So much for loyalty down

Brad DeLong explains why Larry Lindsay was fired, why that was actually a bad thing substantively, and what the process shows about Bush, the Bush the White House, and the press corps. Not a pretty picture:

“…the people who matter in the Bush White House–from the President on down–don’t know what the government does or how what the government does affects the country, and don’t care.”

and

“…it never crosses the minds of the powers-that-be in the Bush White House that good economic policies might be worth pursuing because good economic policies lead to a stronger economy. To the powers-that-be in the Bush White House, economic policies are way to reward favored groups of constituents. And their effect on the economy? They don’t need to think about no stinking effect of policy on the economy.”

and

“If you listen closely, you can hear what the assistants to the press secretary told the reporters as they informed them of what the White House story was: “they didn’t quit, they were fired”; “notice how the President didn’t praise anything O’Neill and Lindsey had done”; “notice how downbeat Ari Fleischer was in his description of their service to the country”; “see how decisively President Bush acts on the economy–he decides they have to go and they go, with no interval to allow them to save face and no pretense that this is what they want to do.”

Admittedly, it doesn’t make much sense to anyone who isn’t a spin-doctor. They are obviously failures in their jobs, and yet you let them hang around for two full years? You fire them without having any replacements set up, so you demonstrate that you are in control of the economy by creating large holes in your table of organization where the people who prepare your briefings and present you with your options should be? The message is: “I wouldn’t listen to them. So they were associated with the biggest failure area in my administration. So they must be fired!”

But the spin-doctors do know the Washington press corps well. Half of the Washington press corps is sufficiently partisan that they will buy the administration line, and the other half of the Washington press corps is too lazy and too cowardly to challenge what the White House spin-doctors say. So the media consensus will be that Larry Lindsey did a bad job in the George W. Bush White House, and was deservedly fired …”

Maybe Andrew Sullivan and Mickey Kaus, if they’ve done enough Paul Krugman-trashing for now, need to start on DeLong. After all, shooting the messenger is a proven way of causing the bad news not to be true, right?

UPDATE

As Brad predicted, here’s some truly disgusting White House spin, courtesy of CNN.com. Knifing your friends in the back when it pays is “pragmatism” and shows “Presidential qualities.” Ick.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com