The fatigue factor

The Washington Post inquires about the well-being of the Bush administration’s senior staff. This strikes me as a bit like Leopold and Loeb asking about the well-being of one’s child. The thesis of Peter Baker’s piece is that the key members President Bush’s top staff are worn down by five years of non-stop pressure, and that the fatigue factor helps explain recent poor decisions such as the nomination of Harriet Miers and the ports deal.
White House communications director Nicolle Wallace admits that there are some staffers who, on some days, are weary. But she denies that overall staff fatigue is affecting presidential decision-making.
I have no way of assessing the validity of Wallace’s denial, and I doubt that the Post does either. However, I suspect that the Miers nomination had more to do with Bush’s preferences than with poor staff work caused by fatigue (if not, the staff certainly redeemed itself with Alito), and the same may be true of the ports deal.
In general, the White House does seem to be making fewer politically astute decisions in the second term than it did in the first. But this may be because it has less incentive to make politically astute decisions this term. In any case, it is more difficult to make decisions that seem politically astute when one’s popularity is in decline due to perceptions about the situation in Iraq (a situation which stems from decisions made fairly early in the Bush presidency).


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