Make no bones about it, George Bush engaged in Operation Ignore prior to 9/11. He was told in no uncertain terms in an August 2001 presidential daily brief that Al Qaeda was determined to attack inside the United States. He told the official who delivered that PDB, "All right, you've covered your ass...now get outta here!" Then he went back to pulling brush at his ranch while jihadis flew planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Also make no mistake about it that George Bush completely ignored the disaster in New Orleans until his adviser, Dan Bartlett, made a DVD of the evening news broadcasts and showed him that people were dying. Only then did Bush act and even then, it was more about making it look like the government was responding rather than actually doing anything effective to help.
Clearly Mr. Bush was not too effective at safeguarding the United States, no matter what his cheerleaders at Fox News or the Washington Post editorial page said.
Unfortunately neither is the guy who replaced him.
Last Friday, a Nigerian jihadi set his penis on fire trying to bring down a jet plane over Detroit. President Obama was vacationing in Hawaii with his family and rather than make any statements about the incident or the investigation, he let members of his administration, primarily Homeland Security Director Janet Napolitano, do the talking for him while he rode the waves.
Napolitano told CNN on Sunday "The system worked" even though American intelligence agencies ignored a tip from Penis On Fire's father that he had become radicalized and could pose a threat, particularly because he had disappeared. Intelligence agents did not act on the tip and Penis on Fire came close to bringing down a plane.
President Accountability finally put his surf board away yesterday to say "Actually the system didn't work," after he and his administration were ridiculed by critics for their blase reaction to Friday's incident and their inability to accept responsibility for the failure of intelligence agencies.
Today, President Accountability spoke again, saying there had been a "systemic failure" that allowed Penis on Fire to get through two layers of security at airports despite being on a U.S. terrorist watchlist and his father telling U.S. officials his son had become "radicalized."
In education, President Accountability is very big on closing "failing" schools and firing "failing" teachers as part of his vaunted Race to the Top lottery game, but when it comes to his own failure to address national security or intelligence matters or even make it look like he was on top of the mess at the airports this weekend (administration officials said airport security was chaotic, but that would confuse would-be terrorists as much as it angered travelers), he's not so big on taking responsibility or "firing" anybody. Not until the heat gets too tough to take, and only then does he emerge from sand and surf to address the problems.
Unfortunately for President Accountability, it may be too little too late to save his administration. Once a president gets stereotyped, it's hard to get people to think differently. Initially Bush had people fooled that he was on top of things, but Katrina changed all that. Barry the Surf President ran as a competent manager who would bring change to Washington and hold government officials accountable, but all people seem to see is a guy who passes the buck when he or his administration screws up and a guy who seems to screw up a lot.
And the only people he seems to hold accountable are teachers.
Everybody else gets to screw up again and again (think Geithner and Summers on unemployment and the financial bailout, think Bernanke on Fed policy, think Napolitano on "The system worked...") and they get a "heckuva job" pat on the back from him.