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10/6/04 12:21 PM
Copyright 2004 David C. Loebig

Random Digressions

Assessing Bush’s Executive Skills
An Assessment of Bush’s Executive Skills

If I were to hire a chief executive for an international corporation, I’d look for intricacy in thought, communication skills, good judgment, integrity, the ability to deal with people, thorough planning and nimbleness in execution. An assessment of our president in these skills is in order.

For starters, George Bush isn’t the smartest man in Washington. He isn’t dumb, but we’re hiring a CEO of a multinational organization. For the president, our CEO, we need someone with critical thinking skills, someone who sees the grey areas of issues, someone who understands the many diverse viewpoints in our country.

In fact, understanding different viewpoints (i.e., other cultures) is crucial to winning the international war on terrorism.

Black and white rhetoric doesn’t cut it. That Bush actually thinks in dichotomous shortcuts is a hindrance to sound policy.

As for communication skills...well, do I really have to make a case? He fumbles with words. It’s not the worst thing for a president, but we’re hiring the CEO. Communication skills are key to diplomacy and influence. Bush doesn’t bring that to the job.

When it comes to bad judgment, Bush has several glaring examples. First, he chose to go to war over weapons of mass destruction. He hung his case on them.

I thought the world should have taken care of Hussein in 1993 or 1998, so I was behind it. The cost may be too high now, but it’s good to be rid of Hussein.

Before the war, Bush was making the wrong case about WMD. Clearly we had Hussein’s WMD in check with inspectors in Iraq and a military ready to move in. We didn’t need an actual war.

While others thought there were WMD in Iraq, Bush avoids his own responsibility by citing the French, the UN and others. Before the war he strongly implied that they’re irrelevant, yet now he selectively invokes their pre-war judgment.

In the end, Bush cried havoc. Bush exercised the poor judgment to let slip the dogs of war and executed the overall strategy so poorly. He owns it all. It’s a shame he doesn’t own up to it.

Then on May 1, 2003, he was shortsighted enough to invoke “Mission Accomplished.” Even if the Abraham Lincoln crew requested the mission accomplished sign, it’s pretty simple: the Bush administration approved every aspect of the event. They knew full well the message they were sending. If they try to duck responsibility for it, they are trying to get away with reasonable deniability, and that leads to another topic, integrity.

Despite his charges against his opponents, George Bush is a flip-flopper just like most politicians. Examples are plentiful.

At first the war in Iraq was about weapons of mass destruction. Then Bush switched to weapons of mass destruction “activity.” When that didn’t get enough traction he emphasized that the world is better without Saddam Hussein. Then he began linking Iraq with the war on terrorism and is strongly implying, wrongly, that there’s a connection between World Trade Center attacks and his war in Iraq.

Another clear example is Bush’s take on Hussein’s capture. Beforehand, the administration line was that Hussein wasn’t particularly important, we’d get him eventually, we’re going to win the war. When we captured Hussein, Bush flip-flopped and declared that Hussein’s capture was “crucial to the rise of a free Iraq.” Both positions can’t be sincerely held.

Bush clearly laid out a deadline for Hussein, and then he invaded. Now, in dealing with North Korea and Iran he said, “I don’t think you give timelines to dictators.”

Why did he make such a sweeping statement that contradicts his approach with Hussein? I suspect it’s because he lacks the military or political clout to force his will, and he feels he needs to cover himself. In any case, it’s a clear flip flop on how he deals with dictators.

In one of Bush’s campaign ads, he displayed the flag-draped remains of a firefighter at ground zero because it served his message. When the flag-draped remains of fallen soldiers made the papers, he proclaimed that the pictures shouldn’t be released out of respect for the families. Truth be told, military coffins hurt the President’s position, so he flip-flopped on the issue.

Yet another inconsistency came from the final debate where Bush said he did not press the assault weapons ban through Congress because he knew the votes wouldn’t support it. Yet he pursued a constitutional ban on gay marriage even when everybody knew it would fail. He tied up valuable Senate time on it despite the predictable failure.

Why the inconsistency? Probably because the gay marriage ban gets him votes among the religious right, and the assault weapons ban would take a political toll on him and Republican senators. The contradictory approaches were based on politics, not principle.

Like most politicians, Bush says whatever serves him best, so there’s no way to tell where he really stands.

And he lacks diplomatic skills, another critical proficiency required of the nation’s CEO.

Publicly referring to the UN as irrelevant and accepting Donald Rumsfeld’s statement that France and Germany are “old Europe” was at best bad diplomacy, at worst arrogant. A diplomat saves such talk for the closed door sessions.

This year he visited Ireland. When asked about the Iraq prison abuses and what he would say to Irish citizens who liken the United States to the Hussein regime, Bush, without any diplomatic niceties, said that those who think that way are wrong. In his one-minute answer he directly said they’re wrong three times.

Any novice diplomat would not have dismissed the other viewpoint and would have responded something like this: “I, too, think it was horrible, and I understand that it may seem similar, but we are different because we are prosecuting the offenders, and we have done lots of good things...”

He was visiting the Irish in their living rooms. They were gracious enough to have him. It seems he doesn’t know better than to be righteous to the point of arrogance.

Recently when asked if he could understand how some American’s wouldn’t believe his claims that America is safer with the war in Iraq, Bush answered, “No. Anybody who says that we’re safer with Saddam Hussein in power is wrong.”

The question was can he understand another’s point of view. Bush demonstrated that he can’t. He doesn’t appreciate other viewpoints.

Bush doesn’t get the formula: Walk softly, but carry a big stick. He’s not skilled enough to be diplomatic while holding a tough line. We deserve a more skilled diplomat-in-chief.

As for the war, he bungled it.

Bush seemed to think that a swift military sweep was most of the effort. Remember, he invoked “Mission Accomplished.” But war is only part of politics, and the failings in Iraq are significantly the result of Bush’s bad judgments, bad diplomacy and bad planning.

Ever since, Bush continually overstates the positives of the situation, but currently there are “no-go” zones in Iraq that our military avoids. We control less of Iraq now than on May 1, 2003.

We failed to quickly secure the many cities because we didn’t send a large enough force, we allowed the insurgency to wrest some initiative and we basically failed to plan for the follow-up.

Even one month after the war began, it became clear there was not even a public relations plan. I was expecting at least some announcements of symbolic but real accomplishments like school openings, power plant repairs and utility restoration. The administration didn’t even have that.

The latest intelligence reports predict three possible scenarios, all of which are bad. Bush downplays the report as just a list of possibilities. This, of course, is the same report he held up in 2003 as certain proof that Iraq had WMD.

When you start war, you open up Pandora’s Box and infinite uncertainty. Bush seemed to think otherwise. He didn’t appreciate the intricacies of international policy, and I don’t believe he does yet.

When it comes to the intricacies of the peace, Bush seems inadequate to the task.

The bottom line is that Bush worked us into a potentially unwinnable situation. He has been too ignorant of history to understand that guerillas win by not losing, and organized armies lose by not winning. It will take a smart planner and nimble diplomat to win over the Iraqi people and put down an elusive insurgency. Bush lacks the tolerance, understanding and finesse that’s needed.

On the plus side, Bush was the right man for the six months after 9/11. He stood up strongly and played cheerleader well. You might argue about this word or that word he used, but overall, he poised well after 9/11.

His tough policies even led to Libya’s willful surrender of its WMD programs. But he’s not the only person who can take a tough stance. Any president would have invaded Afghanistan after 9/11. Nobody could have done it before.

The most important factor behind Bush’s influence in the world is the fact that he has the economic, political and military clout of the United States behind him. If he were the leader of a small nation, he’d be written off and ignored. In other words, his influence rides entirely on position power, little on personal power.

This, of course, begs the question: Is John Kerry any better?

Many people are more qualified than George Bush. Many politicians are more open, better critical thinkers and better diplomats. Bush might make a good spokesman for a single-minded, unbending organization like the National Rifle Association or the American Civil Liberties Union, but he isn’t cut out for running a diverse country like ours in a diverse, interrelated world.

While I’m not wholly impressed with Kerry, he’s sufficiently tough, diplomatic and competent. So, yes, Kerry is a better choice. He’s a bull-shooting politician like Bush, so he’s not my first choice. I’d rather see Colin Powell, John McCain or Joseph Biden, but they aren’t in the running.

Most of Bush’s support is based on his ideology, his aura of toughness and his co-mingling of Christianity with government. It’s quite another challenge to make a case for him based on the advanced executive competencies we expect of the president.

Simply put, Bush is not properly equipped for the presidency.

Dave Loebig writes and banters out of the Tampa, Fla. area. You can banter with him at


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