Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 9, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

"JUST A MONOLOGUE"....Via Mark Kleiman, here's what one of George Bush's former cabinet members thinks of his "management style":

Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill likened President Bush at Cabinet meetings to "a blind man in a room full of deaf people," according to excerpts Friday from a CBS interview.

O'Neill, who was fired by Bush in December 2002, also said the president did not ask him a single question during their first one-on-one meeting, which lasted an hour.

"As I recall it was just a monologue," he told CBS' "60 Minutes," which will broadcast the entire interview Sunday.

In making the blind man analogy, O'Neill told CBS his ex-boss did not encourage a free flow of ideas or open debate.

"There is no discernible connection," CBS quoted O'Neill as saying. The president's lack of engagement left his advisers with "little more than hunches about what the president might think," O'Neil said, according to the program.

I'm sure it's the "blind man" quote that's going to get the attention, but it's really the anecdote about their first meeting that's the most telling. An hour-long monologue that demonstrates an obvious lack of interest in anything other than hearing his own voice O'Neill had to say is a bit too Dilbertesque for my taste, I'm afraid. And as a former executive myself, please don't bother trying to feed me the usual crap about how this is just a hands off management style. I'm not buying.

We really have to get rid of this guy.

UPDATE: As Bryan points out in comments, I probably had it backwards: it was O'Neill who did all the talking, not Bush. Either way, it's scary.

UPDATE 2: This also reminds me of Jimmy Carter's experience with Ronald Reagan during their transition. From Keeping Faith, Carter's memoirs:

Reagan listened without comment while I covered each point. Some of them were very sensitive, involving such matters as the management of our nuclear forces....I described some top-secret agreements we had with a few other nations. Again, he did not comment or ask any questions. Some of the information was quite complex, and I did not see how he could possibly retain all of it merely by listening.

This goes on for over an hour. What is it about Republican presidents, anyway?

Kevin Drum 2:31 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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