Friday, April 09, 2004

Silver bullets and the Lone Ranger 

Clarke: Rice Testimony Bolstered My Claims In responding to Condi Rice's testimony, Clark said "The problem was that there was information buried in FBI and the CIA that wasn't shaken out. And by having the Cabinet members come to the White House every day in crisis mode and then go back to their departments and look for anything that is anywhere in the departments in December 1999, we were able to get the kind of information we needed to stop the attacks. You know, there may be structural problems within those agencies, but the way you overcome them ... is by having the leaders of the agencies get together in the White House as a team in crisis mode. "
This is exactly right, as anyone who works in a bureaucracy would agree.
The "structural problem" of CIA vs FBI has been in existence for 60 years, so its not going to get resolved in six months, or maybe never. The "task force" is a common and effective technique to get around bureaucratic barriers and allow an organization to focus on specific problems.
But its basically an incremental approach, an iteritive process, a methodology that doesn't know where its going until it gets there. The Bush administration prefers the "single unified theory" approach. As Condi's testimony unwittingly revealed, it looks for "silver bullet" solutions -- the one grand plan, the simple elegant answer, that can be presented with a flourish -- there you go, problem solved.
This has been their approach to education (No Child Left Behind), the economy (tax cuts), health care (prescription drug benefit), the deficit (when tax cuts have improved the economy, the deficit will cure itself), gay marriage (constitutional ammendment), terrorism (The Patriot Act), the war on terrorism (preemptive war), the Middle East (road map), the war in Iraq (get to Baghdad). And once a problem is "solved" their attention turns to something else.
Nothing is inter-connected, nothing is complicated, nothing is nuanced or long-term, and the people who argue that things aren't so simple are scorned or ignored with a blank, puzzled stare.
As Salon points out, the overriding White House issue in the summer of 2001 was stem cell research. It was all Bush could think about, he absolutely had to find the answer -- and as soon as he did, he went on what he considered to be a well-earned vacation.
The belief in the silver bullet is why they are in trouble now, on so many fronts. Once they have solved a problem, they move on. If it rears its ugly head again, they cannot understand why -- it must be the fault of those partisan Democrats who keep trying to mess things up -- and so they keep trying to swat it down again with the same rhetoric, the same talking points, the same solution.
Its a Lone Ranger view of reality where everything is black or white, you're either for us or against us, we're the good guys so everything can be wrapped up in half an hour. Hi Ho Silver!

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