September 09, 2005

Leadership Gap

Lipton/Schmitt/Shanker quoting an anonymous admin spinner in the NYT:

Can you imagine how it would have been perceived if a president of the United States of one party had pre-emptively taken from the female governor of another party the command and control of her forces, unless the security situation made it completely clear that she was unable to effectively execute her command authority and that lawlessness was the inevitable result?" asked one senior administration official, who spoke anonymously because the talks were confidential.

Yeah, I can imagine it. It's called leadership (and, by the way, the gender angle is screamingly bogus--POTUS has to treat the girls with kid gloves, now?). When there exists a reasonable presumption that a) the state and local authorities aren't going to be up to the job and b) a catastrophic Category 3-5 hurricane is racing towards a massively vulnerable (people knew, despite weak Administration protestations, that the levees might break) major population center--well, these are the types of events that cry out for de haut en bas federal leadership, foresight, contingency planning, proactive action. None were in the offing, alas. Again, Michael Brown must go--or this Administration simply disgraces itself. Chertoff should be eating humble pie, lots of it--rather than having Cheney effusively praise him on the Gulf Coast today. But I'm not holding my breath--even on Brown--though here I think we have a chance to see him step aside (Well Tim, I think I was becoming too much of a distraction and thought for the good of the President and country...). But there is simply too little real accountability in this Administration, I've sadly been forced to conclude of late (my critics on the left will doubtless say too late).

On this score, don't miss Ignatius who nails it, describing some of the weakness of our HBS-Grad-In-Chief's leadership style:

The most pointed criticism of Bush's management I've read over the past week comes from the conservative columnist William Kristol. "Almost every Republican I have spoken with is disappointed" by the administration's response to Katrina, Kristol told The Post's Jim VandeHei. "He is a strong president . . . but he has never really focused on the importance of good execution. I think that is true in many parts of his presidency."

The part of this administration I know best is foreign policy. While I respect some of Bush's decisions, I see an underlying weakness in decision making that is very similar to the post-Katrina fiasco. This White House doesn't move effectively to fix broken bureaucracies, such as the Central Intelligence Agency or the Department of Homeland Security; it doesn't use interagency meetings to force clear decisions and then implement them, as has been clear in continuing policy confusion on Iraq, North Korea and Iran; and it doesn't mobilize the government well to deal with crisis warnings, as the Sept. 11 commission reported.

What accounts for this management failure? Experts cite a number of factors. First, this White House lacks a strong, substantive chief of staff who could act as a kind of deputy president, riding herd on the Cabinet agencies. Bush's chief, Andrew Card, is good at organizing the president's schedule, but he hasn't played the broader, make-the-trains-run role of many of his predecessors. Another problem is Bush's own style: As a key adviser once told me, this president isn't interested in hitting singles and doubles; he wants home runs. This approach almost guarantees that the administration won't do well at crisis prevention -- which succeeds best when nothing dramatic happens at all, thanks to good planning.

Even on the issues Bush has identified as his priorities, there has been a surprising reactive quality. Take the war on terrorism: The two bureaucracies that are crucial for protecting Americans -- the Department of Homeland Security and the intelligence community -- have been in obvious disarray over the past two years. Yet Bush has not seized the initiative in either case and has let others set the agenda for reorganization. The disorientation today at those two mission-critical bureaucracies is genuinely dangerous for the country.

Iraq, too, has been a policy disconnect. The president insists (admirably, in my view) that America must stay the course, but as the situation there has deteriorated, he has failed to explain clearly what that course is. That's not a new problem: From the beginning, the administration has had difficulty framing a single Iraq strategy and mobilizing all the resources necessary for it to succeed. There hasn't been one Iraq policy but several competing versions.

Managing the government isn't as glamorous as politics, and on the political side it must be said that Bush has been very skillful. His top political adviser, Karl Rove, is one of the most gifted, if also ruthless, people ever to play that role. And this White House is good at reaction and damage control -- at mobilizing the apparatus of government after initial mistakes, as we're finally seeing on the Gulf Coast.

What this White House needs most is the tonic of honest accountability, as illustrated by an anecdote from presidential scholar Fred Greenstein. He recalls a moment in the 1950s when an aide walked out of the Oval Office, congratulating himself for telling President Dwight D. Eisenhower "what he wanted to hear." Ike's national security adviser, Gen. Andrew Goodpaster, overheard the aide and angrily sent him back to tell the president the truth, no matter how unpleasant.

The "tonic of honest accountability" starts with Exhibit A--he of the Arabian Horse judgeships. If Brown doesn't get the heave-ho after this debacle of epic proportions, well, to say it would speak volumes would be a massive understatement. I certainly know what conclusions I'll be drawing...and they ain't pretty.

More on Katrina (and Iraq, remember that?) over the weekend. The day job is rather crushing right now (12-15 hr days) and there's just too little time to blog at nights. See you over the weekend, however.

Posted by Gregory at September 9, 2005 05:39 AM | TrackBack (14)
Comments

Again, Michael Brown must go--or this Administration simply disgraces itself.

You mean by that, of course, "simply disgraces itself even more. Just a cursory glance at the staffing of the CPA in Iraq should be enough to give even a strong partisan pause. Does the fact that they also stuffed FEMA full of incompetent cronies really surprise any sentient being?

Review this paragraph. Memorize it.

Even on the issues Bush has identified as his priorities, there has been a surprising reactive quality. Take the war on terrorism: The two bureaucracies that are crucial for protecting Americans -- the Department of Homeland Security and the intelligence community -- have been in obvious disarray over the past two years. Yet Bush has not seized the initiative in either case and has let others set the agenda for reorganization. The disorientation today at those two mission-critical bureaucracies is genuinely dangerous for the country.

There you have it. And so do the rest of us, for the next three years.

Posted by: stickler at September 9, 2005 06:54 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It's worth reiterating that the strange paralysis in the White House regarding sending in active-duty soldiers is made even more hard to understand in the face of this:

http://nytimes.com/2005/09/09/national/nationalspecial/09military.html?ei=5094&en=29839ee3ffe8c2ba&hp=&ex=1126238400&adxnnl=1&partner=homepage&pagewanted=print&adxnnlx=1126237067-yoBpJm9T52Vcv60n2Wt/SQ

[quote]

Officials in Louisiana agree that the governor would not have given up control over National Guard troops in her state as would have been required to send large numbers of active-duty soldiers into the area. But they also say they were desperate and would have welcomed assistance by active-duty soldiers.

"I need everything you have got," Governor Blanco said she told Mr. Bush last Tuesday, when New Orleans flooded. In an interview, she acknowledged that she did not specify what sorts of soldiers. "Nobody told me that I had to request that. I thought that I had requested everything they had," she said.

[end quote]

In other words, while Blanco did not want to give up command authority over the National Guard, they were more than willing to get help from the active duty military. It didn't require that Bush usurp Blanco's authority for them to have sent in the active duty military --- that's what the state government wanted all along --- and, in fact, that's what is happening now (i.e., active-duty military on the scene alongside National Guard units that are still under Blanco's command). If it's legal and kosher now, wouldn't it have been legal and kosher on Tuesday when Blanco first requested it?

Posted by: Mitsu at September 9, 2005 07:31 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The Louisiana government has since day one blocked the Red Cross and Salvation Army from entering New Orleans. In fact the incompetent state government continues to block them from entering New Orleans to this day. How are you going to blame that on the Administation (ie Bush)? I'm sure you can do it.

Or you can just disregard me as one of "mindless cheerleaders populating blog comments sections".


Posted by: travis at September 9, 2005 08:34 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

ok travis: i've deleted the snark. let's try to keep the rhetoric and broadsides to a minimum, and stick to substance. it's unfair of me to put all Brown/FEMA boosters in the non-adult category, perhaps. so tell me, specifically, what in your comment disproves my post, ie why couldn't Bush have overrided state authorities--even assuming your premise is wholly accurate (which i don't)?

Posted by: greg at September 9, 2005 11:58 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg

Since when is breaking the law, leadership? Maybe you need to read the Insurrection Act before spounting off about accountability. Or, maybe we should change the law. How about a constructive proposal?

"Aides to Ms. Blanco said she was prepared to accept the deployment of active-duty military officials in her state. But she and other state officials balked at giving up control of the Guard as Justice Department officials said would have been required by the Insurrection Act if those combat troops were to be sent in before order was restored."

Posted by: Frank at September 9, 2005 01:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg

Since when is breaking the law, leadership? Maybe you need to read the Insurrection Act before spounting off about accountability. Or, maybe we should change the law. How about a constructive proposal?

"Aides to Ms. Blanco said she was prepared to accept the deployment of active-duty military officials in her state. But she and other state officials balked at giving up control of the Guard as Justice Department officials said would have been required by the Insurrection Act if those combat troops were to be sent in before order was restored."

Posted by: Frank at September 9, 2005 01:39 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

After reading that Times piece, I found myself wondering whether Jimmy Carter had actually been appointed to the Presidency while no one was looking....

Posted by: p.lukasiak at September 9, 2005 02:07 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

So federal troops are sent in immediately under state control, and they do what exactly? They are still barred BY LAW from doing peace keeping.

Oh I know, they could have helped the state prevent aid being sent to the Superdome.

Posted by: monkeyboy at September 9, 2005 02:17 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg,

1) Don't give this blog more priorty than it deserves - your a married man now. (Not that we don't appreciate your efforts.)

2) Enough already on the Andrew Sullivan routine - we all know Bush is a mediocrity, he was just better than the feckless gigilo the other party was offering. I would have foregone my preferences on the judiciary and tax policy if the Dems had been able to run Gephardt, probably even Edwards. Why don't you focus some of your wrath on the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of the "loyal" opposition.

3) I think Rove is the most overrated "genius" of recent times. From his near-Thomas E. Dewey-like snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in 2000 (remember the DUI kerfuffle in the last week of the campaign) to his talented vetting of Mr. Brown for one of the most conspicuous, and predictably scrutinized positions should a screw up occur, I think he is given too much credit for the rising tide of conservativism, while his contributions have been marginal at best.

Posted by: wayne at September 9, 2005 02:24 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Wayne,

Why should anyone waste time venting their wrath on the opposition? I don't care if the opposition is more dislikable, or less intelligent. The Dems don't make decisions now, they can't even influence policy. Doesn't it make a lot more sense to focus one's energy on the people who are responsible and supposedly accountable?

Posted by: Vanya at September 9, 2005 03:18 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Vanya;
I believe that Wayne was talking about the local and state government, which is run by democrats, and deserve the lion's share of blame for events during and immediately after the storm.
(FEMA takes a big hit after 36 hrs and during planning.)

Of course I do agree that we shouldn't listen to a single thing Nancy Pelosi has to say.

Posted by: monkeyboy at September 9, 2005 04:18 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

So federal troops are sent in immediately under state control, and they do what exactly? They are still barred BY LAW from doing peace keeping.

Federal troops would have been invaluable in providing ORDER and SECURITY (as opposed to law enforcement) in the city, and there was nothing preventing them from performing that function----indeed, that is what they are doing today, without any declaration of martial law.

Posted by: p.lukasiak at September 9, 2005 05:22 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Bush apparently was able to send in the active duty military without either using the Insurrection Act nor overriding Blanco's authority over the National Guard. That's the situation on the ground now in New Orleans. No constitutional crisis needed. Blanco specifically requested it, the local authorities didn't have enough resources, there is plenty of legal precedent and legal cover to allow this under these circumstances.

Posted by: Mitsu at September 9, 2005 05:24 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

There is no law or constitutional requirement that prevent the President from sending federal tropps or national guard units from other states into LA.

What the constitution procribes is anybody but the President from doing it.

Posted by: spencer at September 9, 2005 05:40 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Spencer.

18 U.S.C. 1385

Sec. 1385. Use of Army and Air Force as posse comitatus

Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of
Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or the Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to
execute the laws shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.

Editor's Note: The only exemption has to do with nuclear materials (18 U.S.C. 831 (e)

Get a firking clue would you?

Posted by: RiverRat at September 9, 2005 05:52 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Federal troops would have been invaluable in providing ORDER and SECURITY (as opposed to law enforcement) in the city

Now I thought that providing order and security WAS the definition of law enforcement?
There is still the problem with employment. Yes it would have been nice to have the 82nd in securing the Superdome, providing materials and convoying people out, the problem was that the state government was not only not considering that a priority, but was apparently stopping anyone from providing exactly that type of aid to force people out of the city.
With the state still running things, the military would not have been used for those things, but instead for rescue operations and bringing aid, something that they had been doing as soon as possible. The NORTHCOM email shows how quickly the military reacted, and the BATAAN and the USCG were flying as soon as the wind dropped below max.

Interesting enough the BATAAN is a WASP class LHD. I was doing similar missions off Cap Hatien in Haiti in the WASP in 1993.

Posted by: monkeyboy at September 9, 2005 06:04 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

There are many exceptions to Posse Comitatus, so many that Bush could have gotten around the problem in this case. For example, the Civil Disturbance statutes allows deployment in the event of civil unrest upon request by the governor. The Stafford Act allows deployment in the event of delcaration of a major emergency. The Homeland Security Act allows deployment in the event of a "national emergency". While Posse Comitatus might require some further amendment, it appears there already is ample legal cover for deployment in situations such as this. Evidently the lawyers in the White House finally concluded it was legal as the military is there now, as has been noted multiple times.

Posted by: Mitsu at September 9, 2005 06:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

wayne: we all know Bush is a mediocrity, he was just better than the feckless gigilo the other party was offering. I would have foregone my preferences on the judiciary and tax policy if the Dems had been able to run Gephardt, probably even Edwards.

As I always say, this is a fatal weakness of the two-party system. Primaries are ridiculously bad at narrowing the field.

But Gephardt?!? From what I understand, he's awful on trade.

Posted by: fling93 at September 9, 2005 07:41 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

BTW, Mitsu (and anybody else), can you please use HTML for links from now on instead of including them inline? It's not much more typing, looks much nicer, and creates a clickable link (which you can double-check in "Preview"). Just use:

<a href="link url">link text<a>

This will avoid blowing the column width. Thanks much!

Posted by: fling93 at September 9, 2005 07:51 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I read the Ignatius column and thought, "Ugh. Not the CEO Analysis again." I've noted elsewhere how unimpressed I am with the evidence behind Mr. Kristol's statement that George W. Bush is a strong President. Most of the Ignatius piece describes a weak one.

Nothing in Mr. Bush's past suggests he is capable of the "tonic of honest accontability" Ignatius says he needs, and this has nothing to do with his management style. It is instead a simple matter of his being far out of his depth in the Presidency.

I fear most of the media, especially those who work out of Washington, are prone to assume politicians who master the mechanics of electoral politics only flounder in high office because they make bad choices. The truth is that getting elected and serving in high office require very -- and increasingly different -- skills. In the last 20 years only one non-incumbent candidate for the Presidency, Bob Dole, had been a major player on vital national policy issues before accepting his party's nomination. All the others had either been local officials (Dukakis, Clinton), showhorse Senators (Gore, Kerry), or spectators (the elder Bush, Gore again), apart from the younger Bush, the governer of a large state that gives its governor less to do than almost any other.

What all these people had in common was mastery of the Presidential nomination process. Why should it come as a surprise that people so absorbed in this process would be unequal to the demands of the Presidency?

Posted by: JEB at September 9, 2005 08:16 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

" "He is a strong president . . . but he has never really focused on the importance of good execution. I think that is true in many parts of his presidency."

How does someone merit being called a "strong president" when one ignores "the importance of good execution"? Bush has strong opinions, certainly; and he's very good at repeating rhetorical catchphrases.

Is that how "strength" is measured, these days? Is actual performance a minor afterthought?

Maybe that's what is really meant by the phrase "CEO Presidency." The President is responsible only for rhetoric; actual performance is someone else's job. And, if the performance blows, it's someone else's fault.

OK, I get it now. The Ken Lay School of Senior Management.

Posted by: CaseyL at September 10, 2005 02:15 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Now I thought that providing order and security WAS the definition of law enforcement?

its obvious that you don't know the difference between a cop and a security guard.....

Posted by: p.lukasiak at September 10, 2005 01:17 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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