The Washington Post reports that Bush's nominee to oversee customs and immigration -- four years after foreign agents crossed our borders and killed 3,000 people on American soil -- is facing some resistance, and not just from Democrats. and, most recently...
Why would anyone object to 36-year-old Julie Myers heading up the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, part of Michael Chertoff's Department of Homeland Security?
Per the Commerce Dept.'s web site, here are some of her credentials:
Now, given her relative youth, it's clear Myers has not spent much time in any one office. One year at Commerce, a brief stint in the A.G.'s office, two years as a federal prosecutor. It's been a pretty meteoric rise, though, which should indicate fantastic competence. But let's look at some of those credentials again, this time fleshing them out with some info not at the Commerce Dept. site, but up top in the WaPo write-up:
Myers told Congress that, at Commerce, she oversaw 170 employees and a $25-million budget. (It's safe to assume she'd be honest in her job application, I think, given her background in HR.) But now the president wants her to oversee six thousand employees with...I'm sorry, that's six thousand investigators, out of a total of 20,000 employees, in five separate law-enforcement agencies, with a combined budget of $4 billion, composing a bureau that, according to its web site, encompasses the following goals:
The guy currently keeping Myers' new seat warm is someone named John Clark. I've never heard of him, but judging from his resume, he's been a little busy for the last 25 years (since January of 1980, when Julie was 10):
So, why would Bush go forward with this nomination so soon after the debacle of Michael Brown? That's what the Washington Post asks (although she was nominated well before Katrina struck).
Noam Schreiber has a theory for Bush's cronyism, which he articulates in the latest New Republic purely in response to the Brown fiasco.
"The problem may have less to do with the current president than with conservatism itself. Let's first distinguish between two very different types of cronyism. The first kind is what you might call "inner-circle cronyism": Pretty much every president has dragged a small collection of cronies with him into the West Wing....The reason for this phenomenon, as John F. Kennedy once explained, is that the White House is a lousy place to start making friends. Presidents need advisers they can trust unconditionally, and longtime friends and associates are often the only ones who fit the bill. If Bush is exceptional in this case, it's only because he so values loyalty that he refuses to fire these people even after they've proved themselves incompetent.The logic here is spectacularly poor -- it's almost an act of cognitive derring-do. Here's the argument laid out, if not quite in Boolean terms:
"It's the second kind of cronyism--call it "outer-circle cronyism"--that's truly destructive...handing out jobs to cronies of cronies... The Bush administration is infested with it. Mike Brown, the former FEMA director, is a college friend of Bush campaign manager Joe Allbaugh. Treasury [Myers' old haunt-JL] employs former political hands but few top economists...Meanwhile, as my colleague Spencer Ackerman has reported, the Bush administration insisted in 2002 that the Department of Homeland Security be exempt from having to stock its upper ranks largely with members of the Senior Executive Service--the elite cadre of civil servants who make the government's machinery run smoothly--in order to give it more political appointments...
"Why do conservative administrations specialize in outer-circle cronyism? The answer has to do with the fact that conservatism doesn't hold bureaucracy in very high regard...Conservatives believe that bureaucracy is inherently bumbling, inefficient, and, well, dumb. '[T]he brutal fact is, government tends toward bureaucracy, which means elaborate paper flow but ineffective action,' as David Brooks wrote on Sunday. Even Bush himself couldn't resist a jab at bureaucracy in a press conference shortly after Katrina. '[B]ureaucracy is not going to stand in the way of getting the job done for the people,' the president announced...
"Now, if you happen to think bureaucracies are structurally incapable of improving people's lives...then you have two choices: You can either slash the bureaucracy and refund taxpayers' money, or you can reconcile yourself to the existence of bureaucracy and run it as a patronage operation. (If, by definition, a bureaucracy can't get any less competent, you might as well make appointments that benefit you personally or politically.) But, in reality, it's just not politically feasible to cut bureaucracy very much...conservatives have generally opted for choice B--reconciliation. About the worst thing you can say about Bush is that he's more reconciled than most."
1) All presidents need cronies
2) Bush values loyalty
3) Bush's loyalty-valuing protects incompetent cronies
4) Inner-circle cronyism breeds outer-circle cronyism
5) Conservatives don't value bureaucracies
6) Conservatives have two choices: Kill bureaucracies or use them for patronage
7) All bureaucracies are immortal
8) Conservatives have no choice but to fill bureaucracies using outer-circle cronyism
(The logic of 5-8 is just non-existent. The premises are unsound, for one thing. Number six is simply not the case: Why should patronage be the only alternative to death? You don't have to value bureaucracy to abhor patronage, you only have to value meritocracy. Clinton and Gore proved #7 false by reducing the size of government. And once you take away 6 and 7, there's no logical way to make the leap from 5 to 8.)
But let's go back to Noam's more interesting error. Let's give him #1. I'll even uncynically spot him #2. But #3 should be understood with the following nuance: Crony incompetence isn't a test to Bush's loyalty, it's irrelevant. When you look at who Clinton's "cronies" were, they were, for the most part, astonishingly capable people who had achieved much on their own. Clinton was too smart, too engaged, too intellectually curious ever to have a meaningful circle of incompetence. Incompetence wouldn't test Clinton's loyalty at the end of the crony process, it would have torpedoed the very start of crony formation.
Not so with Bush (see: Rove).
And this explains why (let's call it) Clintonian cronyism doesn't yield Michael Browns -- because Clinton didn't form crony circles based on loyalty the way Bush does; he formed them with the necessary stipulations of competence and intelligence. Therefore, Clinton's trickle-down cronyism yielded concentric circles of ability, while Bush's yield concentric circles of floodwaters.
All of this, though, leaves us with the question of why does Bush now, after Sept. 11, after Katrina, after Michael Brown, still feel comfortable relying on trickle-down cronyism to fill spots of vital national security?
Oddly, John Kerry unknowingly provided the key to understanding this pivotal part of Bush's personality. In a debate discussion utterly unrelated to this one, he said: "The president and I have a difference of opinion about how we live out our sense of our faith. I talked about it earlier when I talked about the works and faith without works being dead."
Pres. Bush is a faith-based president. More importantly, he's a faith-based person. He's a new breed of Christian; seeing the world and everyone in it solely through the lens of personal salvation. I don't mean he literally has a religious litmus test. I mean that he's embraced a viral, mutant strain of Christianity that pays no heed to the teachings or works of Jesus, but focuses exclusively on a new, ephemeral, poorly defined notion of faith: Personal acceptance of (something you call) Christ as (something you perceive as) your savior. That's it. That's how you get to heaven. You don't even have to accept the biblically defined Jesus, you just have to think you do.
And once you understand that Bush has, in effect, annointed his subconscious as his internal Christ, then everything else makes sense. That's why his eyes can see Vladimir Putin's soul. That's why he's comfortable appointing buddies (those in whom he has "faith") to positions of importance despite their lack of qualifications (i.e., "works"). That's why we saw the following non sequitur in the 2000 debates:
GORE: I believe there are 1.4 million children in Texas who do not have health insurance. 600,000 of whom, and maybe some of those have since gotten it, but as of a year ago 600,000 of them were actually eligible for it but they couldn't sign up for it because of the barriers that they had set up.Bush was fundamentally (pun intended) incapable of even understanding that the issue was performance and works. He can only see himself (and others of "faith") through the lens of "faith." That he means well (i.e., is not hard-hearted, i.e., has faith) is all that matters. That's why he could issue the following flabbergasting observation about the Katrina response: "I am satisfied with the response. I'm not satisfied with all the results."
MODERATOR: Let's let the governor respond to that. Are those numbers correct? Are his charges correct?
BUSH: If he's trying to allege that I'm a hard-hearted person and I don't care about children, he's absolutely wrong.
It's a hugely revealing, staggeringly cognitively-dissociative statement to make. A normal, reality-based person understands that when the results are not satisfactory, you change the response that yielded them. It is, in essence, impossible for a satisfactory response to yield unsatisfactory results. The only person who can't intuitively see that is one who deals exclusively with internal states, with intentionality, with "heartedness," with "souls," with faith. When Bush called Jesus the most important political philosopher in his life, he wasn't just covering for his lack of familiarity with actual political philosophers, he was sincerely identifying the person (or, more accurately, the concept) that had freed him to make decisions based on a divinely-inspired "gut," rather than on the tough, grueling boring work of work. And works.
America has to understand that President Bush responds to everyone and everything in terms of this only-superficially-religious faith. Because until America declares it's unsatisfied with Bush's response, it will remain unsatisfied with the results.
and, most recently...