Monday, March 5, 2007

Mendacious Policy

I was thinking today of my sense of the current administration's shocking incompetence. I ask myself how it can be so, so incompetent. We see it in everything it touches from the new VA scandal, to the US Attorney scandal, to the Katrina scandal, to the no Child Left Behind failures, right up to the mother lode, Iraq and the War on Terror. But I think referring to these results as incompetence is a mistake. It creates a kind of bumbling, benign sense of the administration.

Actually, it is not incompetence, it is policy. To underfund, to privatize, to "drag governement into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub," as Grover Norquist likes to say, is policy. To suggest that there is sound policy, but it is just incompetently executed frees the policy makers from the responsibility for their policy. The policy might be all right, but just badly executed by the blunder heads. The policy just gets to go on. We need to keep linking the disasters to the policy. Otherwise, the policies aren't examined for the wreakage they create. Instead, incompetence gets the attention. The policies go unexposed and unexamined, because we're calling it incompetence.

The administration creates a disaster through its policy and it is called incompetence. The admnistration then gets a weird kind of oh-the-poor-guy sympathy! "Gosh, they just don't seem to get a fair break do they Harriet?"

The policy of underfunding and privatizing the VA went as planned and was skillfully executed---no incompetence there. Administrators were following policy. It is the persistence of the Bush policy, the mendacity of it, and its superb execution that is the real story. Let's nail this one on their foreheads because it is a slippery but essential distinction.

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