TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING?
Daniel Drezner is a bit concerned about the White House management style demonstrated with regard to Iraq. He points to a WaPo story that reveals how Bush let Powell and Rumsfeld duke it out for a while before they reached a consensus position on their own.
What bothers me about this story is that the White House — on the most important foreign policy issue of the day, and potentially the biggest campaign issue for 2004 — was essentially a passive actor in this story. The President seemed perfectly comfortable to let Powell and Rumsfeld play bureaucratic politics with each other ad infinitum. Only when Powell and the Joint Chiefs were able to break the logjam did the policy shift — for more on this see this Marshall post as well. <...>
Micro-managing an issue is one way for a President to screw up policy, but too much of a hands-off approach can be just as debilitating. This summer, the White House has veered too much in that direction.
President Bush: hope you had a nice vacation at the ranch. Now get off your butt, take charge, manage the problem, and see your vision of the Mideast transformed.
Maybe this is just letting things on the ground sort themselves out? It takes a while to evaluate the present course of action. Maybe letting DoD and DoS fight until they could reach a consensus makes sense in that context? That doesn’t strike me as inherently flawed.
As to the vacation jibe, I presume Dan is being facetious. Vacationing presidents likely spend only eight hours a day working rather than the normal twelve. I suspect that’s adequate to managing the big picture.
Marshall’s post about the bureaucratic battling between Rumsfeld and the Chiefs is interesting. I don’t have the inside knowledge to have an opinion one way or another, but it sounds plausible. It’s certainly not unprecedented.