It seems to me that there are a few lessons that most sane observers of the last few years - of whatever politics - can agree upon. It is not a good idea to have a president in wartime base his hiring and decision-making solely or primarily on the basis of personal loyalty. It is good to have staff who feel able to be candid about the facts and disagree openly with the boss to ensure the best advice available. It is good that even after a decision has been made, it can be re-assessed in the wake of new evidence, and policy adjusted accordingly. We need a strong war-leader but the strongest war-leaders are always flexible, eager to find out facts that are not necessarily congenial, but important for getting things right. Keep all that in mind and read this NYT story about the management style of Rudy Giuliani, in the words of a man who worked very, very closely with him grappling with emergency procedures. Two quotes stood out for me, the first by Fred Siegel, a very fair and deeply knowledgeable New York writer:
"The core of the [Giuliani] administration was that these guys would always pull together," said Mr. Siegel, who once served as speechwriter for Mr. Giuliani. "Once a decision was made, that was it. There wouldn’t be any second-guessing."
Sound familiar? Now remember the catastrophic years in Iraq from 2003 to 2006. Then there is the question of a president open to hearing reality, rather than the self-serving blather concocted by a cocoon of sycophants. In the words of a man in his inner circle:
Mr. Hauer took immediate exception to [Giuliani's] account in interviews. "That's Rudy's own reality that he lives in," he said. "It is not, in fact, the truth."
If the Bush administration has left us with a case of serious heartburn, a Rudy administration would follow it up with an extremely hot, extra-cheese pizza with red peppers and anchovies. I think I'd prefer some Tums.