with his son [warning – Times Select]. According to one adviser, it “wears on his heart and his soul.”

Bill Clinton is writing books and working, through the Clinton Foundation and his infamous social network to address significant problems of the day: HIV/AIDS, healthy eating, climate change…as when he was in office, refusing to be limited to one policy area.

And, of course, many, many speeches, plus a potential campaign for first spouse.

In a way, the Freedom Institute makes sense for George Bush (the younger) – he’s hung his presidency on it (in more ways than one) so he might as well stay with it, and hope he can shape his legacy after he’s gone.

But his core problems as leader will never go away.

Back to Kevin Drum, in what I think is the defining dissection of the Bush presidency:

Bush styles himself a “CEO president,” but the world is full to bursting with CEOs who have goals they would dearly love to attain but who lack either the skill or the fortitude to make them happen. They assign tasks to subordinates without making sure the subordinates are capable of doing them — but then consider the job done anyway because they’ve “delegated” it. They insist they want a realistic plan, but they’re unwilling to do the hard work of creating one — all those market research reports are just a bunch of ivory tower nonsense anyway. They work hard — but only on subjects in their comfort zone. If they like dealing with people they can’t bring themselves to read all those tedious analyst’s reports, and if they like numbers they can’t bring themselves to spend time chattering with distributors about their latest prospect.

And most important of all, weak CEOs are unwilling to recognize bad news and perform unpleasant tasks to fix it — tasks like like confronting poorly performing subordinates or firing people. Good CEOs suck in their guts and do it anyway.

George Bush is, fundamentally, a mediocre CEO, the kind of insulated leader who’s convinced that his instincts are all he needs. Unfortunately, like many failed CEOs before him, he’s about to learn that being sure you’re right isn’t the same thing as actually being right.

So sure: George Bush is genuinely committed to winning in Iraq. He just doesn’t know how to do it and doesn’t have the skills, experience, or personality to look beyond his own instincts in order to figure it out. America is about to pay a heavy price for that.

That was over three years ago, and it remains true today.

Sometimes failed Presidents (especially one-termers) become exceptional ex-Presidents (c.f. Carter); but I don’t see that with this Bush. Unwilling to confront the reasons he’s failing (or even acknowledge that he is), he will forever be stuck spouting the same simple-minded justifications for everything he’s done badly. Or blame God.

At least he won’t be appointing judges.

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