The governing philosophy of the Bush administration

From The Tom Peters Seminar (1994), pgs. 109-110:

I’ve long been offended by the whining middle managers and professional staffers who tell me how tough they’ve got it. They’re bound to their desks by dictatorial bosses who might demand their presence at any moment, they say. “Rubbish,” is the way Reagan Pentagon staffer Richard Perle feels about such complaints.

“The question arises as to what authority you have. The answer,” Perle said, “is you have to assume you have absolute authority until somebody tells you otherwise, until somebody stops you. Because if you try to derive your authority, your freedom of action, from any other source than yourself, you are not going to have any fun, and you are not going to get much done.”

Perle claimed that he always “operated on the theory that it was within my authority to make decisions and do things and carry them out, right up until the moment that somebody was able to prove otherwise. And it’s amazing how much you can get away with, how many people will acquiesce in that, if you seem determined and you seem to know what you are doing.”

 
“[Y]ou have to assume you have absolute authority until somebody tells you otherwise, until somebody stops you.”

“[I]t’s amazing how much you can get away with, how many people will acquiesce in that, if you seem determined and you seem to know what you are doing.”

If you wanted to sum up the Bush administration in a nutshell, you could do a lot worse than using those two sentences.

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2 Responses to “The governing philosophy of the Bush administration”

  1. Harry Says:

    That’s just a wordier version of the mantra I learned while working for the Army Corps of Engineers:

    “Forgiveness is easier to get than permission”

  2. kevin whited Says:

    You could do a lot better as well.

    Even if that’s a reference to the notion that the Administration has attempted in a rather muscular way to reclaim executive authority, it still seems a stretch to describe that as “absolute” since it takes place within the constitutional system. It’s not as if the Administration has looked up and announced, for example, that it would ignore the Supreme Court, or that it was even suspending habeas corpus (which a few folks have urged in response to the Supreme Court deciding that foreign detainees enjoys rights of US citizens).

    The judicial branch has grown stronger than ever imagined, and one might just as easily lament its expansion of authority. Ditto the legislative branch at various times. Still, after the War Powers Act and findings about Presidential impoundment authority, I would contend that this Administration’s modest attempts at asserting executive authority don’t even come close to reclaiming authority lost over many years. Further, I would contend that it’s not that unusual for these relative shifts in power from time to time in our republic.

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