Last week, I posted a “Bush Cabinet Quiz” inviting readers to match the names and photographs of the various Bush Cabinet members with their posts. My point was that once you ventured past the reasonably well-known secretaries of Defense, State, and the Treasury, and past the much-discussed nominee to replace Alberto Gonzales as attorney general, not even a political junkie could be expected to identify very many members (or prospective members) of the president’s current Cabinet.
That proved true even of yours truly, who assembled the quiz. In an error that has since been corrected, two of the Cabinet members I initially included in my mix-and-match—Mike Johanns at Agriculture and Jim Nicholson at Veterans Affairs—had vacated their posts during the previous month!
How could I commit such a clumsy mistake? By relying on the official White House Web page on Bush’s Cabinet, which had not been updated to account for the two departures. The day after the quiz appeared, readers alerted me to my errors, and I posted a correction consisting of an asterisked alteration of the text and a brief mea culpa at the bottom describing my earlier screw-up and how it came about. “At slight risk of seeming insufficiently contrite about these two errors,” I couldn’t resist adding, “the White House Web master’s inattention to these personnel changes” seemed to illustrate the column’s “larger point,” which was that this lame-duck president’s Cabinet does not make much of an impression. Not even the White House seemed to know or care who Bush’s Cabinet officers were.
Three days later, I posted an update below the correction marveling that, three days after I’d identified the White House’s error, the White House still hadn’t fixed it.
It is now five days since I posted the correction. The White House continues to mock its Agriculture and Veterans Affairs departments by identifying as their helmsmen two departed officials. What could possibly explain this? Does the Bush White House remain transfixed by the same “we-create-our-own-reality” delusion that a “senior adviser to Bush” (Karl Rove) demonstrated to Ron Suskind, journalist and ambassador from what Rove derisively termed the “reality-based community,” in a scary New York Times Magazine essay published on the eve of Bush’s re-election? Perhaps what we’re seeing resembles President Bush’s reality-creating momentjust last month:
I’m often asked why we’re in Iraq when Saddam Hussein was not responsible for the 9/11 attacks. The answer is that the regime of Saddam Hussein was a clear threat. My administration, the Congress, and the United Nations saw the threat—and after 9/11, Saddam’s regime posed a risk that the world could not afford to take.
My shoulder aches, and therefore you must do your homework. I am thirsty, and therefore you can’t stay up to watch The Daily Show. All parents can readily identify this style of logic as because I say so. White Houses do it, too! We had to attack Saddam because I say we did. Mike Johanns and Jim Nicholson remain at Agriculture and Veterans Affairs because we say they do. Now shut up and eat your waxed green beans.
Or maybe that isn’t it at all. Maybe Mike Johanns and Jim Nicholson linger on the White House Web site because their absence, just like their earlier presence, doesn’t matter very much, even to the chief executive who appointed them.
[Update, Oct. 9, 6:20 p.m.: Now it’s six days.The White House still hasn’t fixed it.]
[Update, Oct. 10, 2007: Okay, now the White House Web master has fixed two errors but created a new one. Johanns and Nicholson are finally gone from the official White House Web page on Bush’s Cabinet, replaced by acting secretaries Chuck Conner and Gordon Mansfield. Hallelujah! But now Alberto Gonzales is identified as attorney general! I could have sworn that last time I looked at this page Gonzales (whose last day was Sept. 14) had been removed and acting attorney general Peter D. Keisler subbed in. Now Gonzales is back. Please God don’t let this signal a Larry Craig-like reversal of Gonzales’ decision to resign ….]