Monday, May 15, 2006

If Past Is Prologue, George Bush Is Becoming An Increasingly Dangerous President

If Past Is Prologue, George Bush Is Becoming An Increasingly Dangerous President
Friday, Apr. 21, 2006

President George W. Bush's presidency is a disaster - one that's still unfolding. In a mid-2004 column, I argued that, at that point, Bush had already demonstrated that he possessed the least attractive and most troubling traits among those that political scientist James Dave Barber has cataloged in his study of Presidents' personality types.

Now, in early 2006, Bush has continued to sink lower in his public approval ratings, as the result of a series of events that have sapped the public of confidence in its President, and for which he is directly responsible. This Administration goes through scandals like a compulsive eater does candy bars; the wrapper is barely off one before we've moved on to another.

Currently, President Bush is busy reshuffling his staff to reinvigorate his presidency. But if Dr. Barber's work holds true for this president -- as it has for others - the hiring and firing of subordinates will not touch the core problems that have plagued Bush's tenure.

That is because the problems belong to the President - not his staff. And they are problems that go to character, not to strategy.

Barber's Analysis of Presidential Character

As I discussed in my prior column, Barber, after analyzing all the presidents through Bush's father, George H. W. Bush, found repeating patterns of common elements relating to character, worldview, style, approach to dealing with power, and expectations. Based on these findings, Barber concluded that presidents fell into clusters of characteristics.

He also found in this data Presidential work patterns which he described as "active" or "passive." For example, John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson were highly active; Calvin Coolidge and Ronald Reagan were highly passive.

Barber further analyzed the emotional relationship of presidents toward their work - dividing them into presidents who found their work an emotionally satisfying experience, and thus "positive," and those who found the job emotionally taxing, and thus "negative." Franklin Roosevelt and Reagan, for example, were presidents who enjoyed their work; Thomas Jefferson and Richard Nixon had "negative" feeling toward it.

From these measurements, Barber developed four repeating categories into which he was able to place all presidents: those like FDR who actively pursued their work and had positive feelings about their efforts (active/positives); those like Nixon who actively pursued the job but had negative feelings about it (active/negatives); those like Reagan who were passive about the job but enjoyed it (passive/positives); and, finally, those who followed the pattern of Thomas Jefferson -- who both was passive and did not enjoy the work (passive/negatives)....