Bush’s Management Style

WaPo’s Mike Allen has an “Analysis” piece called Management Style Shows Weaknesses — Delegation of Responsibility, Trust In Subordinates May Have Hurt Bush. Based on a few anecdotes and comments by liberal professors, Allen concludes that the Abu Ghraib scandal is proof that Bush’s management style is seriously flawed:

Laurence H. Tribe, a liberal Harvard University law professor who has advised Democrats, said Bush has proven to have better instincts than many people thought when he took office, but he “accepts the most ridiculous and self-serving explanations.”

Tribe pointed to a report in Bob Woodward’s “Plan of Attack” that during a White House meeting in 2002, Bush raised questions about the intelligence that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, asking whether the evidence he had been presented “is the best we’ve got.” The book reported that CIA Director George J. Tenet replied that it was “a slam-dunk case,” and Bush went on to put his credibility behind assertions that turned out to be false.

“He doesn’t seem to have the follow-through and patience that makes it worthwhile to raise the questions,” Tribe said.

Bruce Buchanan, a University of Texas government professor who has studied Bush throughout his political career, said the administration’s slow response to indications of trouble in military prisons reflects “the tendency for everybody to take signals from the president that this is what we need to do and we’re not going to let irritants of a lesser nature divert us from our course.”

The presidential adviser said that Bush has had the same management style ever since he bought major league baseball’s Texas Rangers and ran for governor and that he does not expect him to make any significant change despite his current straits. “When he started to use the strong CEOs’ approach of delegation and real responsibility and real accountability, that’s when he started to succeed mightily, both in business and in politics,” the adviser said. “It’s impossible to change a successful man.”

There’s nothing here that demonstrates that the “CEO approach” is a bad one or that a Jimmy Carter micromanagement style is more effective. Indeed, if anything, the anecdotes here would seem to be evidence that, on occaision at least, the CEO approach wasn’t used. Certainly, it’s hard to explain why George Tenet is still DCI. One would expect either that the president would fire him for these failures or at least explain why the failures happened in spite of Tenet’s sound performance.

James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Jim Rhoads says:

    Since when do a “liberal law professor” (author’s description) and a “government professor” (same) have any more credible expertise on anything relating to a chief executive’s management style than anyone else? This sounds like rhetoric disguised as analysis to me.

    The evidence cited by Allen and his expert Tribe (which is little more than third hand gossip) is even less persuasive.