Shortly after Dems reclaimed the congressional majority, the White House said it was hard at work on a “big, big” policy agenda for the president’s final two years in office. “There will be no cruise control,” one Bush aide said. “These are big, big ideas and we will be pushing them with all our might and energy.” Shortly before the State of the Union in January, Tony Snow added that Bush cannot “cease to be bold.”
That was then. Now, here’s a quick quiz: name three “big” things the president wants to get done before leaving office. Maybe immigration reform would make the list, but what else? Maintaining the status quo in Iraq? That’s not exactly a “big idea.”
When asked whether he was quitting the Bush administration because it would be good for his political future, Rob Portman, the outgoing budget director, replied: “It would be good for my mental health.” Although Mr Portman was joking, a growing list of officials have already acted on that impulse.
At least 20 senior aides have left important posts in the White House, Pentagon or State Department over the past six months, as chaos has deepened in Iraq. “There’s a real sense of fatigue and very little sense of purpose,” said a senior official, who asked not to be named.
One former official told the Financial Times, “What is the point of sticking around in an administration that isn’t going to accomplish anything significant?”
It’s a good question. As more people ask it, expect the exodus to get worse.