January 12, 2004

President Empty Suit

Brian C.B. notes a paragraph by James Fallows in the new Atlantic Monthly:

This is the place to note that in several months of interviews I never once heard someone say "We took this step because the President indicated..." or "The President wanted..." Instead I heard "Rumsfeld wanted," "Powell thought," "the Vice President pushed," "Bremer asked," and so on. One need only compare this with any discussion of foreign policy in Reagan's or Clinton's Administration--or Nixon's, or Kennedy's, or Johnson's... to sense how unusual is the absence of the President as prime mover. The other conspicuously absent figure was Condoleeza Rice.... It is possible that the President's confidants are so discreet that they have kept all his decisions and instructions secret. But that would run counter to the fundamental nature of bureaucratic Washington, where people cite a President's authority whenever they possibly can ("The President feels strongly about this, so...").

James Fallows's use of the word "unusual" is the most extreme use of understatement I have ever read or will ever read, no matter how long I should happen to live.

Posted by DeLong at January 12, 2004 11:58 PM | TrackBack

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