Sunday, January 16, 2005

He Got Re-Elected! Part 1

In the first in a series of postings inspired by President Bush's recent interview with the Washington Post, let's talk about accountability.

The Post writes and quotes the President thusly:
President Bush said the public's decision to reelect him was a ratification of his approach toward Iraq and that there was no reason to hold any administration officials accountable for mistakes or misjudgments in prewar planning or managing the violent aftermath.

"We had an accountability moment, and that's called the 2004 elections," Bush said in an interview with The Washington Post. "The American people listened to different assessments made about what was taking place in Iraq, and they looked at the two candidates, and chose me."

To make a long complaint brief, Is he serious? Does the President truly believe that accountability is strictly a binary proposition? How does a voter who thinks Sec. Rumsfeld should be held accountable for Abu Ghraib but the rest of the administration is doing fine? Is the President arguing that anyone who has a single accountability complaint with the Administration should vote for the opposition? And more to the point - as a leader- it is not his duty but rather the electorate's to effect accountability?

There is an admirable quality to this approach- a certain United We Stand ethic from the top of the Administration down. But admirable does not equate with advisable even necessarily desirable. In electoral math that shakes out, roughly, to a strategy of 'So Long as More of You Succeed than Fail, We'll Be O.K.' Which is no way to run a country.

Certainly, the country did elect President Bush's approach to governance over any of the alternatives (ok, only one real alternative was offered. And that alternative most frequently arrived at American's eyeballs as 'Not George'). And part of the President's approach is an embrace of holding no one accountable. So this sentiment should not come as an honest surprise. To seemingly shrug off his responsibilities here- to pass the buck from himself to the voters- is surprising nonetheless. Advisors and appointees of the Executive Branch serve at the pleasure of the President (the President does not serve at the pleasure of the Electorate, he gets a fixed term). It is his job- and no one else's- to hold his advisors and appointees accountable (matters of illegality being the exception).

A more disconcerting thought- what does this portend for the next 4 years? With the Constitution denying the electorate the opportunity to hold this second Administration accountable what is the breakwater against reckless actions within the Administration? Clearly, we can't count on the President to hold anyone accountable.

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