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Former Head of Faith-Based Programs Says Bush White House Not Interested in Policy
December 3, 2002 1:02 PM   Subscribe

In a long letter to Esquire magazine, the former head of Bush's Office of Faith-Based Programs blasts the White House as having practically no interest or expertise in making sound social policy: "[O]n social policy and related issues, the lack of even basic policy knowledge, and the only casual interest in knowing more, was somewhat breathtaking." DiIulio may have a bit of an ax to grind here, but it is still a fascinating look inside the Bush policy-making apparatus. (The letter was the basis for an article by Ron Suskind in Esquire which is not available online [press release here]. The saga leading to the publication of the letter is recounted in today's Tapped)
posted by boltman (22 comments total)

 
So does this mean Ari Fleischer lies to us? And the White House Press Corps lap dogs repeat Ari's lies?

Gee, how shocking! Creds to Helen Thomas though for standing up to Ari.
posted by nofundy at 1:15 PM on December 3, 2002


Besides the tax cut, which was cut-and-dried during the campaign, and the education bill, which was really a Ted Kennedy bill, the administration has not done much, either in absolute terms or in comparison to previous administrations at this stage, on domestic policy.

Does Corporate dick sucking count as domestic policy?
posted by The Jesse Helms at 1:19 PM on December 3, 2002


According to a small article in the Times today (and on Yahoo! news), he now says he's sorry for these comments. My guess is that a very large, very angry Republican visited him last night and "showed" him the error of his ways.
posted by risenc at 1:50 PM on December 3, 2002


i've been loving this whole story-from his backpedaling, to the author's insistence on the truth of what the guy actually said, to the (lame) trashing the faith-based guy is getting from the repub spin machine...
posted by amberglow at 1:55 PM on December 3, 2002


"And some staff members, senior and junior, are awed and cowed by Karl's real or perceived powers. They self- censor lots for fear of upsetting him, and, in turn, few of the president's top people routinely tell the president what they really think if they think that Karl will be brought up short in the bargain."

Bingo. This is the problem. Spin is given precedence over reality. Things in the Bush world need to sound good rather than be effective.
posted by y6y6y6 at 2:12 PM on December 3, 2002


Things in the Bush world need to sound good rather than be effective.

Yes. It is soooo different from the Clinton years, when viruous people only told the truth, with no spin, and only advocated policies that would be good for everyone, with no attention paid to perceptions or public polls.
posted by MidasMulligan at 2:21 PM on December 3, 2002


Yes. It is soooo different from the Clinton years, when viruous people only told the truth, with no spin, and only advocated policies that would be good for everyone, with no attention paid to perceptions or public polls.

Actually, it is: Clinton was quite open about his use of polls and focus groups. Bush spoke of an end to all of that nonsense, and a return to principled politics, and yet (surprise!) appears even more beholden to such methods: except that Bush's focus groups are his rich corporate donors, and his policies are spun in order to make the general public bend over and take them like good patriotic Americans.

Anyway, nice derail: what about a substantive response to DiIulio's criticisms?
posted by riviera at 2:30 PM on December 3, 2002


I'm not sure what this discussion has to do with the Clinton administration, which ended almost two years ago.

Y6's summary of DiIulio's letter -- that things in the Bush world need to sound good rather than be effective -- is accurate. That's the essence of DiIulio's message.

Speaking of Clinton (whom Midas brought up), DiIulio does say that the Clinton White House thought more seriously and deeply about policy than the W White House. Naturally, any politician who disregards public opinion will be ineffective, but DiIulio opines that the W White House pays too much attention to perception and far too little on policy.

Neither DiIulio, nor anyone here, has argued in this thread that the Clinton White House "only told the truth, with no spin." Well, actually, Midas has said so, but sarcastically.

I'm just trying to understand why, when people express the opinion -- supported by a former White House insider -- that the W White House pays too little attention to policy and too much attention to perception, that Midas interprets that to mean that a previous president told only the truth. It's a non-sequitur. If I told Midas that the sky is blue, he would angrily tell everyone else that I said my shit doesn't stink.
posted by Holden at 2:37 PM on December 3, 2002


eh. Remember the good ole days when we all hated the White House's Office of Faith-Based Initiatives?

Good times...
posted by ph00dz at 2:37 PM on December 3, 2002


"Yes. It is soooo different from the Clinton years...."

You might want to actually read the linked article before you start babbling. DiIulio spends a good deal of time contrasting the Clinton and Bush administrations.
posted by y6y6y6 at 2:37 PM on December 3, 2002


I'm surprised that he identifies the policy on stem cell research as one of this administration's more thoughtful moments. Here they were presented with an issue without grey areas -- if the research is valuable enough to override ethical objections, it should be done without restrictions, but if it is not, it should not be done at all. By trying so hard to please everyone, they found a solution that poses an obstacle to productive research while being no less upsetting to pro-lifers. This is the kind of thoughtful effort DiIulio wants more of?
posted by Epenthesis at 3:59 PM on December 3, 2002


Bingo. This is the problem. Spin is given precedence over reality. Things in the Bush world need to sound good rather than be effective.

Exactly. Bush runs the oval office like a corporate boardroom. The fact that some people think this is a good thing is so frightening that I'm seriously considering expatriating. We've likely got 6 more years of this left. That's a long time.

And, why shouldn't he run it like a business? I mean, he only ran two companies completely into the ground. Now he's repeating the performance on a national level.

Are you better off now than you were 2 years ago? It's the economy, stupid.

Al Gore is not really a prize but I sincerely doubt he'd be running the country into the ground at Mach 4 while defying most of the world to go after the guy who "tried to kill my dad" (his quote).

North Korea says they have a freakin nuke. Why aren't we invading right now? Oh, that's right, Texas oil men have no interest in Korea.
posted by Ynoxas at 5:07 PM on December 3, 2002


North Korea says they have a freakin nuke. Why aren't we invading right now? Oh, that's right, Texas oil men have no interest in Korea.

Er, invading someone with a nuke is a good way to get yourself nuked, or get your friends in the area (like S. Korea and Japan) nuked.
posted by homunculus at 5:35 PM on December 3, 2002


And thank god: I'm flying there tomorrow.

The DiIulio piece is spot-on, rings true, and is a vastly sad document. I wonder what, specifically, in it he now feels the need to retract.
posted by adamgreenfield at 5:36 PM on December 3, 2002


homunculus: Oh, then I guess the best way to get yourself, or your friends in the area (like Israel) nerve gassed is to invade someone who supposedly has weapons of mass destruction.

Oops.

Saddam is making a bomb, remember? He's supposedly got a smorgasbord of weapons at his disposal. So, following the above logic the last thing we should do is invade Iraq.

I know, you know, Bush knows, the UN knows, and Saddam knows that he is in the crosshairs because he sits on top of a large pool of the black gold they fancy so well down in Texas.

Saudi Arabia finances the terrorists. N. Korea is building bombs. Kenyans are shooting missiles at airliners. Afghans harbored bin Ladin. So who do we go after?

Of course. Saddam. Makes perfect sense.

I'm not saying that he doesn't need to be taken care of. He is a menace and a bully, and clearly has no conscience of any kind. However, he is not the greatest of our worries at the present moment.
posted by Ynoxas at 6:21 PM on December 3, 2002


Yes. It is soooo different from the Clinton years...blah, blah, blah...

Midas, if someone murdered your mother, would you ignore and excuse the guy trying to kill your wife four years later? Wrong is wrong, and wrongs today are neither diminished nor mitigated by wrongs of the past.

So why do you keep insisting otherwise every time someone points to a Bush wrongdoing?
posted by rushmc at 6:40 PM on December 3, 2002


Personally, I find DiIulio's letter indicative of how the Bush administration is the intellectually laziest in recent memory.

Another interesting part of DiIulio's letter was this paragraph toward the end about the Office of Homeland Security:

This was, in a sense, the administration problem in miniature: Ridge was the decent fellow at the top, but nobody spent the time to understand that an EOP entity without budgetary or statutory authority can't "coordinate" over 100 separate federal units, no matter how personally close to the president its leader is, no matter how morally right they feel the mission is, and no matter how inconvenient the politics of telling certain House Republican leaders we need a big new federal bureaucracy might be.

Hard to believe, but that's some of the best insider analysis on the Dept. of Homeland Security I've seen from any web site anywhere on the political spectrum.
posted by jonp72 at 7:15 PM on December 3, 2002


Er, invading someone with a nuke is a good way to get yourself nuked, or get your friends in the area (like S. Korea and Japan) nuked.

Or to get me nuked. And almost nobody wants that.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:38 PM on December 3, 2002


adam: there is more on DiIulio's rather baffling quasi-retractions in this Fox News article.
posted by boltman at 7:39 PM on December 3, 2002


DiIluio seems to be one of those earnest academic types, with no desire or expertise for being in the public eye. So I think his various retractions are simply the results of panic.

His letter, on the other hand, is incredibly thorough. And he's right about Bush's domestic record. What's amazing is that with liberal pundits decrying Bush as a Destroyer and conservative pundits serving as a cheering section, everybody missed the relatively simple story of Bush's ineffectiveness.
posted by adameft at 8:34 PM on December 3, 2002


Good point Ynoxas, although rather than nerve gas it looks like Iraq might use a virulent, vaccine-resistant Soviet strain of smallpox.
posted by homunculus at 9:04 PM on December 3, 2002


And almost nobody wants that.
posted by y2karl at 10:59 PM on December 3, 2002


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