And Then You Look for the President With the Dog Poopie on His Shoes!

Not much new in former Colin Powell deputy Lawrence Wilkerson's L.A. Times update to his ballyhooed "cabal" speech of last week, but he gets style points for violating the president's "public scatology" ban:

At least once a week, it seemed, Powell trooped over to the Oval Office and cleaned all the dog poop off the carpet. He held a youthful, inexperienced president's hand. He told him everything would be all right because he, the secretary of State, would fix it. And he did

Brian Doherty threw dog poop on Colin Powell's shoes ("the feckless alleged 'opposition voice' in Bushite foreign policy") in a strangely prescient column back in January.

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    dfafadfasdf

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    It really sucked for Colin Powel and the bureaucrats over at State to actually have to take orders from inconsiqeuntial figures like the Vice President and the Sec Def and worst of all the President. We need to get rid of these damned elections and let the bureaucrats run things as is their God given right and duty.

  • theOneState||

    I don't get this guy. He had an interesting point of view during a fascinating time at State. I'd like to hear more. But I can't buy Powell being incapable of sorting out this cabal, particularly after Wilkinson so craftily saw through it while Bush was crying on Powell's shoulders.

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    Y'know John, presumably the Secretary of State is higher in rank than the SecDef. So yes, I can see how taking orders from anyone other than the President or Vice-President could rankle a bit.

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    Wilkerson has some good points, but I also detect a pretty sharp axe to grind. Bureaucrats aren't going to go out of their way to enforce a policy with which they disagree, regardless of whether they were consulted. But I agree with him that shutting out the advice of experts is unwise. Assuming, of course, that he isn't laying a line of total bullshit as to the administration's processes.

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    Shem,

    There is no rank among cabinet members. They are all theoretically equal. The exception is in the case of military operations. There, according to Goldwater Nicols, the chain of command runs from the President through the SEC DEF to the combatant commander. The Sec State is not involved. Ultimately, its up to the President whose advice he takes among cabinet members. The people at State do not have a monopoly over foreign affairs anymore than the generals at the Pentigon have a monopoly over military affairs. Its the President's decision. If Powell doesn't like it, quit and run for President himself, but don't stay on the job only to whine later that you (gasp) actually had to take orders from an elected official.

  • gaius marius||

    Wilkerson has some good points, but I also detect a pretty sharp axe to grind.

    agreed, mr chriso -- but that a bypassed bureaucracy has an axe to grind is at the very heart of what makes this administration nakedly dictatorial and a terrible threat to american society. men like cheney abdicate their responsibility to bureaucracy and law because they want efficiency and speed, whether that be out of blinding hubris or abject fear matters not. but that abdication denies the very utility of bureacracy -- reflection, discourse, fact-finding, consensus.

    indeed, without bureaucracy, an open government of divided cooperating powers is impossible. we needn't say that the most efficient governments on earth are those run by one unquestionable, secret, all-powerful office.

    is that what we aspire to? i fear that the answer -- for cheney and many americans like mr john -- is yes.

  • gaius marius||

    It really sucked for Colin Powel and the bureaucrats over at State to actually have to take orders from inconsiqeuntial figures like the Vice President and the Sec Def and worst of all the President.

    the problem, mr john, is that there are laws in place to make sure that bureaucracies are included in the decision-making process. most if not all of these laws have been broken constantly since 2000.

    this is an important point. the people in office up there -- the president, the veep -- whatever you think of them as hero-figures -- are breaking the laws that they swore to defend.

    how can anyone think themselves a patriot in backing such people?

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    "we needn't say that the most efficient governments on earth are those run by one unquestionable, secret, all-powerful office."

    Where's the evidence for this, gaius ? Governments run by "one all powerful office" are just as likely to be inefficient as to make all the trains run on time - how many examples from history does it take to kill this myth that totalitarian regimes run things more "efficiently" than elected ones ?

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    I break with ye, I break with ye, I break with ye...

    Thanks for the Steve Martin reference (in his pre-pre-Shopgirl stand-up era, when he was still funny).

  • gaius marius||

    how many examples from history does it take to kill this myth that totalitarian regimes run things more "efficiently" than elected ones ?

    i think, mr sm, that they seek assiduously ruthless efficiency, rather than universally attain it. and, while there are failures, the successful ones (which is not all of them) get it -- most empires are charged with maintaining authority over disparate peoples and long distances, and evolve their corporate form of civil service precisely to handle the exigencies of that task. roman imperial administration, to take one of many possible examples. or the british east india company in india. or the petrine russian empire. or the ottoman rulership of a byzantine empire.

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    the problem, mr john, is that there are laws in place to make sure that bureaucracies are included in the decision-making process. most if not all of these laws have been broken constantly since 2000.

    No there are not. All of the power in the U.S. government eminates from the Legislative Branch and secondarily the President. Ultimately, the bureaucrats have no ultimate authority over policy. That is left to Congress and the President. It is the exectutive's duty to carry out the orders of the President and Congress, not their own agendas.

  • gaius marius||

    mr john, i recommend you read the 1947 national security act, by which congress legislated the necessary roles of bureaucracies, including the department of state, in the decision-making process. the nsc has since been expanded to include other bureaucracies, such as the cia and treasury department.

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    Gaius,

    Those roles are advisory. Ultimately, the decisions rest in the President's hands not the bureaucracy. Read the Constitution.

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    A "Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid" reference!

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    gaius, you are on a roll today. So far you've issued at least two reading assignments!

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    It sounds to me like the "cabal" was in the State Department, not the other way around. Bush needs to clean house of all those who are not willing to faithfully promote the presidents foreign policy. Not the defeatist liberal agenda.

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    RA,

    You reek of coitus!

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    even worse, RA reeks of santorum. and I'm not referring to the senator.

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    "most empires are charged with maintaining authority over disparate peoples and long distances, and evolve their corporate form of civil service precisely to handle the exigencies of that task."

    All your example proves is empires often evolve elaborate bureaucracies, it says nothing about whether those services are actually effective. I don't want to quibble over this but what, for the purposes of your argument, constitutes efficiency ? Would the service still be considered efficient if a couple of million adminstered subjects died of starvation on their watch so long as troop movements between points A & B were flawlessly facilitated ?

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    John doesn't know what the hell he's talking about. Again.

    RA at least has the stones to come out and say what he means about government as a party organ vs. rule of law.

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    This attitude is of a piece with the support for the president's "right," as Commander in Chief, to order torture: they think we have a king, who is above the law.

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    Oh yeah Joe and I am sure you would have so much support for bureaucrats who actively tried to undermine the policies of a Democratic President. considering what an unrepetent totalitarian statist you are, I can't say that I am surprised that you labor under the delusion that unelected bureaucrats at State as opposed to elected officials have the final say on American foreign policy.

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    Do you honestly believe that the President does not have the final say on American foreign policy and that his deicisions are subject to review and approval by the bureaucrats at State? You might want to re-read Article II of the Constitution and reconsider that notion. I mean I always knew you were woefully misinformed and ignorent, but I never put you on Gaius' level. Perhaps I was wrong about that.

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    Why did "John" post as "Joe" ten minutes later?

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    Did anyone else ever suspect that maybe 85% of Hit and Run might just be three people running various dummy personas? More and more I find myself getting a real Truman Show vibe from this place.

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    First - a tidbit. The Secretary Of State is theoretically senior in the cabinet. But this distinction is somewhat untested. We have never had a situation where the President and VP were both unavailable while something urgent had to be addressed.

    Second. Colin Powell. He seemed like the perfect military man and went right to the top. And maybe he was super in the rigid military world.

    He has been retired about a decade and I have concluded that he does not have the judgement (aka guile) for top level work in politics. There the dogs bark and bite as they wish and ignore rules.

    Now he complains about his WMD speech and a cabal that didn't play fair. Play fair?? What the hell is he thinking? There's no "fair" in politics!

  • gaius marius||

    empires often evolve elaborate bureaucracies, it says nothing about whether those services are actually effective

    i concur that there is no scientific measurement for effectiveness, mr sm. but how does one manage to hold together and manage peoples as disparate as an empire must without being considered effective? i would suggest that, for example, the british government of 1450 was completely incapable of administering india -- but that the british government of 1850 did a remarkable job of same. the difference is the establishment of a massive imperial civil service.

    now, we can split hairs on judgment over whether or not british imperial administration was of was not "effective" or "efficient" -- but, at the end of the day, the government of a small island in the north sea ruled a billion indians as british subjects -- and this where it could not effectively administer wales and scotland even a few centuries before.

  • gaius marius||

    Why did "John" post as "Joe" ten minutes later?

    because he so desperately needs a static strawman to agrue against, mr crane. :)

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    "Do you honestly believe that the President does not have the final say on American foreign policy and that his deicisions are subject to review and approval by the bureaucrats at State?"

    Of course not, "Joe" That might explain why I never said such a thing.

    "Statist" That's funny. You're arguing for greater power by the White House, rather than other departments in Washington, and donning the anti-statist mantel?

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    "the difference is the establishment of a massive imperial civil service."

    Not very well argued, gaius. There was a lot tmore to the British empire than a civil service. But now we are gtting into "go read a book" & deviating from the topic of the thread. My original point was you are undermining yourself by suggesting that VP Dick was seeking efficincy when he made shit up (if that is what he did). Acting of fake information is not efficient.

  • gaius marius||

    My original point was you are undermining yourself by suggesting that VP Dick was seeking efficincy when he made shit up (if that is what he did). Acting of fake information is not efficient.

    efficient to what end, mr sm? he has wanted that war since 1991, and he got it in spite of having essentially no reason to get it and a bureaucracy ostensibly designed to prevent vice-presidents from doing exactly that. i think his lies were extremely expedient, unfortunately.

    to the point of

    how many examples from history does it take to kill this myth that totalitarian regimes run things more "efficiently" than elected ones ?

    i think it must be said that the tasks undertaken by many imperial corporate management systems are vastly more difficult than those of a complicit, contiguous society of likeminded people of a common history. if they appear more resource-intensive, if it because what they're attempting is so much more.

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    Wars start when diplomacy has failed. We should kept State out of Iraq until the war was over.

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    You all remember how passionately Bush worked for a diplomatic solution throughout 2002 and the first quarter of 2003, right? How much he tried to avoid war, and turned to it only as a last resort?

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