Really Ticking Me Off

Over the last several days, more revelations have emerged that the Bush administration seems to be spending unprecedented amounts of taxpayer money for third party PR support of administration policies.  There is nothing that makes me madder than politicians using my money to help cement their own position in office.  For all the majesty of the office, the President is still the taxpayers' employee, and we should expect an honest accounting of his performance and programs.  What makes this even more ridiculous is that the US Presidency is the greatest bully pulpit in the world -- no one gets more of a chance to get his/her point of view into the public domain than the President.  But Bush is generally a crappy communicator, so he has squandered this opportunity and is forced into paying others to speak for him.

Often business people like myself lament that the government needs to be run like a business - meaning more focus on efficiency and productivity and process improvement.   But there are a number of ways the the government is NOT like a business.  The key difference is that a private company can, at the end of the day, give outsiders the brush-off.  As a private company (with no public stock float) I don't have to tell anyone anything about the decisions I have made or why I made them.  I am not only allowed but expected to pay money (in the form of PR, sales, advertising, etc.) to  put a public spin on my products and services -- this is called marketing.  The government, of course, is not supposed to do this.  They have an accountability to everybody.  (actually, even CEO's of public companies are not supposed to do this either, at least with their shareholders, but they do).

The Bush administration wants to believe they are still running their own private business, rather than a public trust.  They have used 9/11 and the war on terror as excuses to pull a veil of secrecy over decision-making, data, and even mistakes that often have little to do with national security.  They have set a number of unsettling precedents around managing their public image, and their payments for PR and good press fall into this category.