A question of competence -- or, rather, three of them

Even conservatives who agree with the president's policy goals are worried about their execution.


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Tim Grieve
March 6, 2006 9:29PM (UTC)

Fifty-nine percent of the American public says George W. Bush can't manage the federal government effectively, and you can apparently count a lot of conservatives in that majority: On Fox News over the weekend, Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol said the Bush administration has earned a reputation for not being "as serious about the competent execution of government functions as it should be."

We can't imagine how anyone got that idea.

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News Item No. 1: Private security guards assigned to the Department of Homeland Security say that the sprawling government bureaucracy that's supposed to be keeping Americans safe can't even protect its own headquarters properly. As the Associated Press reports, the guards are telling Congress about "inadequate training, failed security tests and slow or confused reactions to bomb and biological threats." One example: When somebody discovered an envelope containing a suspicious powder at headquarters last year, officials carried it by the office of DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff, then took it outside and shook it out near Chertoff's window without bothering to order an evacuation first.

News Item No. 2: Although the Army Corps of Engineers may meet Bush's June 1 deadline for rebuilding levees in New Orleans, independent experts monitoring the project say the rebuilt levees will be weaker than the ones that failed to hold off Hurricane Katrina. As the Washington Post reports, the Bush administration and many in Congress have resisted calls for higher levees, and experts say it is "inevitable" that the repaired levees will be overtopped again -- if they don't collapse first.

News Item No. 3: President Bush will take Air Force One and the usual traveling White House to Crawford, Texas, for an overnight trip Tuesday. The reason: The president wants to vote in the Republican primary, and somebody at the White House apparently forgot to order an absentee ballot for him.


Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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