- The Washington Times - Friday, May 18, 2007

Senior political appointees are leaving the Bush administration to “spend more time with their families” or because of the “financial realities of college-age children.” Such platitudes are usually heard around Washington about this time into the second administration of a president, especially presidents hooked to the word “fatigue.”

There was “Clinton fatigue” caused by the various Monica(s), lying about them and the resulting soap-opera impeachment. And now it’s “Bush fatigue” with the Iraq war. Lest I be accused of piling on, the idea of a “Bush fatigue” was suggested first by the president’s dad, George H.W. Bush (or George Bush I), who probably wasn’t around long enough to have a fatigue of his own.

And, it’s important to separate the departure of administration senior appointees from the “fatigue” dynamic, even though there is a direct connection between the two, especially with the current Bush administration.

Of course, senior appointees who begin leaving around this time are actively looking for jobs, and the kind of jobs these folks lust after won’t allow them to spend any more time with their families than they do now. More time with their families is not what is driving them but rather the absolute requirement to get away from the Bush administration early enough to get that cushy corporate, academic or law-firm gig and not be tagged permanently with the Bush label.

However, unlike the legions of other political appointees who have accomplished this maneuver successfully in the past, these folks may have some trouble. Why? Because many Republicans and Conservatives don’t like them much — and may not “take them back” or even care to understand why they did what they did.

Far more seriously, they can probably be blamed directly for the end of the national viability of the Republican Party for a long time, at least for the next two presidential elections and perhaps even longer in Congress.

How could a group of senior Bush political appointees have messed up their administration (and their own careers) so badly?

Here is a partial explanation — and also a point of historical reference: The people brought into sub-Cabinet jobs in the Bush administration were not nearly of the same quality as were the people brought into these jobs in the Reagan administration, the last truly conservative president to have served.

A cheap shot you might say — however, you will get much more of a consensus on this idea than you might think, especially if you ask your “connected” friends in town who have been around since the early 1980s. In short, this was not the “A team,” “B team” or in many cases even the “C team.” Still don’t believe me? Spend some time looking at biographies — the sad bottom line is that many of the Bush appointees were no more qualified than the rookie crowd that typically follows when the Democrats sweep in.

And this dynamic difference began long before “W” came to town — actually, it began when Mr. Reagan left town. In fact, of all the transitions between administrations in recent history, the most acrimonious — by far — was the Reagan-Bush I transition. How this came to be is a little-known story.

In a nutshell, many of the “Bush I” people disliked the Reagan people because the Reaganites thought many of the Bush people second-rate.

In addition, many of the Bush I people tried very hard to be Reagan people and were not allowed in, not even during the second Reagan term, or even during the last half of the second Reagan term. Result? These were people with serious chips on their shoulders, especially for the Reagan-era traditional Republicans.

And, “they’re back” — because what we have had in town for the last six years are many of the one-term, Bush I people who returned to serve in W’s administration.

Add this awkward human element to the wild spending of a Republican Congress that has made the Democrats look like pikers. This has churned the stomachs of traditional Republican fiscal conservatives who felt deceived by the Bush administration on a matter of fundamental Republican political principle: Shades of “read my lips” that disenchanted many Republicans with George Bush I.

Finally, there is the Iraq war. Ironically, this is under the political heading of “national security” something that — at least traditionally — the Republicans are supposed to do much better than the Democrats. Again, think Ronald Reagan and victory in the Cold War.

Not this time: The Iraq war has been the Bush administration’s distinct and personal failure, a failure for which the Republican Party (and conservatives) will be tarred with for years to come. This is a very bad situation that seems only to get worse — enough to make a lot of principled Republicans vote for Democrats or Independents — and they have.

And in just a few years the Republicans have done to themselves what the Democrats could not have done to them: Failed in their traditional strong suit, national security.

While responsibility for unconstrained federal spending and the Iraq war will ultimately be hung on President Bush, a lot of it belongs with the political hacks that came with him, people who were simply not up to what needed to be done. And now, having seen their damage, it is not amusing to watch them abandon ship while using one or another tired Beltway career spin — leaving the president alone to deal with their sad legacy.

Daniel Gallington is a senior fellow at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies in Arlington, Va.

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