Monday, October 10, 2005

Frank Rich Talks

His latest column in the New York Times is all hard-hitting and sounds true to me. He puts together all the things in which the Bush administration is failing, not for ideological reasons but for pure incompetence, and then he points out one of the main reasons for this: Bush is out of touch. Or as Rich puts it:

Beware of leaders who drink their own Kool-Aid. The most distressing aspect of Mr. Bush's press conference last week was less his lies and half-truths than the abundant evidence that he is as out of touch as Custer was on the way to Little Bighorn. The president seemed genuinely shocked that anyone could doubt his claim that his friend is the best-qualified candidate for the highest court. Mr. Bush also seemed unaware that it was Republicans who were leading the attack on Ms. Miers. "The decision as to whether or not there will be a fight is up to the Democrats," he said, confusing his antagonists this time much as he has Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.

Such naked presidential isolation from reality was a replay of his response to Hurricane Katrina. When your main "objective sources" for news are members of your own staff, you can actually believe that the most pressing tragedy of the storm is the rebuilding of Trent Lott's second home. You can even believe that Brownie will fix it. The truth only began to penetrate four days after the storm's arrival - and only then, according to Newsweek, because an adviser, Dan Bartlett, asked the president to turn away from his usual "objective sources" and instead watch a DVD compilation of actual evening news reports.

This is an old problem, the one about the ruler being surrounded by sycophants who tell him or her only nice things. It was the downfall of the last Russian czar, for example. But if one doesn't read very much one is unlikely to read history books. And then this "one" will not know about repeating old problems.