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Bush hands-off style more disciplined

Washington, March 23 (Reuters): US President George W. Bush is placing his personal stamp on management of the US-led war on Iraq, keeping the big picture in mind while the generals agonise over the day-to-day details.

His hands-off style is in marked contrast to some of his predecessors who obsessed over war details, such as civil war-era President Abraham Lincoln, who once, when told by Gen. George McClellan that the army of the Potomac had captured six cows, fired off a telegram: “Milk them.”

Bush has made at least two major decisions — he set the war plan in motion on Wednesday morning and he made a last-minute move to order a missile strike on a Baghdad compound on Wednesday night to try to kill Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and top aides. Otherwise, Bush has left much of the decision-making to his team.

Bruce Buchanan, a University of Texas political scientist and long-time Bush watcher, said the President’s style has not changed since he was governor of Texas. He called it a standard CEO approach to delegation — “willing to give people lots of latitude because they wouldn’t be there if he didn’t trust them completely.” And Buchanan said many Americans like the approach. “A lot of people want a leader to just be serenely self-confident and don’t see a need to obsess over details. A lot of people are comforted by that,” he said. On the other hand, he said, there are those who are leery of someone “who is so absolutely convinced he is right.”

White House officials said Bush’s general management style consists of putting in place a team that he trusts and stepping in as necessary to make sure the campaign is a success.

Shortly after the raid on Baghdad, which he watched briefly on television, Bush left Washington for a weekend at Camp David, where he met his war council yesterday. Aides insisted he has the same capabilities there to stay in touch as he has at the White House.

“He gives them the authority and the discretion to execute their jobs, because that’s why they were put there in the first place. He’s not somebody to second guess or to doubt the decisions of his team,” said a senior White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Since the war started, Bush has limited his public appearances. He spoke to the nation last Monday night to give Saddam a 48-hour deadline to flee Iraq, then again on Wednesday night to say the war had begun.

On Thursday and Friday, he declined to answer reporters’ questions on the war and left defence department officials to brief reporters. During an Oval Office meeting with congressional leaders, he referred reporters to an upcoming briefing by defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Bush left it up to his commanders to decide when to launch the bombardment on Baghdad.

Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley said Bush’s approach was a much more disciplined, corporate style, than for instance Franklin Roosevelt looking at World War-II maps in his pajamas or John F. Kennedy’s free-flowing debate during the Cuban missile crisis.

“It’s an obsession on order and protocol and a disdain for sloppiness of any kind. The danger of this is that if you don’t listen to some voices of dissent, you start believing your own department heads. Sometimes you need to get outside people to say here’s where you’re making mistakes,” Brinkley said.

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