Clearly, George W. Bush's role model is not his father, who every week would ride down from the White House to the House of Representatives gymnasium, just to hear what fellows like Murtha were saying. Nor is the model John F. Kennedy, who during the Cuban missile crisis reached out to form an "ExCom" of present and past national-security officials, from both parties, to find some way back from the abyss short of war. Nor is it Franklin Roosevelt, who liked to create competition between advisers to find the best solution. Or Abraham Lincoln who, as historian Doris Kearns Goodwin writes in her new book, "Team of Rivals," appointed his political foes to his cabinet.As we all know, the president loves to think of himself as a swashbuckling fighter pilot. And the more of these insider stories I read about life inside the bubble, I'm starting to agree with him. It's just that the fighter pilot I have in mind is this one, ignoring all the advice to change course and stubbornly promising to stay on target.
Bush likes to say that his hero is Ronald Reagan, a true-blue conservative who knew his own mind. But Reagan also knew when to compromise, and when he got into trouble early in his second term, he reached out for help, making a moderate, former senator, Howard Baker, his chief of staff. The chance that George W. Bush will give a top White House job to an establishment moderate (say, Brent Scowcroft, his father's national-security adviser) is about the same as that Texas will become a province of France. Bush may be the most isolated president in modern history, at least since the late-stage Richard Nixon. ...
Lately, there are some signs that the White House is trying to dispel the image of the Bush Bubble (or Bunker). Last week, as part of a campaign to reach out to critics, the president addressed the Council on Foreign Relations, a bastion of East Coast establishment moderates. This week Bush will entertain a delegation of Hill Democrats (routine in the administrations of his father and Reagan, very unusual under this president). In his public comments, Bush for the first time is acknowledging that the war in Iraq has not gone quite as well as hoped for. And some kind of a cabinet shake-up is likely in the new year.
Yet such concessions may be more show than substance. White House officials, as well as one of his closest friends (also speaking anonymously so as not to complicate relations with the president), say that Bush remains sure that he is on the proper course in Iraq and that ultimately he will be vindicated by history.
Monday, December 12, 2005
Evan Thomas has the current cover story for Newsweek, an excellent study of the president's insularity and how this bubble of an administration compares to past ones: