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.

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

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

“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

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

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