All Hail the Bush (Jr.)

Loyalty reigns in Bushies’ cult of incompetence

First, let me tell you what I’m not here to talk about.

I’m not here to talk about the role politics played in the sacking of
eight U.S. attorneys. Or the fact that newly released e-mail exchanges
and other documents indicate Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and his
deputies misled Congress when they said the White House had nothing to
do with the decision to fire those attorneys. Or the fact that Gonzales
is facing bipartisan calls for his head from angry lawmakers

All this I will leave to others. I want to talk about a word that
jumped out at me in news reports about this latest Washington scandal.
The word: loyalty.


We learn that, in deciding which attorneys to retain and which to
release, one factor that weighed prominently in Justice Department
deliberations was whether they “exhibited loyalty” to President George
W. Bush. The quote is from an e-mail sent by D. Kyle Sampson, then one
of Gonzales’ top aides. Sampson was also author of another note in
which he suggested that the “vast majority of U.S. Attorneys, 80% to
85%, I would guess, are doing a great job, are loyal Bushies, etc.,
etc.”

It is this notion that being a “loyal Bushie” is a qualification for
getting or keeping a job that rankles. The revelations spilling out of
Gonzales’ office are distressingly familiar.

Take Brownie — please. You remember Michael Brown. Guy had zero
experience in disaster management. So naturally he wound up as head of
FEMA, the federal disaster management agency. He was, after all, a
“loyal Bushie.”

And don’t even get me started on Iraq. To read “Imperial Life in the
Emerald City,” Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s book on the American occupation,
is to sit gape-mouthed at the degree to which the requirement that job
seekers pledge allegiance to George W. Bush shaped what happened there.
People who applied to work for the Coalition Provisional Authority —
the agency governing Iraq — told Chandrasekaran, former Baghdad bureau
chief for the Washington Post, that they were asked in job interviews
about their political party, their opinion of Roe v. Wade, their
religious affiliation and whether or not they voted for Bush in 2000.

Talent and experience were secondary concerns, if that. It was more important that one be loyal than that one be qualified.

Loyalty is a lovely virtue. But it is not the only virtue. And, in
deciding what is best for a nation, whether Iraq or the United States,
one would hope it wouldn’t be the defining one.

The funny thing is, when George W. Bush came into office a hundred
years ago, I remember thinking that though I disagreed with his
politics, it would be good at the very least to have grown-ups —
disciplined, sober, pragmatic — back in charge of the nation’s affairs
after the perceived juvenility and shenanigans of the Clinton team. I
was wrong.

This is not the way grown-ups behave. It is the way cultists behave.
The willingness to bypass critical thought, the tendency to make one’s
faith in a man a litmus test, the emphasis on belief, sounds more
appropriate to followers of Jim Jones or David Koresh than to high
officials of the U.S. government.

Every president has the right to seek subordinates who support his
policies, but not at the expense of competence. Nor integrity. Nor loss
of life and destruction of property.

Loyalty to Bush is all well and good. But ultimately, these people work
for you and me. Is it asking too much that they show a little loyalty
to us?

LEONARD PITTS JR. is a columnist for the Miami Herald. Write to him at lpitts@miamiherald.com.

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