If you haven’t seen it, you should definitely watch the interview that Carole Coleman of Ireland’s RTE did with Bush on the eve of his trip to Ireland: RealOne Player file. Bush gets pissy with Coleman for interrupting him when he’s trying to give her some of his trademark non-responsive answers.
Some followup items on the interview:
- Atrios quotes an article from the Irish press on how the White House lodged a complaint with the Irish Embassy over Coleman’s “disrespect”: Waaaahhh. Apparently the White House refused to honor a previous agreement to let RTE interview Laura Bush today, after they discovered that Coleman would be the reporter doing the interview. Heh. I wonder who made that call. Bush? Laura? Karl Rove?
- In a separate item, Atrios quotes Coleman as follows: “The policy of the White House is that you submit your questions in advance, so they had my questions for about three days.”
- Digby of Hullabaloo: Magically delicious.
- Ezra Klein of Pandagon: It wasn’t me.
One of the things that struck me about the interview is the way it highlights the difference between Bush’s, and the rest of the world’s, definition of “leadership.” In Bush’s mind, “leadership” means “doing what I said I’d do, regardless of people’s efforts to change my mind, and regardless of subsequent developments.”
But see, this misses a key element of leadership, at least as defined by everyone not-Bush. For the rest of the world, it’s not enough that the leader stick with a particular course of action despite the efforts of naysayers to turn him aside. The leader must be proven right by subsequent events. It’s that, not his mere willingness to continue unswerving on a stated course, that gains someone a reputation as a great leader. That’s what causes people to follow him. (I saw this discussed on some other weblog recently, but now I can’t find it, dammit. Sorry about the failure to attribute.)
About six months ago, the president said to me, “Well, at least I make strong decisions, I lead.” I said, “Mr. President, look behind you. Leaders have followers. No one’s following. Nobody.”
Anyway, glad I got that straightened out.)
This disconnection goes to the heart of Bush’s Iraq problem. For Bush, the debacle on the ground in Iraq is irrelevant in evaluating his leaderhsip. The only thing you have to ask yourself, in his view, is whether he did what he said he’d do. And for certain definitions of the phrase, yeah, he did.
But in the world of grown-ups, actions have to be evaluated not just in terms of whether they show an unswerving consistency with stated intentions. They have to be evaluated in terms of the outcomes they produce. So far from being irrelevant, the ongoing chaos in Iraq is, in fact, quite relevant in evaluating the quality of his leaderhsip.
But again, Bush doesn’t get that. It’s part of that sense of entitlement he has. “Hey,” he seems to say. “Look at me. I’m the president. I don’t have to prove myself to anybody.”
Except that you do, George. You really do. And you’re failing.