Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Lessons Forgotten

Recently, I read Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein's book about the last year of the Nixon presidency, titled "The Final Days." The book details all the legal and political maneuvering by Nixon's White House aides, while they try to contain Watergate, and convince the president to resign. This whole time, which seems to take place between June '73, to Nixon's resignation on August 9, 1974, the president is quite unhinged. He never seems capable of making complete, coherent statements, people worry about his mental stability, and, at times, his closest aides believe Nixon may commit suicide. The book is an insightful look into the machinations of a White House in free fall.

One aspect of the book is quite troubling, though. Although it's never explicit, the constant absence of decision-making by the President is wrought throughout the book. One gets the sense that the President is not focused on domestic nor international matters, and how could he? His political future, not to mention that of his office, was at stake. Still, the deliberations and executions of key decisions by unelected officials ought to be more than disconcerting, for people re-elected Nixon to make the tough choices, not be in bed all morning while his Chief of Staff, General Haig, ran the White House, and, essentially, the country.

It's interesting, the old adage: The more things change, the more they stay the same. Nine-Eleven was the beginning of a new era, far different from the Cold War. Yet, at the helm is a man whom many of us wouldn't trust with our mock mutual funds, let alone the national defense. Like Nixon, Mr. Bush has been able to put up a facade of a stalwart, straight-shooting Texan who we could feel comfortable in being led by. The escape and vacationing of Bin Laden, the countless miscalculations in Iraq, among other foreign policy initiatives that this man has put America through, has once again opened our eyes to what it means to be President.

It shouldn't be about taking the advice of experienced ideologues, and going with your "gut". The analyses and synthesis of information should be part of the regimen a president uses to make decisions. This is a new era in foreign policy, but with American soldiers in foreign hostile lands, an economy slipping and China rising, should it matter why we have a dumb president.


Anonymous said...

why do you think we have a "dumb" president?

Anonymous said...

... and i don't mean why based on his actions, but how did we get one?