. . . Thursday June 3, 2004

The Weakness Stakes

Strength has never been my weakness.

– Dan Hampton, Chicago Bears

I used to have a football coach who regularly advised the players on our team to quickly figure out what our key weaknesses were. The goal of practice and off-season work he explained, was to turn those weaknesses into strengths.

The advice, compared to most of his other coaching adages, seemed to make some sense – although I never quite managed to turn my primary on-the-field weaknesses (wanton fear, lack of speed, lack of strength, Jewishness, self-doubt, bad attitude, an unwillingness to take direction, the time conflict between afterschool practices and my childhood shrink appointments, a failure to work well with others and an unexplainable urge to tackle people even though I played offense) into strengths.

I’ve never been quite sure who (other than the Almighty) is coaching the Bush administration, but it seems that they have been given advice almost exactly contrary to that I received. Somehow, the Bush team has managed to turn its core strengths into weaknesses.

President Bush has now spoken to an attorney who might be called in to represent him in the case of the Valerie Plame leak. I’m not sure we should read all that much into the simple talking-to or hiring of a personal lawyer. What is important about this story is that it is still going on at all. The administration that supposedly never leaked let out a gusher. And the President who has been channeling John Wayne for several years and who promised to quickly out and oust the responsible party has done neither (on this issue, he looks like he may be channeling Inspector Clouseau).

Then there is the more recent case of that other information spill. The one that reportedly has Ahmad Chalabi in hot water for tipping off the Iranians that we had broken their communication codes. Here again, a surprised public might have expected Bush or Rumsfeld to kick open the saloon doors, guns-a-blazing until they found the culprit. Instead, federal investigators are roaming around the Pentagon giving a series of polygraph tests to determine who shared the highly classified material.

The administration that ran and had supposedly led on the cornerstones of professionalism, accountability and above all, honesty, seems to have lost its grip on all three.

Concentration is important!