No president wants to admit he has made poor choices in selecting advisers or appointees to his cabinet or White House.
President Bush, however, has taken this denial to new heights. He even praises them for blunders the public sees right through. Some even get presidential medals. A few high-profile examples:
- "Heckuva job, Brownie" are the words Bush used to compliment FEMA Director Michael Brown while New Orleans and the Gulf Coast were in ruins. The belated action after Hurricane Katrina remains a huge black mark for the president's legacy.
- George Tenet left as head of the CIA after he had assured Bush it was "a slam-dunk" that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. He received the presidential medal for that bit of poor information.
Tenet is getting even. In a just-published book, he says the words were taken out of context. He also blisters Vice President Cheney for hastening the time for getting into war. I'll take Tenet's version over Cheney's.
- Paul Bremer, the president's choice as administrator in post-Saddam Iraq, bungled the effort to build a nation to his liking rather than the Iraqis'. There was no way the country could be transformed into a U.S.-style democracy.
He, too, earned a medal. Maybe he will write a no-mea culpa book and blame others.
- Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld left the administration after the GOP lost its majority in both houses of Congress last November. Some of those losing Republicans are still seething that Bush didn't fire him earlier to save their skins.
He left with Bush's praise ringing in his ears after his failure to manage the war and his arrogance in dealing with Congress.
- More recently, we have the cases of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz.
Even though Gonzales put in a miserable performance defending himself before the Senate Judiciary Committee and Republicans are calling for him to resign, Old Pal Bush says his fellow Texan is doing a terrific job.
Wolfowitz is under intense pressure at the World Bank with ethics charges facing him. This was the same Wolfowitz who, as deputy secretary of defense, assured his fellow Americans that our troops would be regarded as liberators.
Of course, they are considered as occupiers by Shiites and Sunnis alike. But Bush thinks Wolfie is doing a great job.
In his father's term in office, Citizen Bush was an enforcer. When White House Chief of Staff John Sununu was under fire for using government transportation for his personal use, it was "Junior" who told him he was a drag on Dad's administration.
Sununu finally resigned. Now where is the strongman who can go to Gonzales and Wolfowitz and tell them they are hurting the boss?
Certainly not the president telling himself.