Privatization Kills

More on Walter Reed from Government Executive:

During a Monday hearing to investigate widely publicized problems at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, lawmakers and Army officials placed partial blame on a public-private job competition that sapped the facility of workers, and on uncertainty about the slated closure of the center in the ongoing Base Realignment and Closure process.

Several lawmakers questioned whether it had been a mistake to outsource base operations support through a competition conducted under the Office of Management and Budget’s Circular A-76 rules. The Walter Reed competition began in January 2000 and went through numerous protests and appeals. The contractor selected to perform the work, Cape Canaveral, Fla.-based IAP Worldwide Services, finally took over operations on Feb. 4 of this year.

“We certainly could have done it better, and maybe we shouldn’t have done it at all,” said Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley, the head of the Army Medical Command and Walter Reed’s commander from 2002 to 2004, in response to a question from Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif.

Call it unfair to accuse this administration of not caring about the troops. Sure, everybody cares to some degree. There aren’t that many psychopaths on Earth. Let’s stipulate that the administration cares deeply, for all the good that has done. The problem is that people in important positions care about conservative ideology one degree more than literally anything else.

I will illustrate the point with a different example. Nobody would sensibly claim that the administration doesn’t care about Iraq. Quite the contrary. The president’s strongest supporters and his worst critics alike will tell you that nothing has mattered more than overthrowing Saddam Hussein. For better or worse (depending, natch, on who you ask) rebuilding the middle east via Iraq constitutes this administration’s signature issue and the fundamental test that will decide whether the Bush presidency is judged a success or a failure. In that sense Iraq is the ultimate test of whether there exists a policy so important and favored that its executors will choose pragmatic leadership over ideology.

Surprise! Ideology won.

After the fall of Saddam Hussein’s government in April 2003, the opportunity to participate in the U.S.-led effort to reconstruct Iraq attracted all manner of Americans — restless professionals, Arabic-speaking academics, development specialists and war-zone adventurers. But before they could go to Baghdad, they had to get past Jim O’Beirne’s office in the Pentagon.

To pass muster with O’Beirne, a political appointee who screens prospective political appointees for Defense Department posts, applicants didn’t need to be experts in the Middle East or in post-conflict reconstruction. What seemed most important was loyalty to the Bush administration.

O’Beirne’s staff posed blunt questions to some candidates about domestic politics: Did you vote for George W. Bush in 2000? Do you support the way the president is fighting the war on terror? Two people who sought jobs with the U.S. occupation authority said they were even asked their views on Roe v. Wade .

Many of those chosen by O’Beirne’s office to work for the Coalition Provisional Authority, which ran Iraq’s government from April 2003 to June 2004, lacked vital skills and experience. A 24-year-old who had never worked in finance — but had applied for a White House job — was sent to reopen Baghdad’s stock exchange. The daughter of a prominent neoconservative commentator and a recent graduate from an evangelical university for home-schooled children were tapped to manage Iraq’s $13 billion budget, even though they didn’t have a background in accounting.

Let this sink in for a moment. Iraq, the singular focus of this administration’s obsessive attention, was run in such a way as to practically guarantee failure. Successfully doing the job unambiguously ranked lower on the priority list than preserving the maximum possible ideological purity. Taking that into account, the question of whether the administration cares about rebuilding Iraq proved totally irrelevant. They obviously cared quite a lot. But one thing will always matter more.

Again. Recall the encounter that spawned the term reality-based community.

The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” … “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

It’s the same story every time. Important figures in our government earnestly believe that they can override objective reality through force of will and use of force. This same victory of doctrine over responsible management ensured the eventual failure of Communism. At every point in the hierarchy bureaucrats who served the Party Doctrine earned greater rewards than civil servants who did the job swiftly and efficiently. Now, as the worst news day yet shudders to a close, it seems clear that our conservative movement has doomed itself to the same fate.

***

Find my earlier posts on this topic here and here.






48 replies
  1. 1
    Pb says:

    The daughter of a prominent neoconservative commentator and a recent graduate from an evangelical university for home-schooled children were tapped to manage Iraq’s $13 billion budget, even though they didn’t have a background in accounting.

    The best and the brightest, baby–they could pass a loyalty oath, and they had posted their resumés with the Heritage Foundation–what more could you possibly want? And besides, if she ran into any trouble–say she needed help setting up a shell corporation through which to embezzle and/or launder large sums of our tax dollars (then in cash, now missing)–she could always ask her prominent neoconservative father (whose name rhymes with ‘cycle latrine’) for advice!

  2. 2
    craigie says:

    What I love most about posts like this is that, despite an air-tight case that clobbers this administration over the head, there will come, like flies, wingnuts to say “No! Theses guys are very smart and talented! You’re all a bunch of lefty whiners!”

    I love to read those bat-shit crazy apologies for the inexcusable. How I laugh and laugh and shake my head in wonder at the cluelessness…

  3. 3
    cd6 says:

    Who gives a shit about all this political crap. I can’t believe I didn’t win that damn 370 million. Instead, I wasted 5 bucks. WHY DO BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE??

    Anyway, whosits on the Iraqnow?

    Oh wait, nevermind, American Idol is on.

  4. 4
    Pb says:

    I can’t believe I didn’t win that damn 370 million.

    Greetings, Mr. Colbert!

  5. 5
    Stephen says:

    The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” …

    I’m really curious to find out the name of the aide – he or she must cringe every time the quote appears. I wonder what they think now?

  6. 6
    Pb says:

    I wonder what they think now?

    Laughing all the way to the bank?

  7. 7
    cd6 says:

    Greetings, Mr. Colbert!

    DId he steal my joke? That bastard.
    Note, I live on the west coast and didn’t see him say that if he did

    We deserve equal credit for the same joke

  8. 8
    Pb says:

    cd6,

    Colbert gets credit for recording the joke in advance as well–but even then, I still watched him say it before you posted. :)

  9. 9
    mclaren says:

    But is it really true that personal loyalty to The Leader is the same as political ideology?

    That doesn’t sound like the same thing. “Ideological purity” involves adherence to a set of abstract ideas. Personal loyalty to The Leader is something quite different — that’s a cult of personality. Or, in the original german, der Fuhrerprinzip — the Leader Principle, the belief that the Great Leader is superhuman and always right, no matter how crazy or foolish his actions might seem to lesser mortals.

    Personal loyalty to The Leader transcends political ideology. The results of loyalty-driven vs. ideologically-driven organizations are also entirely different.

    Laylty-driven organizations tend to collapse because they fill upw ith mindless yes men who don’t dare offer contradictory opinions. Ideologicaly-driven organizations tend to fall apart because they persist in applying midnless ideology even after reality contradicts their beliefs.

    An ideoloigcally-driven organization is easily capable of changing course in a heartbeat. The Great Leader need only announce that today balck is white, whereas yesterday white was black, and all the apparatchiks fall in line with the new ideological principles. The ledaer need never fear changing course in an ideologically driven system because the ideology is what matters, not the leader.

    A loyalty-driven organization can’t change course because The Great Leader is always right, always infallible, always divine, always superhuman. The ledear can never change course in a loyalty-driven system because to change means to reveal tha The Great Leader is not superhuman and infallible.

    Sounds to me like we’ve got a loyalty-driven organization in the White House, not an ideologically-driven one.

    The

  10. 10
    Pb says:

    mclaren,

    Loyalty is their ideology–it’s all they have left, which is why they’re in meltdown.

  11. 11
    Jimmm says:

    About the best thing one can say about this whole incident–indeed, about everything the Bush admin touches–is that they’re just not very good at this whole “government” thing.

    McLaren: can one be overly loyal to an ideology? Bush, after all, claims to answer to a more powerful father than 41…

  12. 12
    Paul Wartenberg says:

    We’re currently viewing a shift in the political definitions.

    It’s no longer a struggle between liberals and conservatives. Those labels are from earlier battles of the Cold War.

    It’s now a struggle between Realists – those who are competent, able to recognize, able to manage – and Idealogues – those who prefer sticking to a belief or cause over reacting pragmatically to any crisis.

    The Republicans are mostly led now by Idealogues: those who obsess over religious purity (the no-sex-unless-its-to-have-babies crowd), and those who obsess over tax cuts and privitization (which becomes a cynical excuse to sell off government duties and all the taxpayer money that goes with it to cronyist buddies in the private sector).

    Question now is, where do all the Realists go?

  13. 13
    jake says:

    Here’s my problem with “Blame the outsourcers,” from the lips of people like Kiley and Weightman: WHY the fuck didn’t they SCREAM their heads off?

    Why not run a projection? We have X staff, we expect Y number of wounded. Query: Can we provide adequate services Y wounded with X staff? If the answer is no, scream real loud.
    And “uncertainty about the future” (boo fucking hoo) just doesn’t cut it. What was the theory? “We’re uncertain so we’ll let the outpatients rot? We’ll let guys with brain trauma wander around the base. Hooray! uncertainty for all!”

    From Kiley and Weightman and anyone else on the scene, I don’t care if the god damned contractors held guns to their heads. If they knew (and current evidence certainly points that way) they should have been holding guns to someone’s head until it was fixed.

    Let me give what I think is a more relevant analogy:
    There is a hosptial that for a long time did not maintain adequate nursing staff. Nurses were working round the clock and surprise! Patients were dying as a result of easily avoidable medical errors. But the hospital didn’t want to see that correlation because nurses are expensive and there’s always been a nursing shortage and anyway it was not enough patients for anyone to notice, so they ignored the one doctor who was shouting: Look tired nurses = dead patients.
    Then he went to the local papers.

    Saying “We can’t find enough nurses,” didn’t cut it for the state and JCHAO (an independent hosptial certification group). Saying “It’s the outsourcers,” or “We were uncertain,” doesn’t cut it. If you’re in charge of a mess, get off your arse and fix the fucking mess. THEN you can tell us how you saved patients from evil contractors.

  14. 14
    Cyrus says:

    I love to read those bat-shit crazy apologies for the inexcusable. How I laugh and laugh and shake my head in wonder at the cluelessness…

    Seconded. It would be really entertaining to see Darrell or somebody comment on this. Other than accusing O’Bierne’s job candidates of lying, or the writer of the article itself, what is there to say? Come on, Darrell, let’s hear about how anyone not personally loyal to Bush is likely to deliberately sabotage the Iraq effort. Or how Bush’s skilled leadership and admirable personality is so self-evident that failing to accept it is proof of general incompetence. Or how all Clinton and Carter also insisted that mid-level functionaries on important jobs half a world away agree with them on unrelated issues, so it’s all right.

    I can kindasorta understand people who voted for Bush in 2004, because elections like that aren’t in a vacuum; he was being compared to Kerry. But anyone who still supports Bush and the rest of the current Republican leadership is nuttier than a fruitcake.

  15. 15
  16. 16
    chopper says:

    It would be really entertaining to see Darrell or somebody comment on this. Other than accusing O’Bierne’s job candidates of lying, or the writer of the article itself, what is there to say?

    “once in 1996 somebody applying for a janitor position at the white house was asked if he voted for clinton”

  17. 17
    Fe E says:

    Hmmm, the link disappeared, here it is again (honestly people, I’ve pulled this off before!)Scott Ott Draws a different conclusion

  18. 18
    RSA says:

    The Walter Reed competition began in January 2000

    And thus this scandal is all Clinton’s fault. Actually, I did try to see what was going on at that time, but all I can gather is that some kind of outsourcing was under consideration; a few years later the Army seems to have decided to outsource a couple of hundred blue collar maintenance jobs. I couldn’t find out any more about the overall plan, though.

  19. 19
    Jill says:

    Impeachment anyone?

  20. 20
    Jill says:

    Today on Washington Journal Rep. Marcy Kaptur said private company given the Walter Reed contract was aided by Dany Quayle.

  21. 21

    Now, as the worst news day yet shudders to a close, it seems clear that our conservative movement has doomed itself to the same fate.

    Yep.

    And I couldn’t be happier.

    Bye. Bye.

  22. 22
    ThymeZone says:

    Let this sink in for a moment. Iraq, the singular focus of this administration’s obsessive attention, was run in such a way as to practically guarantee failure

    While the point is well taken, some of us have pretty much understood this since 2002. Even the runup to war was a collossal trainwreckclusterfuckatastrophe. And nothing that’s happened since has improved the situation.

  23. 23
    Barry says:

    It’s important to realize that Bush & Co did *not* care about Iraq, or the War on Terror, or anything else. They cared about their power, egos, and ripping off money.

    Nothing else mattered at all.

  24. 24
    Jill says:

    Barry…you forgot one thing: the destruction of government.

  25. 25

    Walter Reed, if it is as the media reports, is just another way the Bush administration has taken hope and delivered disappointment. I think McLaren hit the nail on the head: We’ve got a loyalty-driven organization in the White House, not an ideologically-driven one.

    Unfortunately, as many have said, ideas matter. That is why, despite a Republican President and a Republican Congress, we saw such a huge increase in the federal budget, and in the power of the federal government. From their failure to reign in earmarks and spending in general, to intrusions on the state’s turf such as No Child Left Behind, the Bush administration and Republican congress have advanced federal power in ways which even a moderate Republican should dislike. The best thing you can say about it is, from the perspective of Republicans, Kerry would have been worse. And I’m not even sure about that.

    Nick Kasoff
    The Thug Report

  26. 26
    mclaren says:

    Paul Wartenberg makes an excellent point when he remarks that we’ve shifted from a right/left schism in politics to a division twixt realists and ideologues. We are certainly seeing some of that, as the politicization of science and the infamous quote about “the reality-based community” shows.

    However, we’re also seeing another split, and this seems to be what John Cole was getting at. Namely, we’ve got a split between the personal-loyalty-driven fanatics and the ideologically-driven fanatics. This is a split within the Republican party and it’s tearing the party apart.

    As long as everything seemed to be going well in the current White House, the personal-loyalty-driven segment of the republican party had no quarrel with the ideologically-driven segment. But when everything fell apart (Iraq, Katrina, exploding deficits, etc. etc.) the ideologues declared war on the drunk-driving C student in the White House and prcolaimed that he had never actually been a conservative at all. We’re now hearing more and more of this from people like Richard Viguerie. The ideologues are, in effect, declaring the devotees of the cult of personal loyalty to be heretics. Meanwhile, the cult-of-personality loyalists who worship the drunk-driving C student in the White House have declared the ideologues traitors. Now we’re getting open warfare between the two groups.

    As for the claim that “loyalty is their ideology,” nice try — but it doesn’t work. Personal loyalty is by definition directed at a person. Ideology, by contrast, always gets directed at an abstract idea. “Loyalty to an ideology” is a clever instance of verbal calisthenics but it boils down to ideology. Someone who is loyal to ideas is, by definition, someone who worships an idea. Worshipping a person is entirely different and wholly incompatible.

    The cult of personality around the drunk-driving C student in the White House seems peculiar and has no precedent in modern politics that I can think of, short of Mussolinismo, or possibly the cult that surrounded Huey Long. Exactly how a stumbling fumbling bumbling bungler managed to create such a cult of personality around himself offers a fascinating case study in psychopathology. It’s clear at this point that the ideologues hate the cult-of-personal-loyalty crowd around the drunk-driving C student in the White House with a white-hot ferocity. Just read Perle’s interview in Vanity Fair where he excoriates the personal loyalty crowd in the White House.

    With a three-cornered civil war twixt cult-of-personality loyalists, ideologues and the reality-based community, it’ll be interesting to see who’ll win. The reality-based community appears to have the upper hand, since the other camp finds itself divided and at one anothers’ throats. This suggests that the Demos will come out on top, since the Repubs currently have no reality-based community of any consequence in their political base.

    What remains puzzling is why there isn’t a conservative reality-based community today. That’s strange. It runs counter to recent history. For many years the genuine conservatives like Dwight Eisenhower and George Aiken prided themselves on being supreme realists, and made a compelling case against the wild-eyed idealism of Democrats like Wilson and JFK (both of whom got us into huge messes with their idealism). Hard-nosed realism used to be the special province of Republicans. When Demos got us into trouble with their crazy idealistic rhetoric of “the right of self-determination” (Wilson, which incidentally would’ve required us to let the South secede and keep their slaves) or “we will pay any price, bear any burden” (JFK: great words, but one of the worst ideas in American history), the Repubs used to remind everyone that we needed to live in the real world…and then they stepped in clean up the mess. The Demos used to tbe party of war and social control, while the Repubs were the party of prudence and realism and common sense. And not that long ago, either. Now it’s the other way around.

    What happened? Why did the Repubs abandon their hard-nosed fiscal and foreign policy realism for the weird self-delusions and woolly-headed fantasies of Bonzo the chimp’s co-star and the drunk-driving C student currently in the White House?

  27. 27
    Pb says:

    mclaren,

    As for the claim that “loyalty is their ideology,” nice try—but it doesn’t work.

    Did you at least read the link? I could just as easily have said that they have no consistent ideology, but either way, loyalty is all they have left. Well, and of course ‘fear itself’.

  28. 28
    Zifnab says:

    Marcy Kaptur said private company given the Walter Reed contract was aided by Dany Quayle.

    Oh ye gods, the horror. I wouldn’t trust Dan Qualye with a pair of safety scissors that were glued shut. The idea that someone trusted him to aid in the care of wounded soldiers…

  29. 29
    Punchy says:

    What remains puzzling is why there isn’t a conservative reality-based community today.

    Damn good analysis. Have long wondered where all the educated, common-sensical, pragmatic Republicans have disappeared to….

    It shouldn’t take a PhD to see–and thus admit–that Bush has been anything but “conservative” on nearly all of his gov’t policies…

  30. 30
    jenniebee says:

    Stephen asks:

    I’m really curious to find out the name of the aide – he or she must cringe every time the quote appears. I wonder what they think now?

    That was Paul “is there enough spit in my hair?” Wolfowitz, over lunch with Ron Suskind.

    I remember a time when I too thought that it was possible that existence was merely the projection of perception, and that I had enough will and muscle to escape reality’s gravitational pull. Then I turned nine.

  31. 31
    Pb says:

    What changed in American politics in the past 25-50 years? See here and here for some of the answer… it’s all about who’s voting for your party, and thus, who your party caters to in return…

  32. 32
    RSA says:

    What remains puzzling is why there isn’t a conservative reality-based community today.

    That’s an interesting puzzle. Certainly there are conservative, reality-based individuals around (JC being the most immediate example, at least in the blogosphere). I think that the movement conservatives tend to marginalize these individuals, and once that’s happened, it’s easy to say, “Why should we pay attention to these people?” It may be a poor analogy, but I’m reminded of the way that some kids get picked on in the schoolyard, even if their only sin is being an outsider. Do the outsiders ever form their own group? Sure, but divide-and-conquer still seems to be pretty effective.

  33. 33
    Pb says:

    That was Paul “is there enough spit in my hair?” Wolfowitz, over lunch with Ron Suskind.

    Wow, then I was totally right in my speculation that he was laughing all the way to the bank!

  34. 34
    Tsulagi says:

    On the Walter Reed privatization fuckup success, cue Condi: “No one could ever have imagined that the same company whose ice-filled trucks couldn’t find New Orleans after Katrina wouldn’t be able to maintain Walter Reed.”

    I blame Mother Nature. If she hadn’t made breathing an autonomous reflex, these guys would be long dead. They would be too stupid to breathe.

  35. 35
    Zifnab says:

    Damn good analysis. Have long wondered where all the educated, common-sensical, pragmatic Republicans have disappeared to….

    John Cole just voted for Byrd for Senator last November. And this time last year, he was still staunchly proud of his ’04 Bush vote. Is it possible pragmatic Republicans have disappeared because pragmatic people have stopped being Republicans?

  36. 36
    Pb says:

    Zifnab,

    Is it possible pragmatic Republicans have disappeared because pragmatic people have stopped being Republicans?

    Yes. Also, 9/11 changed everything, what with the threat of gay Mexican flag-burning terrorists on our borders and all. That’s why we’re fighting them in Iraq!

  37. 37
    qwerty42 says:

    mclaren has a good overview, however it does miss a debate of some importance that went on in the 1950s: the Truman administration had developed the “Containment Doctrine” based on ideas of State Dept advisor George Kennan and subsequently modified (sometimes against GKs wishes/advice) by others in the administration (the president, Acheson, Marshall and others). It became a sophisticated policy (one of the more coherent policies the country has had, for all its flaws). However, in the 50s, the Republican party had a wing that did not wish to “contain” communism. they wanted a “roll back” (we’d call it “regime change” now). Regimes were changed in the 50s (Iran, for example). But the focus was on central and eastern Europe and, of course, China (the “who lost China” accusations). The new SecState, Dulles, was supposedly on the roll-back side, but when the Hungarians took him at his word in 1956, the US did nothing. Eisenhower, far more aware of what the next world war would be like, refused (and intervention in Hungary would have backed the Soviet Union into a corner, not unlike the situation with tsarist Russia, Serbia and Austria-Hungary in 1914). So “containment” became the doctrine of both parties, with only a remnant – mostly old McCarthyites – favoring anything else (i don’t think they envisioned restarting the Korean War or invading mainland China, but they seem not to have any grasp of what they were dealing with). It does not seem the roll back group ever quite vanished and we still seem to have to deal with them. I also wonder what happened to the old foreign policy realists of the Repubs. Purged in the 90s in favor of the ideologues (or at least those who would have no objection to whatever a Republican president said he would want?

  38. 38
    dreggas says:

    I think the reason there is no “reality based conservative group” is because for the most part they just joined the reality based community. The very definition of conservative is that now promoted by the Hannity’s, Limbaugh’s and Coulter’s not to mention the Falwell’s, Dobson’s and others. Any who try to adopt the name “conservative” even in an attempt to reclaim it from the above are castigated by the current “conservatives” as not being conservative (especially if they are not social conservatives) and even by adopting the word “conservative” they are lumped in (by the reality based community among others) with the current crop of rabid wingers.

    For example, my father was a Conservative, much in the same vein as JC. He hated clinton for acting like the worlds police and getting involved in places like Bosnia. He believed we shouldn’t get involved in foreign wars unless we had a vital national interest at stake. He hateed taxes and believed government should stay the hell out of our lives and should not be big, or big brother for that matter.

    So along comes W. in 2000. W talks about not doing nation building, restoring honor and integrity to the white house (my father was by no means a social conservative at this point but he still disliked Clinton and so Monica just gave him more ammo) and all the lofty idealistic talk. He disliked Gore seeing gore as a leftover from clinton minus the personality (my father even conceded Clinton was smart, erudite and a great speaker) and voted for W.

    Thus began a descent into madness as I call it. He began adopting the Limbaugh, Hannity and Coulter trinity of disdain for anything when it came to Democrats (now mind you he voted for Dukakis in 88 and Perot in 92). He began drinking the unholy kool-aid and the war shit appealed to his machismo as much as it did to his anger over 9-11.

    So with that came the rest of so-called conservatism, the social conservatism the loyalty oaths to party and to the leader. By osmosis so, too, came the loyalty to the ideology of hatred and bigotry. This was more even more shocking because despite all of his faults my father had raised me to be tolerant and open minded.

    Fat forward to ’04. The kool-aid glasses are on and the addicition is in full swing. Kerry is a realist but loyalty to ideology and to party/leader overshadows that. The end result he still is rabid about “liberals” and “democrats” and pulls the lever, again, for bush despite 4 years of lies with regard to what he campaigned on 4 years ago.

    Fast forward to this past thanksgiving. The realist is starting to return and he has kicked his kool-aid addiction. Even makes the comment that he missed Nixon because even though he was a crook he was less of one. Back was the father I grew up with. Now I am sure he voted for Hillary’s opponent because he would never bring himself to vote for her but the pragmatism was back and he was pissed for being betrayed.

  39. 39
    RWB says:

    I think belief and will have a lot to do with the success or failure of certain government operations, including Walter Reed. Privatization doesn’t necessarily have to be bad, even if it has turned out horrible here. Privatization will be a disaster if the people with the responsibility of running the hospital (or the reconstruction of Iraq or FEMA or any other part of the government) don’t really believe that government can work. This belief is likely to color the actual outcome. And belief in the utter ineffectiveness of government has been official Republican belief since at least Reagan.

    Now if you’ll recall, Gore tried to “reinvent” government. Many state, local, and federal government programs have implemented sunset rules, sunshine rules, transparency rules, etc. Many government employees now get MBAs to try to learn advanced ways of improving operations. Even many proponents of privatization intend the privatization to help the government deliver its services better. When you have people who believe that the operation of government can be improved, you greatly increase the chances that the operation of government will be improved, obviously. But Bush and his boys simply don’t believe the operation of government can be improved. They believe government is purely bad. And this belief colors their ability to actually do anything. From thier point of view, obviously Walter Reed and FEMA and so on are disasterous because they are the government.

    Now if there were Republicans who believed the following– “I’m for limiting government and think government should not be in the business of delivering this or that service, but I feel on the other hand that for those services that government must provide, it should be as well managed as possible,” well, I think that would be popular. Mike Huckabee sometimes seems to express that kind of ideology. The Bush crowd, not so much.

  40. 40
    Pooh says:

    John Cole just voted for Byrd for Senator last November. And this time last year, he was still staunchly proud of his ‘04 Bush vote. Is it possible pragmatic Republicans have disappeared because pragmatic people have stopped being Republicans?

    I agree with the obvious answer that they’re all at least DINOs at this point. Or at least if you ask the Bush Base that’s what they’ll tell you.

    And the reason it took so long is the varying degrees of hippie-hatred which kept the John Cole’s of the Former Right (John Cole not included)(this one never, ever stops being funny for me) on the reservation for much longer than would have otherwise been the case. I mean, even after Schiavo, it took John, a pretty sharp guy, almost a year to finally bring himself to admit that even if there were hippies under the bed, they were still the far lesser of two evils.

  41. 41
    Pb says:

    I also wonder what happened to the old foreign policy realists of the Repubs.

    I’m sure they still write papers and form ‘study groups‘ and whatnot–they just aren’t in power.

  42. 42
    dreggas says:

    And the reason it took so long is the varying degrees of hippie-hatred which kept the John Cole’s of the Former Right (John Cole not included)(this one never, ever stops being funny for me) on the reservation for much longer than would have otherwise been the case. I mean, even after Schiavo, it took John, a pretty sharp guy, almost a year to finally bring himself to admit that even if there were hippies under the bed, they were still the far lesser of two evils.

    and even if they were dirty hippies at least the pachouli covered it up…

  43. 43
    Zifnab says:

    But Bush and his boys simply don’t believe the operation of government can be improved. They believe government is purely bad. And this belief colors their ability to actually do anything. From thier point of view, obviously Walter Reed and FEMA and so on are disasterous because they are the government.

    I disagree in part. Bush doesn’t respect the responsibility of the government. FEMA and Walter Reed serve a purpose, but the purpose is not to lend emergency aid or rehabilitate wounded soldiers. FEMA and WR are tax-dollar trophies to be awarded to politically loyal supporters. Before and during Clinton, the Repubs worked themselves into a lather over favoritism and the spoils system and Dem corruption. But rather than fixing the alleged errors, the Republicans merely replaced Democratic officals with Republican officals and carried on with the work they believed Democrats had been doing all along. New boss same as the old boss. Republicans had incumbancy, so they assumed they’d get their 40 years in the sun just like the Democrats had. Republicans completely overlooked the positive contributions Democratic office-holders had made as they were blinded by their own rhetoric. They assumed the Dems were fuck-ups locked in power by the system. After removing said Dems, they assumed they’d get the same, illusionary, sweet deal.

    Twelve years latter, they’re discovering how wrong they were.

  44. 44
    grumpy realist says:

    I’ll place my bets on the Realists. The Real World ALWAYS wins….

    Of course, it may be after the US has gone through its own fit of authoritarian madness, over-extension of the military, and collapse of the economy, so don’t hold your breath.

    It took 50 years before the Potemkin village known as the Soviet Economy and the inefficiency of 5-year plans actually came home to roost. But when it did, it hit the floor with a splendid crash.

    Politicians realize this. Most of their activity is the practice of promising everything to everyone in order to get re-elected, leaning on the auditors to shove the nasty stuff under the table, and hoping the whole system of cards will hold up until after they leave office. Feh.

  45. 45
    Jay C says:

    RWB @12:43 :

    When you have people who believe that the operation of government can be improved, you greatly increase the chances that the operation of government will be improved, obviously. But Bush and his boys simply don’t believe the operation of government can be improved. They believe government is purely bad. And this belief colors their ability to actually do anything.

    A pretty fair precis of the current regime’s philosophy: except that I would add one observation:

    Despite the Bush 43 Administration’s lip-service to the old “conservative” shibboleth of “small [no] government”; in actual practice, their commitment to implementing this goal seems to activate only in inverse proportion to how much money any particular in-group (e.g. campaign contributors or other “connected” industries) can make from the process. In other countries, this sysytem is widely (and rightly) derided as “corruption” or “crony capitalism”: however, in today’s America, it has simply been relabeled as “privatization” – and a whole industry (well-financed, of course) has grown up to convince us that this is a Good Thing. It’s all in the presentation, y’know….

  46. 46
    Jake says:

    Slightly OT: US manufacturer of military safety vests raided. Sorry to veer from the topic at hand but I think it gives some insight into to how well contractor oversight works in our brave new world.

  47. 47
    Fledermaus says:

    Larry Diamond wrote an editorial about this back in 2005 This was the part that really made my jaw drop:

    One young political appointee (a 24-year-old Ivy League graduate) argued that Iraq should not enshrine judicial review in its constitution because it might lead to the legalization of abortion. A much more senior Iraqi interlocutor (a widely experienced Iraqi-American lawyer) became so exasperated with the young man’s audacity that he finally challenged him:

    “You must have thoroughly studied the history of the British occupation of Iraq.”

    “Yes, I did,” the young American replied proudly.

    “I thought so,” said the Iraqi, “because you seem determined to repeat every one of their mistakes.”

    I mean, where do you even begin?

  48. 48

    […] Of course the two possibilities hardly exclude one another. Senior managers routinely overrule career lawyers in politically charged cases, suggesting that the DOJ’s role as a neutral arbiter of justice subsumed to the Republican policy agenda long ago. Countless examples demonstrate that when political considerations win out in a federal department, dysfunction follows like water flowing downhill. […]

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  1. […] Of course the two possibilities hardly exclude one another. Senior managers routinely overrule career lawyers in politically charged cases, suggesting that the DOJ’s role as a neutral arbiter of justice subsumed to the Republican policy agenda long ago. Countless examples demonstrate that when political considerations win out in a federal department, dysfunction follows like water flowing downhill. […]

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