Ezra Klein makes the point that so far, the Obama Administration seems to be well run, especially with regard to implementing policy. He speculates:
The Obama team seems, at this juncture, to be technically proficient at the work of government. My hunch is this is largely a function of hiring so many veterans of the Clinton White House, as that imbued the young Obama administration with a level of skill and seasoning that other White Houses don't develop until their second term, if they ever develop it at all.I suspect this is backwards. The Bush administration had lots of skill and seasoning; Andy Card was certainly as groomed for the job as any WH Chief of Staff has been. And yet they were generally awful at the work of government. Reagan's second-term White House was certainly more experienced and perhaps more skilled than his first-term White House, but they were worse at the work of government.
The key variable here isn't the staff; it's the president. George W. Bush could have had the most talented and experienced group surrounding him ever assembled, but without knowing how to use them -- without knowing how to ask tough questions -- and without actually caring whether the work of government gets done well, the results would be chaos, as it was with a disengaged second-term Reagan and a hapless W. throughout. Yes, the staff matters and it matters a lot -- but the quality of the staff is (mostly) a function of the competence of the president.
It's still possible that we'll learn that early, positive signs from this White House were spin and not reality, but so far I agree that the indications are very good.