Taking the Measure: The Presidency of George W. Bush

By Donald R. Kelley; Todd G. Shields | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5
The Leadership Difference between
Steadfast and Stubborn
How bush’s Psyche Drove Failure in Iraq

Robert Maranto

In contrast to the “all hat and no cattle” stereotype, there is nothing dumb about George W. Bush. Bush has psychological characteristics, however, that limited his competence as a “decider” (to use his term) and ultimately undermined his record. President Bush had strategic competence: a vision of where he wanted to push government that was compatible with national needs. And after the devastating 9/11 attacks, he certainly had opportunities for regime change at home. He thus could have become, to use the terms of Nelson, a president of achievement. Indeed initial judgments of the Bush presidency were favorable, even among liberal political scientists. However, the president lacked the tactical competence to implement his vision. President Bush had bad luck in Hurricane Katrina, and White House insiders and Bush himself believe that the Democratic opposition would attack no matter what the president did. Hyper-partisanship is in fact a feature of the political landscape. Yet psychological inflexibility played an even greater role in what Jacob Weisberg calls The Bush Tragedy. The impacts of leader psychological characteristics are magnified in foreign policy and in crisis, when power concentrates in the hands of the “decider.”1 President Bush lacked the tactical flexibility to adjust when initial plans failed in Afghanistan, just after Hurricane Katrina, and most importantly (and unforgivably) in Iraq. Failure in Iraq, with its fiscal impacts and its erosion of national confidence and international standing, likely

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