Sunday, April 23, 2006

David Gergen’s Advice

David Gergen begins his advice to President Bush in an op ed column today with a Freudian joke: “Question: How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb? Answer: Only one, but the light bulb has to want to change. It's a punch line that comes to mind these days as President Bush fights the darkness by rearranging his team.”

With due respect, the question is not whether Mr. Bush wants to change but whether he thinks it prudent to do so. And in any event, Mr. Gergen’s advice to President Bush to ‘rebuild his presidency” by changing his policies on Iraq, energy, secrecy is hard to evaluate given the lack of specifics. Should the president wind down our commitments in Iraq regardless of the timing or consequences? Should he raise taxes, veto spending bills, cut the growth of entitlements or of defense appropriations? Should he discuss more widely with Congress our most critical national security programs and hope for their discretion? Should he waive executive privilege so that Congress can be privy to his private advice? And if changing his Chief of Staff and others won’t do, who will? Donald Rumsfeld? Karl Rove? Perhaps Dick Cheney. As to the president’s base, he has bucked them repeatedly, most recently with his guest worker program.

The line between conviction and stubbornness is a thin one, and Mr. Bush certainly seems to think that his own political losses are worth the price of policies he sees as critical to American national security.