Does the Buck Stop at Bush’s Desk?

I received the same email that Mark Thoma received as to the latest from Peggy Noonan. In my view, Mark is too kind to Ms. Noonan. For example – if I had the opportunity to write something for the adult readers of the Wall Street Journal (OK, I bet most of them skip the op-ed section), I would not treat them like nursery school kids. Peggy disagrees:

Its strengths are his strengths and its weaknesses his weakness. This White House is him. The decisions it makes are him … It was a mess. Messes aren’t all bad.

I’m sorry – but my 4-year old niece prefers Dr. Seuss. But one might understand such juvenile phrasing once ones tries to kind the substance (if any) in what she writes:

We all like a president who says “The buck stops here.” Mr. Bush never ducks the buck. But he puts severe limits on the number and kind of people who can hand it to him. He picks them, receives their passionate and by definition limited recommendations, makes his decision, and sticks. All very Trumanesque, except Truman could tolerate argument and dissent.

While it is true that Bush does not seem to care for opposing opinions – to suggest that he takes responsibility for what happens on his watch is a joke. Bush does not even take responsibility for his own decisions as in the one on March 19, 2003 and the many decisions that massively increased the Federal deficit.

Noonan could not resist bashing a couple of former Presidents – both of whom just happened to be Democrats. Look at her case for the premise that President Carter micro-managed:

He would not, as Mr. Carter did at Desert One, instruct the leaders of a high-risk military rescue mission not to shoot on any Teheran crowds if they move against the mission. (See Mark Bowden’s recounting of that failed endeavor in this month’s Atlantic.)

I have no idea whether our troops would have shot on the crowds in Teheran as the helicopters never got there. But then equipment failures were not due to micro-management from the Oval Office. But read Mark Bowden’s account for yourself.

Noonan goes after President Clinton as she praises President Reagan:

Bill Clinton didn’t govern by personal conviction, in part because he doesn’t seem to have known what his convictions were. They were unknown even to his cabinet members … Ronald Reagan’s convictions were clear to everyone around him.

Ah Peggy – was it clear to you that President Reagan wanted to bankrupt the Federal government? It was clear to most of us that President Clinton wanted to restore fiscal responsibility. Was it clear to you that Reagan was against free trade? Then again – George W. Bush talks a lot about fiscal restraint and the virtue of free trade. Yet, he does just the opposite. And Ms. Noonan still praises Bush’s economic policies suggesting a simple little calibration. Good grief!