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Nobody likes a bureaucrat

Bush called Thursday for a sweeping government restructuring to create a new domestic security department.
Bush called Thursday for a sweeping government restructuring to create a new domestic security department.  

By Bill Schneider
CNN Senior Political Analyst

Is this the time to propose a huge new government agency -- the second largest Cabinet department after the Pentagon?

The public's view of government is not what it used to be -- even eight months ago.

When President Bush named Tom Ridge to be homeland security director, it was just after September 11. Trust in government was surging. For the first time since the Kennedy era, most Americans said they trusted the government in Washington to do the right thing.

That number had fallen to only 29 percent last July.

After the terrorist attacks, trust in government rose suddenly and sharply to nearly 60 percent. Was that a real political change, or was it an expression of national solidarity at a time of crisis?

We now know the answer.

Trust in government is headed back down. Which means things are returning to normal. It's OK to bash the government again -- even if you're in charge of it.

When asked by a reporter if he planned any new initiatives to combat global warming, President Bush replied, "No, I've laid out that very comprehensive initiative. I read the report put out by a, put out by the bureaucracy."

Bureaucracy has been the problem with homeland security as well: The government has 100 executive branch agencies -- answerable to 88 congressional committees and subcommittees -- gathering information, with no one to connect the dots.

President Bush says, "Level-three staffers trying to protect, you know, trying to protect their hide. I don't think that's of concern. That's just typical Washington, D.C."

But it is of concern to Congress, which is investigating the intelligence failures before September 11. President Bush has stolen attention from those investigations by proposing a new government agency to connect the dots.

Ronald Reagan used to refer to government offices as "puzzle palaces on the Potomac." What people don't like about government is bureaucrats. Sometimes they even try to turn the word into a slur.

If you want to make it in the United States, you don't go to work for the government. Everybody knows that -- even a cocktail waitresses in the 1984 movie "Protocol," who said, "This is Washington, D.C. All the men here are either married or gay or work for the government."

If there are problems with the bureaucracy, the answer is more bureaucracy. That's a time-honored American tradition. But contempt for government is also a time-honored American tradition -- one whose time may be back.




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