sooooo much at tpm...
There's a boatload of stuff I've been meaning to link to at Talking Points Memo, and Josh keeps posting awesome stuff, so here goes:
First of all, he links (several times) to his Washington Monthly article about the dispelling of the myth of competence in the Bush administration.
Somehow, despite this laundry list of screw-ups and failed initiatives, the Bush administration largely retains its reputation for awesome managerial competence--a reputation that cows even Democrats. Many have wondered why the administration suddenly floundered when confronted with this summer's corporate corruption scandal. The real mystery is how the White House failed to advance its agenda for so long without anyone noticing. Why does the myth of Bush administration competence persist after ample evidence has emerged to show that it simply isn't true?
The Bushies also excel at the atmospherics and trappings of competence. Meetings start punctually. Everyone stays on message. Staffers don't leak. Everyone wears suits. ... Particularly in a wartime setting, the Bushies' buttoned-down, all-business approach contrasted favorably with the on-the-edge atmosphere of the Clinton years. ... And the White House's aggressive assertions of executive privilege--such as blocking the sleuths at the GAO from peeking inside the White House and ordering agencies to resist complying with Freedom of Information requests--have also kept potential embarrassments out of the public eye.
Getting people to follow you by force of personality, persuasion, and will is the essence of leadership. In fact, some of the qualities that make the president so great at scamming the policy process proved to be his greatest strengths in the first phases of the war. Bush was supremely confident and appropriately indifferent to complexities that might have distracted a more thoughtful, but less resolute, individual. But mostly, what the Bushies call "leadership" is just a confidence game. And over time, that kind of leadership will get its butt kicked by reality every time.
During the 2000 election, on issue after issue, Democratic positions outpolled Republican ones, just as they had in 1998. George W. Bush won the presidency in spite of that. But he still faced the difficult task of governing with an agenda that most Americans simply didn't support. When you look past the promises and the tough talk and the spin, you see an administration whose major policy initiatives are stalled or postponed to some unspecified point in the future.