Bush’s erratic behavior worries White House aides

    President George
    W. Bush’s increasingly erratic behavior and wide mood swings has the
    halls of the West Wing buzzing lately as aides privately express
    growing concern over their leader’s state of mind.

    In
    meetings with top aides and administration officials, the President
    goes from quoting the Bible in one breath to obscene tantrums against
    the media, Democrats and others that he classifies as “enemies of the
    state.”

    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.”

    In interviews
    with a number of White House staffers who were willing to talk off the
    record, a picture of an administration under siege has emerged, led by
    a man who declares his decisions to be “God’s will” and then tells
    aides to “fuck over” anyone they consider to be an opponent of the
    administration.

    “We’re at war,
    there’s no doubt about it. What I don’t know anymore is just who the
    enemy might be,” says one troubled White House aide. “We seem to spend
    more time trying to destroy John Kerry than al Qaeda and our enemies
    list just keeps growing and growing.”

    Aides say the
    President gets “hung up on minor details,” micromanaging to the extreme
    while ignoring the bigger picture. He will spend hours personally
    reviewing and approving every attack ad against his Democratic opponent
    and then kiss off a meeting on economic issues.

    “This is what is
    killing us on Iraq,” one aide says. “We lost focus. The President got
    hung up on the weapons of mass destruction and an unproven link to al
    Qaeda. We could have found other justifiable reasons for the war but
    the President insisted the focus stay on those two, tenuous items.”

    Aides who raise
    questions quickly find themselves shut out of access to the President
    or other top advisors. Among top officials, Bush’s inner circle is
    shrinking. Secretary of State Colin Powell has fallen out of favor
    because of his growing doubts about the administration’s war against
    Iraq.

    The President’s abrupt dismissal of CIA Directory George Tenet Wednesday night is, aides say, an example of how he works.

    “Tenet wanted to
    quit last year but the President got his back up and wouldn’t hear of
    it,” says an aide. “That would have been the opportune time to make a
    change, not in the middle of an election campaign but when the director
    challenged the President during the meeting Wednesday, the President
    cut him off by saying ‘that’s it George. I cannot abide disloyalty. I
    want your resignation and I want it now.”

    Tenet was allowed
    to resign “voluntarily” and Bush informed his shocked staff of the
    decision Thursday morning. One aide says the President actually
    described the decision as “God’s will.”

    God may also be
    the reason Attorney General John Ashcroft, the administration’s
    lightning rod because of his questionable actions that critics argue
    threatens freedoms granted by the Constitution, remains part of the
    power elite. West Wing staffers call Bush and Ashcroft “the Blues
    Brothers” because “they’re on a mission from God.”

    “The Attorney
    General is tight with the President because of religion,” says one
    aide. “They both believe any action is justifiable in the name of God.”

    But the President
    who says he rules at the behest of God can also tongue-lash those he
    perceives as disloyal, calling them “fucking assholes” in front of
    other staff, berating one cabinet official in front of others and
    labeling anyone who disagrees with him “unpatriotic” or “anti-American.”

    “The mood here is
    that we’re under siege, there’s no doubt about it,” says one troubled
    aide who admits he is looking for work elsewhere. “In this
    administration, you don’t have to wear a turban or speak Farsi to be an
    enemy of the United States. All you have to do is disagree with the
    President.”

    The White House did not respond to requests for comment on the record.