…Is a failure to communicate.
(Welcome Instapundit Readers, please stay a while and have a look around.)
The great danger for great leaders is making assumptions about your followers. An officer assuming unquestioned obedience from the troops as you charge the machine gun nest can get you killed. A President assuming unquestioned support for your Supreme Court nominee can get you embarrassed. Failing to explain the rationale for surviellance of terrorists without warrants can cost you the program, and give the Defeatocrats an opening they so desperately desire. And assuming a port deal will go through unquestioned in the September 12th World can lose you an important ally in the Middle East, and drop your poll numbers even more if you are President.
Robert Novak’s column details the lack of communication that is becoming a theme for the Bush White House:
Deputy Secretary Robert Kimmitt, an experienced Washington hand, managed the deal at Treasury without giving a heads-up to top Republicans in Congress. House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist might have been less quick to attack the port arrangement if they’d had advance word. Hastert heard nothing from a former staffer, Kevin Fromer, now handling Treasury legislative affairs.
When the Democrats first opened fire, Presidential Counselor Dan Bartlett was alerted by congressional Republicans to stormy waters ahead and urged to do something about it. Bartlett replied in the imperial style of this presidency by suggesting he hoped Republicans could support the deal, but if they could not, it just would be too bad. That was followed by the president’s rare session with reporters aboard Air Force One in which he threatened a veto.
Sen. Richard Shelby, whose Banking Committee has jurisdiction of the issue, was silent at first, but only because he was traveling in Europe. When he issued a brief, limited circulation statement last Thursday, it was not good news for the White House. “From Treasury’s perspective,” he said, “the [foreign acquisitions] process with respect to the Dubai transaction worked perfectly; from the Banking Committee’s perspective, it failed miserably.” He set hearings for Thursday that will not be pleasant.
The rest of the world may wonder how a relatively routine commercial transaction turned Republican leaders against their president. Frank McKenna, the Canadian ambassador who is leaving Washington this week, has cracked the code by appreciating the existence of two U.S. governments, one executive and the other legislative. That system requires more presidential finesse than was displayed in handling the Dubai contract.
Theodore Roosevelt was the first to understand the true power of the Presidency. His use of the Bully pulpit set the standard for future administrations. His cousin FDR understood the bully pulpit, and changed America forever. John Kennedy understood the true power of the office, and launched us to the Moon. Ronald Reagan instinctively mastered the power, and brought down the Soviet Union. Bill Clinton mastered the power of the Presidential pulpit, and survived impeachment.
President Bush has failed to master the Bully pulpit in time of war, and has seen his popularity go from the low 90’s to the low 40’s. Each time the President explains, communicates the “why” of a decision, his poll numbers go up. And it helps me, as a loyal follower of this President, support his decision. But when he blindsides me, a lowly blogger, as he did with the Harriet Miers choice, and the NSA Terrorist Surveillance program, and most recently the Port decision, it puts me in the position of a private asked to charge the machine gun nest of my left leaning readers.
Mr. Bush and his Administration assume I’ll follow, no questions asked, as a loyal Republican. Those who have been reading Liberty Just in Case for any length of time know that’s a foolish assumption. The great failing of this Administration is the failure to recognize the Power of the Presidency is communicating, explaining, convincing. For a brief shining moment, following 9/11, the President understood it. He “got it.” His understanding has been slipping away bit by bit since those fateful days. Until he and his administration get that understanding of the Power of the Presidency back, they will continue to be involved in political firestorm after firestorm. And the war effort will suffer for their failure.