Our MBA-in-Chief will tolerate any kind of gross incompetence from his subordinates, except for saying something the boss doesn’t want to hear. Contrast George Tenet, Director of Central Intelligence, with Paul O’Neill, former Secretary of the Treasury.
When the White House gave up claiming that we would find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq Real Soon Now, it blamed the CIA for overestimating Saddam Hussein’s WMD stocks. (The old party line, of course, criticized the CIA for underestimating Saddam’s menace to the world. But never mind that. Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia.) If the CIA really had been so incompetent as to mislead the President on an issue that he had used to sell a war to the American people, then Tenet should be shown the door. If firing Tenet would be politically dangerous, because he knows where so many bodies are buried, then Bush could have at least found some undersecretary to serve as a fall guy. But no. Tenet, we are assured, has the full confidence of the President.
On the other hand, when O’Neill told Bush that he would not publically support a second round of tax cuts for the wealthy, he was Cheney fired him. And O’Neill does know where a few bodies are buried: he gave journalist Ron Suskind 19,000 digitized documents that crossed his desk during his tenure under Bush. Perhaps Bush, Cheney, and Rove should have seriously considered O’Neill’s position that tax cuts were not the right response to a booming deficit. Perhaps, at least, they should have realized that someone with as much political and executive experience as O’Neill would take the precaution of making a Pearl Harbor File, and consider how keeping him happy might be in the Administration’s political interest. But no.
Unless Cheney is hit with a stroke or an indictment, he will be running for VP in the fall. I suspect that rumors to the contrary are being spread by Republicans who are unhappy with the way the country has been going over the past three years, but who can’t bring themselves to blame the man at the top.