Stupid Like a CEO (05/10/2002)
STUPID LIKE A CEO :
A Dollar Short : Bush's budget defunds Bush's education plan. (Noy Thrupkaew, 6.3.02, American Prospect)
When the education-bill team gathered in the White House for its initial negotiations, says [Representative George] Miller, both he and [Senator Ted] Kennedy emphasized that substantial reforms were only possible with an increase in funding to schools. "You couldn't do it on the cheap," Miller explains. "And President Bush said the money was going to be there." In order to win the Democrats' backing, Bush also scaled down his support for vouchers. But like so many of the bill's provisions, this compromise was undercut by the president's proposed budget, which diverts $4 billion to private-school tuitions, in the form of tax cuts for parents who remove children from failing public schools.
One of the great mysteries of media coverage of George W. Bush is how the press can have completely failed to understand his administration's roots in the world of business. The accepted storyline on George W. Bush assumes that his name got him into Yale, into the Air National Guard, into business, and into government, and that he learned nothing along the way. Completely left out of the equation is his MBA from Harvard, because it is annoyingly inconvenient. Bushs after all don't go to Harvard, especially stupid Bushs, and they don't go to grad school, because there's no need to when friends of the family are going to hand you opportunities regardless. So the whole MBA deal just disrupts an otherwise simple picture. Why not ignore it?
But suppose it matters? Suppose the point in his life where he most clearly broke with his father's career path and was most clearly his own man (supposedly he didn't even tell anyone he was applying) truly mattered, at least to him. And, God forbid, suppose he learned something, not something factual or some complex theory, but a culture and a way of getting things done. Suppose that, in much the way that LBJ's senate career taught him how to work legislative levers once he was president, George W. Bush's business training and career taught him how to get things done in a modern bureaucratic corporation, which, at the end of the day, is what government resembles.
As governor of Texas and now as President, George W. Bush has pursued a strategy that has been quite consistent : he proposes ideas; he lets the legislature shape them into bills, intervening only at the end of the process to make sure the final product becomes law; and then, as executive, he's administered the programs, to the greatest extent possible, along the lines he originally envisioned. And when he hasn't gotten everything he's wanted, he's not hesitated to go right back and start the process all over again. Thus, he got as much of his tax proposal passed as possible, then turned right around and asked for more (or, according to this story in The Hill, just used executive orders to create more). With everyone squawking about the need for a Security Czar, he acceded by appointing Tom Ridge, but then gave him no actual power. When everyone demanded he get involved in Middle East peace talks, he sent Colin Powell, knowing he'd fail miserably. Etc., etc., etc. And so, we get a horrible Education Bill, one that Democrats in the Senate thought they'd beaten him on, and he only orders his administration to push the parts of it he wanted. Why are folks still surprised?
Think of this bill as a car and the administration as Ford Motor Company. The president promised buyers a spiffy new car. The various vice presidents of the company each have their own vision of what that car should be like and they have powerful constituencies behind them. The president lets the vps who he disagrees with claim some victories in the design process, knowing that he'll be able to cut and trim once manufacture begins. The car starts rolling out and, even if a very few of the vps are still willing to fight, their own constituents aren't. Meanwhile, the buyers get their car and they're happy. They don't really care about the prototype that didn't get built. And enough of the vps and middle management guys would rather claim credit for the finished product than admit to being hoodwinked that the president can get away with it all.
It that dishonest? Sure, somewhat. Is it effective? Absolutely. Is it the way the real world works? You bet. Is that what President Bush is doing? Let's put it this way, if it isn't intentional, it's at least a frequently occurring coincidence. Sooner or later, the press, his fellow pols and foreign leaders may even figure out that this president is never more dangerous than when he appears to be doing what his opponents ask him to do. By not worrying about who gets the credit in front of the cameras, he's getting what he wants behind the scenes, again and again and again... With this business-trained president, it's time to start watching just one thing : the bottom line.
CEO NO? :
And don't get me started on whether anyone learns anything at Harvard Business School (ExPatPundit, 5/11/02)
Glenn Reynolds links to Orrin's post (see below), and doesn't seem to disagree. I do disagree, for two reasons.
ExPatPundit makes several points that are true in themselves, but which I don't think really bear on my points. First, Bush went into the energy business at a time when it was in precipitous decline; you can hardly blame him for the worldwide copllapse of oil prices. Second, he did have some success running the Texas Rangers, after 1986, so it seems harsh to portray him as a complete failure in business, though I also don't think his success or lack of success is germane to my argument that his experience has influenced him.
But more importantly, all modern businesses are bureaucratic messes. The techniques that I described for getting something done in a company are based on what I see in a fairly small business of just 400 people--everything is turf wars, empty titles, ego stroking, etc. You don't have to run Ford Motor Company to know how it's run (you can actually just read David Halberstam's The Reckoning). Bush it seems to me is running his government like a business, which should not be surprising to anyone given his business background. Particularly revealing in this regard was his choice of Cheney and Rumsfeld, who brought with them absolutely no political benefit, but who had significant experience running both the U.S. government and major corporations. That he made such pragmatic choices after barely winning election, rather than suckling favor with various constituencies, seems to indicate that he takes the business model quite seriously.
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-INTERVIEWED: Protesters surprise pols at flag event (Tara Kyle and Alison Schmauch, February 18, 2002, The Dartmouth)
-ESSAY: Bush's resolve already has paid dividends (Jack Kelly, 9/19/02, Jewish World Review)
-INTERVIEW: One nation, under Allah: an interview with Robert Ferrigno: Orrin Judd interviews Robert Ferrigno, author of Prayers for the Assassin, a novel about the near future which posits a world where much of the United States has become an Islamic state (Orrin C. Judd, 3/20/06, Enter Stage Right)
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-INTERVIEW: The Contest Between Taxeaters and Taxpayers: an interview with Steven Malanga, author of The New New Left : How American Politics Works Today (Orrin Judd, 7/20/05, Tech Central Station)
-INTERVIEW: Present at the Transition: an interview with John Ehrman, author of The Eighties: America in the Age of Reagan (Orrin C. Judd, 6/10/05, Tech Central Station)
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-ESSAY: John Kerry's attention deficit disorder (Orrin Judd, March 15, 2004, Enter Stage Right)
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-ESSAY: Revisitation (David Warren, 3/12/06, Real Clear Politics)
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Why? We're the fascists.
- Aug-05-2005, 14:01
George W. Bush a savvy businessman? I don't know how familiar you are with the way our government operates, but I highly doubt that there are any policies that have been implemented from the Bush administration that have come from the brain of George W.; he has this thing called a Cabinet, and the largest White House staff in the history of the United States, who, in an incestuous relationship the with corporate lords of America, makes ALL of the policy decisions that come out of the executive branch. The best thing that GW has going for him is his ability to lie in front of cameras; to act as if he's some kind of down-to-earth country boy (when he is arguably the most-overpriveleged American in history), as if he is a born-again Christian who actually cares about the perverse policies that draw idiots out of the woodwork to support him (abortion, stem-cell research, gay marriages, teaching evolution, etc.); as if he believes all the bs he is forced to say to keep people from overthrowing his government. I would conjecture that GW's many years as a substance-abuser gave him a lot of practice in his bold-faced lying to those whom he should be loving and serving. He has done more irreversible damage to America than other other person, with the possible exception of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. Not to say that democratic politicians are in any way morally superior; for some time there has been little difference between the two. Wake up, Orrin, stop watching the Fox News Channel, and realize that conservatives and liberals alike should unite against the fascists who have seized control of our government.
- Aug-05-2005, 10:58
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