Depressed and demoralized White House staffers say working at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is “life in a hellhole” as they try to deal with a sullen, moody President whose temper tantrums drive staffers crying from the room and bring the business of running the country to a halt.
“It’s like working in an insane asylum,” says one White House aide. “People walk around like they’re in a trance. We’re the dance band on the Titanic, playing out our last songs to people who know the ship is sinking and none of us are going to make it.”
Increasing reports from the usually tight-lipped staff of the Bush Administration talk of a West Wing dominated by gallows humor, long faces and a depression that has all but paralyzed daily routines.
“If POTUS (President of the United States) is on the road you can breathe a little easier for the day, knowing that those with him are catching hell and the mood will be a little easier in the Wing (West Wing) until he returns,” says another aide.
Capitol Hill Blue began reporting on Bush’s mood swings and erratic behavior in June 2004 but the stories of an erratic, moody President circulating within the White House were ignored by the “mainstream media” until recently. Now more and more outlets have begun to report on what many administration staffers say is a President out of control.
“A president who normally thrives on tough talk and self-assurance finds himself at what aides privately describe as a low point in office, one that is changing the psychic and political aura of the White House, as well as its distinctive political approach,” Jim VandeHei and Peter Baker wrote in The Washington Post over the weekend. “Aides who never betrayed self-doubt now talk in private of failures selling the American people on the Iraq war, the president’s Social Security plan and his response to Hurricane Katrina.”
That sentiment is echoed by former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.
“I think the Administration realizes the larger system has failed,” Gingrich says. “They are not where they want to be on Iraq. Katrina was an absolute failure.”
“It’s a standing joke among the president’s top aides: who gets to deliver the bad news? Warm and hearty in public, Bush can be cold and snappish in private, and aides sometimes cringe before the displeasure of the president of the United States, or, as he is known in West Wing jargon, POTUS,” Evan Thomas wrote in Newsweek on September 19. Thomas talked to “several aides who did not wish to be quoted because it might displease the president.”
Thomas went on to report “Bush can be petulant about dissent; he equates disagreement with disloyalty. After five years in office, he is surrounded largely by people who agree with him…Late last week, Bush was, by some accounts, down and angry. But another Bush aide described the atmosphere inside the White House as “strangely surreal and almost detached.” At one meeting described by this insider, officials were oddly self-congratulatory, perhaps in an effort to buck each other up. Life inside a bunker can be strange, especially in defeat.”
To regular readers of this web site, this should sound all too familiar. Here is what we reported on June 4, 2004:
“Worried White House aides paint a portrait of a man on the edge, increasingly wary of those who disagree with him and paranoid of a public that no longer trusts his policies in Iraq or at home. ‘It reminds me of the Nixon days,’ says a longtime GOP political consultant with contacts in the White House. ‘Everybody is an enemy; everybody is out to get him. That’s the mood over there.’”
Last year, the naysayers said we got it wrong.
But they got it wrong.
And we got it right and ahead of everyone else.
Yes, we’re gloating. We all too often read reports in the big boys and have a feeling of deja vu because we’re already been there and reported that.