E.J. Dionne Understands the President

I know I link to him a lot, but that’s only because E.J. Dionne is a genius, as proven again in his most recent Washington Post column:

Is President Bush the leader of our government, or is he just a right-wing talk-show host?

The question comes to mind after Bush’s news conference this week in which he sounded like someone who has no control over the government he is in charge of. His words were those of a pundit inveighing against the evils of bureaucrats.

That’s just what I was thinking. Expanding this thought, we can gain a new perspective on the conservative movement, and how it has led to this point. You see, the conservative movement began from the outside, angry, dissatisfied with the government. They criticized and decried the big spending, the welfare state programs. This message resonated with some voters, and over time the alliances formed that have brought the GOP to power. These alliances were based on agreement, agreement over not what was right, but over what was wrong: Democrats.

Now the GOP has won electoral victories in the Congress and the Presidency, their wish has been granted. They can do anything they want. Except, it turns out that their unity came from being outsiders. It is finally starting to hit them: they have struck a devil’s bargain. They promised so much to so many, and now they can’t blame Democrats for their failure to make good.

“Obviously,” said the critic in chief, “there are some times when government bureaucracies haven’t responded the way we wanted them to, and like citizens, you know, I don’t like that at all.” Yes, and if you can’t do something about it, who can?

I admire Dionne’s restraint. I don’t know how to respond to a Republican President who governs with a Congress Republican in both houses, and a Republican majority of national governorships, when he blames the government’s failures on bureaucracy. You’ve been running the country for five years. If it doesn’t work, change it for heaven’s sake!

Dionne hits the nail on the head, referring to Bush’s whining about FEMA failing to get trailers to people who need them:

This episode is important because it is representative of a corrosive style of politics. Bush and many of his fellow Republicans have done a good business over the years running against the ills of Big Government. They are so much in the habit of trashing government that even when they are in charge of things — remember, Republicans have controlled the White House and both houses of Congress for all but 18 months since 2001 — they pretend they are not.

The Republicans run the government. The government has made mistakes over the last few years. Instead of finding a solution, and taking some responsibility, the President complains that things aren’t working right. Note to the President: it’s your job to make the government work.