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John Dean: Bush is increasingly dangerous

Watergate figure John Dean has an excellent analysis of what we are going to face under the rule of the Chimp through January 2009, (when he can’t do any more damage).

In a mid-2004 column, I argued that, at that point, Bush had already demonstrated that he possessed the least attractive and most troubling traits among those that political scientist James Dave Barber has cataloged in his study of Presidents’ personality types.

…Currently, President Bush is busy reshuffling his staff to reinvigorate his presidency. But if Dr. Barber’s work holds true for this president — as it has for others – the hiring and firing of subordinates will not touch the core problems that have plagued Bush’s tenure.

That is because the problems belong to the President – not his staff. And they are problems that go to character, not to strategy.

An aside — it looks like Harriet Miers, the apple of George’s eye, and completely out-of-her-depth SCOTUS nominee, may be the next one in chief of staff-cum-grim reaper Josh Bolten’s scope, likely to be demoted or booted.

No, moving one of your doormats to the back door won’t help, Dear Leader. Dean uses the example of Bush defending Rumsfeld from the upstart generals as proof that the president’s power trip blinds him to the long-term damage he does to his standing each time he pulls rank.

Bush’s defense of Rumsfeld was entirely substance-free. Bush simply told reporters in the Rose Garden that Rumsfeld would stay because “I’m the decider and I decide what’s best.” He sounded much like a parent telling children how things would be: “I’m the Daddy, that’s why.”

This, indeed, is how Bush sees the presidency, and it is a point of view that will cause him trouble.

Bush has never understood what presidential scholar Richard Neustadt discovered many years ago: In a democracy, the only real power the presidency commands is the power to persuade. Presidents have their bully pulpit, and the full attention of the news media, 24/7. In addition, they are given the benefit of the doubt when they go to the American people to ask for their support. But as effective as this power can be, it can be equally devastating when it languishes unused – or when a president pretends not to need to use it, as Bush has done.

Apparently, Bush does not realize that to lead he must continually renew his approval with the public. He is not, as he thinks, the decider. The public is the decider.

What it comes down to, is that we have an unbalanced man at the helm who listens to no one, who cannot be trusted by aides to speak extemporaneously without mucking things up, and has people who work for him too intimidated to let him know the public isn’t buying his BS.

George Bush has misled America into a preemptive war in Iraq; he is using terrorism to claim that as Commander-in-Chief, he is above the law; and he refuses to acknowledge that American law prohibits torturing our enemies and warrantlessly wiretapping Americans.

Americans, increasingly, are not buying his justifications for any of these positions. Yet Bush has made no effort to persuade them that his actions are sound, prudent or productive; rather, he takes offense when anyone questions his unilateral powers. He responds as if personally insulted.

And this may be his only option: With Bush’s limited rhetorical skills, it would be all but impossible for him to persuade any others than his most loyal supporters of his positions. His single salient virtue – as a campaigner – was the ability to stay on-message. He effectively (though inaccurately) portrayed both Al Gore and John Kerry as wafflers, whereas he found consistency in (over)simplifying the issues. But now, he cannot absorb the fact that his message is not one Americans want to hear – that he is being questioned, severely, and that staying on-message will be his downfall.

Geez, you have to read the rest of this column, including Dean’s thoughts on what we can expect from Dear Leader in the future, including the near certainty that as his poll numbers continue circling the drain — and as the mid-term elections near — he and Rove will stop at nothing to prevent the Rethugs from losing control of Congress. Expect an October surprise.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding