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whometense Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-23-05 12:23 PM
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email from Robert Reich
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just landed in my inbox. Did I ever mention how much I love Robert Reich, and how lucky I feel sometimes to live in a state that houses so many political mensches? Even if we are losing him for a while to California, he's still ours.

Some of this is MA-specific, but I left it in in case some of you don't get his emails. And for those who don't know, this is Kerry-relevant because Reich was one of Kerry's earliest and staunchest supporters.

Reich Report
September, 2005
Before I head out to California, I wanted to share with you a few thoughts and suggestions.

First, I urge you to join with me and get behind Deval Patrick's campaign for governor. I've known Deval since he was assistant attorney general in charge of the civil rights division at the Justice Department, under Bill Clinton. Deval is a true progressive -- committed to social justice, fair and balanced growth, and good government. As assistant attorney general, he took on crimes such as attacks on churches and synagogues, vigorously enforced the Americans with Disabilities Act, and led the way toward a fair lending program based on risk rather than race. He's committed to a good education for all, equal justice, and well-paying jobs for all our people. And his background in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors attests to his strong management skills. He'd be a great governor. We deserve one, for a change.

Second, I'm pleased to report that Progressive Democrats of Massachusetts -- an organization that grew out of my campaign for governor -- is making good progress at the grass roots of the state, developing and fielding progressive candidates for local office and supporting progressives for the state legislature. There are now seven chapters -- in Cape Ann, Lexington, Brookline, and Arlington, in the East, and Northampton/Amherst, South Hadley, Holyoke, and the Southern Berkshires, in the West. There's also a network of smaller organizing committees in Springfield, Longmeadow, Worcester, and Newton, along with Progressive Democrats of Cambridge and Progressive Democrats of Somerville. If you're not yet involved with PDM, please do so. If you'd like more information, check with Cathleen Cavell, at, or Peter Dolan, at .

Third, Harold Hubschman, one of our most diligent organizers during the Reich campaign, is mounting a petition drive to get on the ballot an initiative to bring the Massachusetts National Guard home from Iraq. I think the country is waiting for just this kind of grass-roots movement, and I hope you'll be able to help. Find out more at

Finally, this thought:

As I testified at the Roberts hearings last week, and beheld the meticulous planning that went into the White House's nomination of Roberts for Chief Justice, I kept asking myself how can the Bush administration be so disciplined and effective at politics and yet so undisciplined and ineffectual at governing?

No White House in living memory has been as successful in squelching leaks and keeping cabinet members on message, withholding documents from Congress and the public, reaching down into the bureaucracy to bend analyses in directions that supports what it wants to do, imposing its will on congressional leaders of the same party and even making a political imprint on state legislatures. No recent president has got re-elected with controlling majorities in both houses of Congress, or been as successful in repositioning the national debate around his ideological view of the world.

Yet just as remarkable is this White House's incompetence in doing the work of governing the nation. Its stunning failures to act on predictions of a terrorist attack like 9/11 or a natural disaster like Katrina; its botched intelligence over Saddam's supposed weapons of mass destruction; its failure to secure order after invading Iraq; its shameful treatment of prisoners of war; its fiscal profligacy; its bizarre Medicare drug benefit, from which the elderly are now fleeing; its bland response to the wave of corporate lootings; its incapacity to run the Federal Emergency Management Agency -- the list goes on. Not since the hapless administration of Warren G. Harding has there been one as stunningly inept as this one.

The easy answer to the paradox is that Bush cares about winning elections and putting his ideological stamp on the nation, but doesn't give a hoot about governing the place. But that's no explanation because the two are so obviously connected. An administration can't impose a lasting stamp without being managed well, and a president's party can't keep winning elections if the public thinks it's composed of bumbling idiots.

The real answer is that the same discipline and organization that's made the White House into a hugely effective political machine has impaired its capacity to govern. Blocking data from lower-level political appointees and civil servants that's inconsistent with what it wants to do or sheds doubt on its wisdom, for example, may be effective politics in the short term. It keeps the media and the opposition party at bay. But it also prevents top policy makers from ever getting the quality of information they need. Operatives in the CIA suspected Saddam didn't have weapons of mass destruction and personnel at State knew the plan to invade Iraq was seriously flawed, but such judgments were suppressed by a White House that made perfectly clear what it wanted and didn't want to hear. Career professionals at the CIA and State are now wary of sharing what they know with appointed officials, as are scientists and experts all over the federal government.

Similarly, a White House whose cabinet officers all deliver the same, positive lines can be a formidable message machine. But this same discipline also discourages internal dissent, for the simple reason that in Washington nothing stays completely private. The predictable result is that Bush officials have become yes-men incapable of sounding alarms. The price of dissent is high. Soon after Larry Lindsey, then Director of the National Economic Council, warned that the cost of the Iraqi war would be in the range of $200 billion -- almost exactly what it's cost so far -- he was fired. After Paul O'Neill, his Secretary of the Treasury, worried out loud that federal budget deficits didn't seem to matter any longer -- a prescient concern -- he was fired, too. Can it be any wonder why this President doesn't seem to get it?

Political discipline is also honed when the White House staffs agencies with people loyal to the president, along with loyalists' friends. Joe Allbaugh worked as W's chief of staff when he was Texas governor and his 2000 campaign manager, so it seemed perfectly natural to put Allbaugh's college buddy, Michael Brown, in charge of FEMA even though 'Brownie' had no previous experience in disaster management. FEMA's acting deputy director and its acting deputy chief of staff had no relevant experience, either; both had been advance men in the White House. Given this, no one should be surprised that FEMA so badly bungled Katrina. Brownie is gone now, but the the administration is still crawling with cronies who know their politics but don't have a clue what they're supposed to manage.

Politics first, competence last. That's the Bush administration all over. Karl Rove, Bush's brain and deputy chief of staff, is in charge of the political juggernaut that's substituted for effective governance. Presumably, he's now at work on a plan to burnish the image of Republicans as managers of the public's business so they don't get the hell beaten out of them in the mid-terms a year from now. But the harder Rove works at spinning what this White House has accomplished, the more likely it is that Americans will see that what it's accomplished is basically spin.


Keep up the good fight. I promise you I will.

Bob Reich
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