But former Canadian immigrant, former Bush speechwriter, and current neo-con columnist David Frum REALLY trashes Bush for hiring people like McClellan in the first place.
George W. Bush brought most of his White House team with him from Texas. Except for Karl Rove, these Texans were a strikingly inadequate bunch. Harriet Miers, Alberto Gonzalez, Karen Hughes, Al Hawkins, Andy Card (the last not a Texan, but a lifelong Bush family retainer) — they were more like characters from The Office than the sort of people one would expect to find at the supreme height of government in the world’s most powerful nation. McClellan, too, started in Bush’s governor’s office . . . .
To be fair to Bush, bringing people in from one's own state is far from unusual. Jimmy Carter brought in Georgians like the late Hamilton Jordan. Bill Clinton surrounded himself with people from Arkansas, George Bush the Elder had Jim Baker, and Ronald Reagan brought in Ed Mease and other Californians.
But it wasn't the incompetence of the Bush team that galls Frum, it's the weird form of subservience that Bush enforced on the Texas group. On the one hand, Bush like to perpetrate petty little humiliations on the people close to him.
Bush demanded a very personal kind of loyalty, a loyalty not to a cause or an idea, but to him and his own career. Perhaps unconsciously, he tested that loyalty with constant petty teasing, sometimes verging on the demeaning. (Robert Draper, whose book Dead Certain offers a vivid picture of the pre-presidential Bush, tells the story of a 1999 campaign-strategy meeting at which Bush shut Karl Rove up by ordering him to “hang up my jacket.” The room fell silent in shock — but Rove did it.)
On the other hand, the "little abuses" would be followed up by "unexpected acts of thoughtfulness and generosity." Frum views the thoughtful gestures as compensations for the abuse. But the humiliations and teasing were really two sides of the same coin. The petty teasing, nicknames, and little abuses continually reminded people like Karl Rove that they were subordinate to George Bush while the little acts of thoughtfulness taught them to appreciate and even value their subordination. Bush was enforcing a peculiarly personal kind of subordination in which people like Karl Rove, Alberto Gonzales, and Harriet Miers all viewed their own sense of value as flowing directly from the magnanimous generosity of George Bush.
Obvious, working closely with George Bush was not a job for independent spirits or strong personalities.
Yet the combination of the demand for personal loyalty, the bullying and the ensuing compensatory love-bombing was to weed out strong personalities and to build an inner circle defined by a willingness to accept absolute subordination to the fluctuating needs of a tense, irascible and unpredictable chief.
. . . He created a closed loop in which the people entrusted with the most responsibility were precisely those who most dreaded responsibility — Condoleezza Rice being the most important and most damaging example.
Frum believes that George Bush chose such a poorly prepared inner circle because he put do much emphasis on personal loyalty and did not articulate "a compelling vision and ideal."
But this is mistaken. According to McClellan, Bush had "a compelling vision" of a democratic Middle East that he tried to bring to life through the invasion of Iraq.
Instead, the problem was that George Bush's personality doesn't have the kind of balance required for any kind of significant management position. What do I mean by "balance" in this context. I don't mean "unhinged" in the sense of having a psychological disorder. Instead, Bush has a strong, domineering personality but does not have great intelligence, overflowing knowledge, a great worth ethic, or any kind of specialized expertise. Bush relies on his "gut" because he doesn't have any other talents, skills, or expertise to rely on.
In fact, people with skills and expertise would be a constant threat to someone like George Bush because they would always have a dimension of superiority in relation to Bush. In this regard, I wouldn't be surprised if Bush hasn't always kept Rove on a short emotional leash. As talented and hard-working as Rove is, Bush probably needed to remind himself who was boss just as just as he needed to remind Rove. The same would be the case with anybody with real expertise around Bush. Either they had to be the kind of relatively weak personality that needed to be subordinate to someone like George Bush or they couldn't be allowed around his majesty.
Relying completely on personality (and his family name) himself, it can hardly be surprising that George Bush did not surround himself with the best people available.