Team Bush Accountability

Matthew Yglesias, responding to a rather dubious post from Atrios, snarks

Eric Shinseki was dismissed for accurately predicting the needed levels of troops in Iraq. Larry Lindsey was sacked for accurately predicting the financial cost of Iraq. Paul O’Neil was fired for believing that ever-increasing deficits are unsustainable. Richard Clarke was demoted for having been associated with Bill Clinton. People were threatened with dismissal in case they told the truth about the Medicare bill’s costs.

It’s only the people who’ve been consistently wrong about pretty much everything who don’t get held to account.

Shinseki served a four-year term and retired. While he could have been re-appointed to a second four-year term, it’s not unusual to bring in your own team. Shinseki’s stint at Chief was a mixed bag. While I was skeptical of the Stryker, it appears to be doing quite well in limited duty in Iraq; time will tell how it functions in major combat ops. On the other hand, he was very much a slow-go guy on transformation, wanting to hang on to expensive and unnecessary toys like Crusader and was very much the McClellan-type go-slow guy on Afghanistan and Iraq. Shinseki might have been right on the need for more troops for stability ops in Iraq, but he was dead wrong on the size of the force needed to topple Saddam. Plus, his replacement, Pete Schoomaker, is doing an excellent job by all accounts.

Lindsay and O’Neil were sacked because the economy was in the tank and someone had to take the fall to give the illusion of “doing something” until the business cycle did its thing. The economic team seemed like a logical choice for that. And, of course, it’s probably a good idea to get rid of subordinates who try to undermine administration policy.

I suspect Clarke was demoted for being a royal pain in the ass, although that’s just a guess based on what I’ve learned about him over the last few weeks.

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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. BigFire says:

    Nah, Clarked was passed over (wasn’t demoted) for the #2 position over at Homeland Security because of his singular obsession on cyberterrorism, even as the planes are slamming into World Trade Center.

  2. Jane Galt says:

    Not to defend the administration, but O’Neill was a complete, unmitigated disaster at Treasury, and Lindsay was causing, from what I understand, various internal and external problems quite independent of the $200b number.

  3. Kevin Drum says:

    I don’t know much about Shinseki, and it’s true that he left normally at the end of his term, but on the other hand it was sort of unusual to announce his replacement 18 months ahead of time….

  4. Robin Burk says:

    Not if there’s a war going on, given that promotions among the general staff require Congressional approval.

  5. James Joyner says:


    I presume the Senate confirmed Schoomaker.