12-Dec-04. GWB is shuffling his cabinet around for his second term, and I'm bored with it.
There's an old saying in French, "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose" — the more things change, the more they stay the same.
It's tempting to invoke the metaphor of musical chairs: the only major player left out of Bush's second cabinet will be Colin Powell.
It's tempting to invoke the metaphor of rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic: the ship of state is sailing through rough seas on a collision course with a big iceberg (Iraq).
There has been no real shake-up, no indication that W recognizes he needs fresh faces with fresh ideas. Quite the contrary, he clearly just wants to tune the message machine so no-one sings off-key.
The only bits of drama — comedy, really — have been provided by the John Snow and Bernard Kerik kerfuffles.
Snow, Secretary of the Treasury, was said by un-named White House sources to be welcome to stay at his post as long as he wanted, provided it wasn't very long. Then to everyone's surprise, Bush asked Snow to stay on. The last Treasury Secretary who left took with him enough documents to make quite a juicy book (The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O'Neill by Ron Suskind). Makes one wonder what Snow has squirreled away.
Kerik was announced as nominee for Secretary of Homeland Insecurity hardly a beat after Tom Ridge's resignation was announced, typical of the orchestration of public relations by the White House. But Kerik withdrew his own nomination as soon as the media turned its spotlight on him. There were questions about a pattern of abuse of power, and it seems he had employed an illegal immigrant nanny and neglected to pay the required social security taxes as her employer. Oops! Rather embarassing for one who would be in charge of border security and immigration.
But none of it makes a whit of difference. In the Bush administration the cabinet secretaries are spokespeople, not policy setters. For Bush the issue is whether they can and will stay "on message," not whether they can lead developing good policy in their areas.
And, the real movers and shakers of the administration remain in place — Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Rice. And let's not forget the puppetmaster himself, Karl Rove. Sadly, these are the same ones who most misjudged, misled, and mismanaged. For an administration that espouses accountability, it is ironic that the very ones who should be held accountable and shown the door are the ones given promotions and contract renewals.
But that's nothing new — it's been going on for four years and will apparently go on for four more years.