Wednesday, June 09, 2004

The Bearing Of Bush’s Management Style On His Intelligence

Dear Colleagues:

It has been suggested here -- to the strong disagreement of many or perhaps even most others -- that George Bush is not a smart man, that he in fact is fairly dumb, which has hurt this country beyond measure. An article by Mike Allen in the June 2nd Washington Post bears on this matter, although the precise bearing is in some ways a little murky. Allen’s article is entitled Management Style Shows Weaknesses, and for present purposes its second paragraph is a key one. Here is what it says:
Bush’s aides say the graphic images documenting the abuse of detainees took him by surprise. But as they tell it, the president and his staff received many clues over the past year that there might be a problem -- for example, periodic reports from the International Committee of the Red Cross -- and did nothing because they had been assured the Pentagon was on the case.

Other paragraphs quote equally key points made by a variety of presidential advisers and scholars, some named, some not, who say that Bush “‘doesn’t turn over the rock,’” that he doesn’t and shouldn’t “‘micromanage,’”that he instead relies heavily on subordinates to do what they should, and that these traits may have led to the inadequate planning with regard to Iraq. Still other paragraphs say -- in a way that creates murkiness and confusion -- that the Administration cannot yet say when Bush knew this or that about prisoner issues, or, conversely, that Powell kept him fully informed about them for about a year now.

So exactly what Bush knew and when is not perfectly clear. But it is perfectly clear, often from the statements of his own colleagues and supporters, that he knew a lot fairly early on, but didn’t ask questions or engage in follow-up to insure that needed corrections were being made, since this is not his style.

This lack of questioning or follow-up fits my definition of dumb -- truly, truly dumb. I think that almost any sensible person who has ever run a company or an institution of any type whatever will tell you that, if there is one function that every leader must perform, it is making sure that subordinates are doing what they are supposed to do. If they are not doing what they are supposed to do, the chance of them accomplishing what they are supposed to accomplish is pretty close to zero. Any leader who does not realize that it is his or her function to be sure subordinates are doing what they are supposed to do is, realistically speaking, simply stupid.

One is therefore tempted to end merely by saying QED. But equally amazing as Bush’s lack of questioning or follow-up is that his supporters use this so-called “management style” as an exonerating excuse for the terrible things he has presided over. Can you imagine that? -- his own supporters and advisers seem to think that a stupid style is a justification. How dumb are they?

As said before here, Bush’s own intelligence or lack thereof is a question which the press should pursue, lest we reelect a person whose lack of acumen will get this country into ever more trouble. But now, it seems, perhaps the press also ought to inquire into and discuss the acumen, or lack of acumen, of his advisers, of people who appear to be dumb enough to think that a dumb management style is a smart excuse.

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