Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan charges that the Bush administration "took a “permanent campaign approach” to governing at the expense of candor and competence."
To me, particularly when enabled by Rove's discernment of American impulses, Bush represented the triumph of politics over policy. Like a dog chasing a car, Bush knew how to get elected but was largely clueless about what to do with the position once he got it.
As the world gets more complex, the job of voters gets harder.
In some ways, Bush’s administration might represent the culmination of "old" democracy. One of the big reasons that people are more frustrated during elections than they are at the mall has to do with order of choice. Imagine that you were not choosing cars but were, instead, choosing car designers for body shapes and engines. I don't know about you, but I'm not sure that I'd want to drive a car I helped to design. I don't know much about engines. I just choose between final products. By contrast, when it comes to government policies, we're choosing engine designers, not final product. This suggests that we know something about the principles of policy design - an assumption that is not borne out by facts. And when we don't know any better, we ask the designer things like "Have you ever cheated on your wife?" and "What is your religion?" Questions we would not have of any car designer, a person (or team) who might be agnostic or asexual for all we know or care.
Bush knew politics well enough to get elected twice to the highest office in the land. As the unfolding of economic and international events is beginning to suggest, his grasp of policy was about on par with a freshman at Yale. In the old democracy that brought him to power, what matters is the politics. I'm going to write another post that suggests that a confluence of new technologies might allow us to move into a new kind of democracy, one that makes the candidates and politics secondary to the people and policy. Any other alternative – subverting democracy or discarding policy – is simply too dangerous. It is not enough to have Bush out of office by January; we need to change the process that put him in office.