The Big Dig
Is the Bush Presidency worth rebuilding?
Friday, Sept. 16, 2005
We Can Rebuild Him: Several news analysts note that Bush's speech last night was not only about rebuilding the Gulf region, but about rebuilding his image and Presidency as well. Slate's own John Dickerson was the first to make this point last night; headline writers at the Washington Post, New York Times, Boston Globe, and Los Angeles Times quickly followed suit.
I don't want to be the Dennis Hastert at the garden party who asks whether, in the wake of this latest disaster, it makes any sense to rebuild the Bush Presidency. There is no way to imagine America without a President. Moreover, The Has-Been has fond memories of younger days spent at the White House, and is eager to see its glory restored.
But conservative budget hawks are right to raise a related question: How much more can we afford to borrow from future generations to revive a Presidency that has already cost so much and achieved so little? Time and again, we have seen that this administration cannot be fixed by throwing money at the problem.
It might be cheaper to give the President and his aides modest retraining accounts. Unfortunately, we know that turning the White House into a laboratory for conservative ideas doesn't work, either.
But my greatest concern is that like any massive undertaking, the reconstruction of the Bush Presidency will be rife with scandal, fraud, and abuse. Despite Bush's promise last night that "we'll not just rebuild, we'll build higher and better," I fear that in the end, the same hacks, profiteers, and scam artists will charge us a fortune to rebuild the Bush Presidency on the same low ground.
For that reason, The Has-Been urges the President to put a Reconstruction Czar in charge of rebuilding the Bush Presidency. This individual would have complete authority to fire hacks on sight, root out partisan feather-bedding, and blow the whistle on White House aides for pointing fingers.
If necessary, the czar would even have the power to sanction the President himself, if Bush reverts to passing the buck, responding slowly to crises, or planning more vacations.
What prominent American can be trusted to rebuild the Bush Presidency on higher ground? Tom Kean can't do it – he's too busy as chair of the Permanent Select Committee to Investigate Bush Failures. Colin Powell is preoccupied with a rebuilding effort of his own.
So far, the only Republican name that comes to mind is John McCain. He despises corruption and knows how badly the office has been damaged by disaster. Best of all, McCain understands what the President may not: Rebuilding the Presidency is far too big a job to get done in the time Bush has left. ... 9:09 A.M. (link)
Bruce Reed, who was President Clinton's domestic policy adviser, is CEO of the Democratic Leadership Council and co-author with Rahm Emanuel of The Plan: Big Ideas for Change in America.E-mail him at email@example.com. Read his disclosure here.
Photograph of President Bill Clinton and James Lee Witt by Hector Mata/AFP Photo.