One of the most important failures of the Bush Administration was the President’s absolute lack of judgment when it came to selecting people to be responsible for important aspects of the Executive office. In the modern era, no President can directly oversee all of the work of the massive federal government, but he or she demonstrates leadership by the appropriate selection of subordinates. When history evaluates President Bush, at the top of his misdeeds will undoubtedly be the selection of subordinates.
As Hurricane Gustav hits, how can we forget Michael Brown, who was chosen to head the nation’s emergency response, based on his fashion acumen and experience mismanaging an Arabian Horse Association? Bush’s nomination of Bernard Kerik to head Homeland Security, despite having ethical problems that would actually embarrass this administration? Donald Rumsfeld, who turned the misguided Iraq War into a five year debacle, despite promising a weeks-long campaign? These specific examples don’t even begin to address the obscene political cronyism involved in the rebuilding of Iraq or the ideological ‘purification’ of the Departments of State and Justice.
Ironically, Bush did pick one qualified person: his Vice President. Don’t misunderstand me—Cheney has been a disaster for the rule of law, political civility, and the notion that we have three branches of government—but he accomplished exactly what he was chosen to do: run the country while George ran around presidentin’.
What does it say about Senator McCain’s judgment that he made such a bad selection in this most critical job? When her foreign policy experience is limited to living next to Russia, when the McCain campaign did not even adequately vet her for the job, and when she has been chosen to satisfy ideologues in the far-right wing of the Republican Party rather than because of her experience, how can we not question whether John McCain is truly qualified to be President?
Defenders of McCain and Palin want you to believe that the swell of outrage arising with her selection demonstrates that we are concerned that she will help the McCain ticket. Nothing could be further from the truth; the outrage is that a major candidate for the Presidency would be cynical enough to put electoral prospects (misguided as that assumption might be) above the security of the nation.
When President Bush’s woefully unqualified director of FEMA cracked under the pressure, we nearly lost a great American city. What will happen if John McCain’s unqualified pick faces a similar crisis? A responsible, careful, and wise candidate for President would never make us ask that question.