Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Bush Legacy: The Crisis President

As I write this, the world is only minutes away from ridding itself of w, which now can only be interpreted to stand for "worst president ever". You can find analysis of the various horrors of the last eight years everywhere. The Economist, which endorsed w in 2000 (but not in 2004....unlike w, they can learn from mistakes)had this to say in their article:

The fruit of all this can be seen in the three most notable characteristics of the Bush presidency: partisanship, politicisation and incompetence. Mr Bush was the most partisan president in living memory. He was content to be president of half the country—a leader who fused his roles of head of state and leader of his party. He devoted his presidency to feeding the Republican coalition that elected him.

I'm not going to comment on the many evils of the Bushies, but instead take a look at w as manager. Remember, back in 2000 he was going to be the first MBA President. He was going to bring good management and adult supervision to the White House, after those horrible 8 years of peace and prosperity we suffered under Clinton.

So, let's take a look at w the manager in relation to the 4 crisis of his administration: 9/11, Katrina, Iraq, and the financial meltdown (as he leaves, we could probably add Afganistan to that, as w's incompetent handling of that situation seems to deteriorate daily).

Supporters of w would say that none of these were his fault. I would say the fact that they became the major crisis that they did are totally w's fault.

Let's start with 9/11. While the bushies became so vigilant about terrorism after 9/11 that they were willing to shred the Constitution, before 9/11 they were not the least bit interested. They had been warned by the Clintons that it would be an issue, and there is that famous document "Al Queda Determined to strike". What did they do? Nothing. They were asleep at the switch until 9/11. Could they have prevented the attacks? Maybe, maybe not, but we don't know because there is no evidence that the Bushies cared until the planes crashed.

Certainly, we can't blame hurricane Katrina on w (although many environmentalists would like to). But again, given warning that there was a possibility of a severe problem, what do the bushies do? They wait until it becomes a crisis to prepare. w himself is off playing air guitar. And the fact that "Brownie" didn't know a thing about handling this problem was an indication of a key failure of the bushies, filling jobs based on loyalty, not competence. Did they teach that at Harvard?

We can blame w for every problem in Iraq. He is hoping it becomes a thriving democracy, so that history will make him look better than he does now. However, this war, started on false pretenses for no good reason, will go down as one of the biggest blunders ever by a US President. And though the effort started out well, when things started to go bad, what did w do? He stuck with the plan that was failing, until it reached a crisis situation. The Bushies continued their claims that things were going well, until the losses by the GOP in 2006 finally forced w to fire the idiot Rumsfeld and change course. Again, even though they should have known it was going south, they waited for a crisis to do something.

Finally, the financial mess. Again, we can not blame the problem entirely on w. In fact, this is a huge problem with blame to go around for a lot of people. But, just as with the above situations, w, although warned that things were getting bad, did nothing until the credit markets froze (OK, I'll be fair and say he did suggest further regulation of Fannie and Freddie in 2004). Again, no action until there is a crisis.

So, is this what w learned at Harvard Business School? I have an MBA from the University of Michigan, which used a lot of the same teaching methods as HBS at the time I was there. At Michigan, there was no class called "Ignoring problems until they become a crisis", and a quick check of the HBS web site today doesn't show that idea as a core teaching belief. In fact, we were taught just the opposite, and I imagine w was as well. Of course w was probably drunk most of the time he was at Harvard, so maybe he wasn't paying attention (which might explain how all the companies he started failed). Clearly, the idea that he was going to bring some type of high level executive management skills to the job is as big a joke as him being a "uniter".

As I finish writing this, w is no longer President, and we have sworn in our first African-American President. A Republican friend told me Obama would be a disaster. I ask, "Compared to what? The incredible competence of the last 8 years?". No matter what Obama may do or turn out to be, it would take a hell of an effort to do a worst job than w. He should get his ass back to Texas and thank the God he talked about so often that he was the mis-leader of a civilized country that doesn't drag it's failed leaders into the street and beat them to death.

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