01 October 2004

Tough decisions

For readers' convenience, I've created an index of the Kevin letters so you can see the full progress of the dialogue

Atrios notices something that I noticed, too, in the debate last night. Bush is doing "hard work," makin' those tough decisions.

In Iraq, no doubt about it, it's tough. It's hard work. It's incredibly hard.

It's — and it's hard work. I understand how hard it is. I get the casualty reports every day. I see on the TV screens how hard it is. But it's necessary work.

We're making progress. It is hard work.

You know my hardest, the hardest part of the job is to know that I committed the troops in harm's way and then do the best I can to provide comfort for the loves ones who lost a son or a daughter or husband and wife.

Her husband, P.J., got killed — been in Afghanistan, went to Iraq. You know, it's hard work to try to love her as best as I can knowing full well that the decision I made caused her, her loved one to be in harm's way.

Yeah, we're the job done. It's hard work.

Understand how hard it is to commit troops. I never wanted to commit troops. I never — when I was running — when we had the debate in 2000, never dreamt I'd be doing that, but the enemy attacked us, Jim, and I have a solemn duty to protect the American people, to do everything I can to protect us.

Atrios muses that Bush must be due for retirement, after all that hard work. Tom Toles has his fun with these comments, too. And it's hard to resist pointing out that the Presidency is certainly the first hard job Bush has ever had in his life.

But this really made me think of something I linked last May from the Decemberist about Bush being a bad CEO. (The emphasis is mine.)

A writer followed the CEO of Avon Products around for several days, breathlessly chronicling all the tough choices and key decisions he had to make, much as Bob Woodward chronicles presidents. And yet what the article revealed, inadvertently, was that it is perfectly easy to sit at the top of a large organization, make dozens of "decisions" a day, and yet never really grapple with the issues the company faced. The Avon CEO's day consisted of meetings at which teams from various parts of the company essentially pitched him for authorization to spend more money or take more time on some project. The emotional high point of these heady days would come after lunch, when the CEO would ask his secretary to check the stock price, and if it was down, he would swear and slam his office door.

The article later became a book, which I didn't read, but I remember a review in which Joseph Nocera pointed out that neither the CEO nor the author seemed to show any recognition that "the company was a dog," since the business of selling cosmetics door-to-door didn't have much future. For all the decisions, the CEO was as helpless to change his company as the worst-paid, part-time salesperson.

I didn't have any interest in the cult of the CEO, and I've never worked in an organization so big that I didn't know the head of it, but it was still a revelation to me that someone could reach the top of an organization and yet be so completely passive and imprisoned within the assumptions of that organization's culture. There's all the bluster of leadership, all the "I'm the one who has to make the tough calls," all obsession with the stock price as if it's an impeccable barometer of success, but underlying it all, just drift, not mastery.

The article is a spot-on description of a lot of corporate organizations I've seen from the inside in my work. And seeing Bush talk last night, I could smell exactly that phenomenon on him. As another blogger pointed out (I forget who), Bush dropped a lot of names — he may forget facts, but he never forgets a name. Because for him, success isn't about what you know, it's about who you know.

Unfortunately, it's not his job to be well-connected. The job comes with that for free. Nor is it his job to face tough decisions. The job comes with that built-in as well. It's his job to make the right decisions, and he genuinely seems not to know that.

1 comment:

Kevin said...

I don't agree with your characterization of the President, obviously the CEO of Avon or yourself have never had the power of life or death in your hands. If John Kerry was truly interested in being the President, then how come he hasn't been doing the job in the Senate.

You should check out my blog, for a different perspective on the debate and other things.