The Bush Administration is hemorrhaging people these days, which, of course, is to be expected for a seventh year in an eight year term, especially one in which turnover has been so rare. It’s getting to be like the plot of an Agatha Christie novel.

Rummy got the boot back the day after the election. Rove decided he wanted to go back to Texas to powder his nose. Now Gonzo the Great has—predictably—fallen from his highwire.


Too bad it didn’t happen back in 2005 after the election, when it is quite traditional for a returning administration to let a lot of people go and with good reason. New blood… new ideas… people able to let go of the old fights…. In short, turnover in an administration is generally a healthy thing, and this one has been decidedly odd in how little happened. I’ll make some brief comments on two recent departures.

Rove leaving… well, he was an example of someone who should never have been put in the job he was in. Not because he wasn’t smart or competent at the job he had before he got his post. Like him or not (and people of the Democratic persuasion are unlikely to like him, but come on), he was obviously a bang-up PR man and campaign manager. Not because a sitting president should appoint someone that pleases the opposition. That’s silly. However, politics and policy are not the same thing. Someone who is fundamentally a politics guy is unlikely to be able to see that and, quite evidently, Rove didn’t. Furthermore, the line set by the superiors flows downstream: The people hired in Rove’s own image, e.g., lookalike Kyle Sampson, obviously had a hard time distinguishing this. When politics and policy bumped into each other, guess which won? Worse, I fear he let his press about being the smartest guy in the room go to his head. He’s also poster child for the fact that the White House staff has gotten (a) too large and (b) too powerful. (That’s a conservative position, folks!)

gonzo_small.jpg I wrote about Gonzo a while ago. Gonzo was appointed AG after the departure of John Ashcroft, one of the few people to leave the administration in 2004. At the time we heard it was due to his health but, as we’ve found out later, due also to some serious disagreements about fundamental policy issues. Many people didn’t like Ashcroft because they didn’t like his positions as a perceived hardcore social conservative. However, whatever else you might say about him, Ashcroft was his own man… he’d been Governor of Missouri and later Senator from Missouri (as well as recording a gospel album in the 1970s). He was, whether you disagreed with his policy positions or not, a person who didn’t owe his position entirely to George Bush. Gonzo was wholly a creature of the President and, had he not been attached to him, would have been someone I doubt I would have trusted to write a simple will back in Texas. In essence, he was White House staff sitting in a cabinet department. See previous.

Let’s hope that—now that the White House has to deal with a Democratic Senate, after having four years of a supine Senate unwilling to do careful oversight even though, according to Bob Novak, many Republican Senators thought Gonzo was a schmuck as early as 2001—GWB’s going to pick someone more like his more recent appointments, such as Bob Gates. Nobody’s ever accused Gates of being a disloyal Republican, but he’s first and foremost a public servant, which is what we need now more than ever. Gates has become the Republican analogue to the late Clark Clifford, who showed up in Democratic administrations when they sail dangerously close to the rocks. (Hopefully Gates will stay away from bank scandals, which almost toasted Clifford in his last days.) Glad-handing Texas schmucks with “compelling personal stories” or party hacks like the now mostly forgotten Michael Brown we don’t need and, fortunately, are unlikely to get now. The real tragedy is that the Bob Gates types—hard-nosed professionals—weren’t appointed in the first place.

The real irony is that GWB—elected representative of a party that does not like affirmative action—felt that his good old pal Al just had to get an affirmative action job…. Ah well, affirmative action for the mediocre friend or relative sure is traditional, but there’s a more precise word for it: nepotism. So ultimately, Georgy Porgy got in trouble for a lot of the same reasons Bubba did: bringing the sycophants with from back in the home state. The difference is that Bubba had the smarts to cut them loose sooner rather than later.

8-28-07: It looks like there might be a departure coming soon to a Senate near you. See Brokeback Senator.

8-31-07 This just in: Press secretary Tony Snow has also departed, to “make more money.” In this case, it’s entirely understandable given the fact that he’s got a life-threatening disease (recurrent colon cancer, poor guy) and needs to make sure things are secure for his family in the non-trivial likelihood of his dying in the next few years. Still….