Government by Temper Tantrum

President George W. Bush’s temper tantrums are on the rise with White House insiders reporting increasing tongue-lashing of staffers, obscenity-filled outbursts and a leader driven to the edge by what he sees as party disloyalty and a country that no longer trusts him.

Conservative backlash over his latest Supreme Court nominee may, in fact, have pushed the President over the edge.

“He’s out of control,” one White House aide says privately. “There’s no other way to put it. His anger spills over in meetings. He berates anyone who brings him bad news but there’s not a lot of good news we can bring the President right now. He calls other Republicans ‘motherfucking traitors’ and it is becoming more and more of a challenge to keep that anger from showing in public.”

A Bush White House that has always prided itself with an ability to shield the President’s weaknesses from the public faces a mounting list of embarrassing public incidents.

The most recent came when Bush fled Washington to avoid the largest anti-war rally since Vietnam, some reporters asked him if he was running away.

“No goddamn it,” he snapped back. “I’m going to keep track of Hurricane relief.” Then he flew out of town to a command center in Colorado to watch what was happening in New Orleans, something he could easily monitored from the situation room of The White House. Reporters present said Bush shoved his way past aides to get away from more questions.

“Bush was happy to get out of town and track Hurricane Rita last weekend as a way of displaying his new-found interest in the suffering of hundreds of thousands of people in the Gulf area,” wrote Helen Thomas of Hearst Newspapers.  “He flew to Austin, Texas, and spent the night in San Antonio. He traveled to a command center in Colorado, where he was able to monitor Hurricane Rita while an estimated 100,000 to 300,000 Americans converged on Washington and peacefully demonstrated against the Iraq war. Their protest included a march in front of the White House.”

The mainstreamers have long joked about Bush’s temper tantrums but have only recently started writing about them.

“There’s a doctoral dissertation to be written about Bush appointees named during the administration’s frequent fits of Petulant Pique,” Molly Ivins writes. “These PP appointments are made in the immortal childhood spirit of “nanny-nanny boo-boo, I’ll show you.”

In Time Magazine this past weekend, Joe Klein asks “Turf wars, temper tantrums, mysterious leaks—has Bush lost control of his own government?”

“The President’s rut reflects a gathering dysfunction in his Administration,” Klein continues. “The White House seems paralyzed.”

But is this something new? Consider this from Andrew Stephans of The Observer in London:

“The 43rd US President has always had a much-publicized knack for mangled syntax, but now George Bush often searches an agonizingly long time, sometimes in vain, for the right words. His mind simply blanks out at crucial times. He is prone, I am told, to foul-mouthed temper tantrums in the White House. His handlers now rarely allow him to speak an unscripted word in public.”

Stephans wrote that analysis on October 17, 2004, two weeks before last year’s election. In the same article he reported:

“A senior Republican, experienced and wise in the ways of Washington, told me last Friday that he does not necessarily accept that Bush is unstable, but what is clear, he added, is that he is now manifestly unfit to be President.”

That was nearly year ago. Since then the situation has only gotten worse.