Half of a President's suggestions, which theoretically carry the weight of orders, can be safely forgotten by a Cabinet member. And if the President asks about a suggestion a second time, he can be told that it is being investigated. If he asks a third time, a wise Cabinet officer will give him at least part of what he suggests. But only occasionally, except about the most important matters, do Presidents ever get around to asking three times.For those of you who have been following my Watergate posts, you've read how many times Richard Nixon had to repeat various directives (breaking into Brookings, getting the IRS to persecute rich Jews who supported the Democrats, selectively declassifying documents to hurt the Kennedys and other Dems), and as we know some of those things never did happen.
One of the outcomes, by the way, of the breakdown in the executive branch nomination process is that it puts presidents in an even worse position as he tries to get cabinet secretaries and others to do what he wants. One of the president's weapons in such fights (albeit one that can only be used infrequently even in the best of times) is to threaten to fire someone who doesn't follow administration policy. But if the Senate is unlikely to confirm anyone, then that threat isn't credible. And if they can't be fired, then why should they do what the president wants?
All of which is just a reminder that Barack Obama's greatest mistake has been letting the executive branch nominations process deteriorate without any kind of sustained fight. Yes, Republican obstruction is unprecedented, but Obama hasn't really even tried to contest it, and has never signaled to anyone, including Senate Democrats, that executive branch nominations are even a moderate priority. The result hasn't just been a bureaucracy that doesn't work as well as it should, but one that is a lot less responsive to Barack Obama than it might be.
"All of which is just a reminder that Barack Obama's greatest mistake has been letting the executive branch nominations process deteriorate without any kind of sustained fight."ReplyDelete
With something like that, what exactly would a "sustained fight" look like? Him going public on it?
Going pubic, nominating people as soon as there are openings, pushing behind the scenes (which may be happening more than has been reported, but you would think there would be some sign of it).ReplyDelete
I think it's "aide" . Damn auto-correct.ReplyDelete
JB is quite right on the failing on the appointments side. However, that has less to do with the bureaucracy. Even appointed politicals have only so much influence in their departments. Time to return to a pre-Pendleton civil service?
Which is again why so much policy stuff is getting dumped on WH staff and potentially liaison types. That strangled the Bush people too.
Another signaling is firing people. Maybe is "no drama Obama" but when you base is upset at you knocking off a few heads is one way to do it. The fear of getting replacements via the confirmation process is probably not helping there either. Firing a few czars would help, though.
Going on past performance (wouldn't that be great if that mattered for the pundit class!), Suskind's reporting will hold up very well.ReplyDelete
Obama's greatest mistake is not fighting for nominees? You've got to be kidding. Even if you take what Obama really wants as the objective, he certainly has made bigger mistakes in achieving those goals than not fighting for nominees.
"The result hasn't just been a bureaucracy that doesn't work as well as it should, but one that is a lot less responsive to Barack Obama than it might be." Have any political science research to back that claim up? i.e. Cabinet members' responsiveness to the executive correlated to the priority given to nomination confirmations. And how would you measure how well the bureaucracy works? Seems pretty nebulous to me.
Btw, I wrote a post criticizing you for your Plum Line post on the Lofgren article that made the rounds. I've got a lot of other stuff on the Lofgren article for whoever is interested. Click my name for my blog.
Sorry, it's the second post down, The Idiot Villagers. Or go right to it: http://norwegianshooter.blogspot.com/2011/09/idiot-villagers.html (Just my college nickname, nothing to do with Breivik)ReplyDelete
Yes, there's plenty of stuff on presidential influence with the executive branch, beginning with Richard Neustadt from the presidency side. By the way, I highly recommend Matthew Dickinson's blog, Presidential Power (see blogroll to the right) if you want to know more about this sort of thing.
As far as specific strategies...it's hard to really quantify this stuff (and on this I'm a consumer of research, certainly not a producer), but it's pretty straightforward.
Also: the very best way to learn about this stuff is to watch Yes, Minister. True, there are real and important differences between the US and UK systems, but it's IMO absolutely terrific.
I hope you'll excuse my etiquette violation for responding here to your post.
On one thing, you misunderstand me, and perhaps we agree. When I said that people were not disgusted w/government, I didn't mean current officials; that happens every time there's a recession. I meant buying into conservative anti-government rhetoric. What would it mean if such a day arrived? People would oppose Social Security, Medicare, environmental regulations, food safety, and on and on and on. The Ryan budget would be popular. None of that has happened.
What we clearly disagree on is about changes in the policy landscape since 1980 or so, whether policy has moved to the right (your view, and the view of many liberals to be sure) or stayed roughly overall the same (my view). No question that there are clear shifts right on some things...but also clear shifts to the left on others. And some of these questions are difficult to answer properly. What I think is clearly true, however, and make of it what you will, is that conservatives have been strongly unhappy with the direction of government throughout the period -- *they* certainly don't believe that they're getting their way.
"Going pubic, nominating people as soon as there are openings, pushing behind the scenes (which may be happening more than has been reported, but you would think there would be some sign of it). "ReplyDelete
Isn't the conventional wisdom that going public is not particularly effective? It doesn't move public opinion much at all, etc.
I don't disagree that he should have done it, or the other tactic you mention, but I wonder how much more effective he would have been at actually moving votes in Congress (which again points to the need for recess appointments).
No problem, this way people will read it (and my response).ReplyDelete
Thanks for the references. My main point was to criticize "Barack Obama's greatest mistake has been letting the executive branch nominations process deteriorate without any kind of sustained fight." This is a small thing. Two counter arguments: 1) What Secretary who seriously resists the President's agenda has a future as a politico (which includes think tank and lobbying jobs)? 2) There are many political appointees at Departments that owe their allegiance directly to the White House.
I didn't think about it that way because that's crazy: "People would oppose Social Security, Medicare, environmental regulations, food safety, and on and on and on." That will never happen and even Grover Norquist knows it. Are you seriously taking extreme rhetoric at face value?
I'm strongly criticizing you on this because a political scientist (even on their blogs) should at least provide some evidence of their claims. Otherwise you're just a pundit. What are the clear shifts to the left? I would guess that you have in mind some societal culture shifts towards equal rights. Other than that, I'm completely at a loss to think of anything. But I might be missing something. Go for it.
Again, you can't take what politicians say at complete face value. If there is one good thing about declaring government the enemy, it is that your enemy will never go away. Cold Warriors had to fight another boogeyman, but anti-government zealots will always have a target.
Oh, and two things: I couldn't even use style html tags on my comments. Is that a choice you can make? or just a bug.ReplyDelete
My footnote expressed surprise at your immediate audience when you started here. What was your background when you first started or what was your in to get major publicity?
A little off-topic, but it occurs to me today that the biggest administrative failing of the last three, youngish Presidents all arise from the same source: they were in way over their heads, woefully unprepared for the requirements of the job they assumed.ReplyDelete
Clinton's failing: staffing his Administration with a bunch of Jim Bobs and Billy Rays from Arkansas, rather than qualified Beltway types. Why did he do this? Because he was an outsider, and (at least at first) didn't know what the heck he was doing, and wanted to hide that fact by putting sympathetic, equally ignorant, folks around him.
Why was Bush 43's administration so heavily influenced by hoary old retreads like Rumsfeld and Cheney? Because Bush 43 didn't know what the heck he was doing, and so he surrounded himself with loyalists of his father who would cover off against some of his massive inadequacies.
Why was Obama so weak on executive appointments? Because he has little inherent clue who's qualified and who's dangerous, and many of the partisans who might help him are Clinton loyalists, so being a cautious guy Obama chooses to do nothing. Folks worry that Obama hasn't fought for these positions? Doesn't conviction require a modicum of knowledge?
We don't discuss it much, though Sprung's oft-cited takedown of Perry does a little, but frankly the process by which people are put in the most powerful position in the world is so laughably inadequate for the job requirements that said process can't sustain itself for a whole lot longer. Sarah Palin is still, or once was, a plausible candidate for the Presidency? Think about your favorite Fortune 500's succession policy. Would any of those companies have gone down the food chain, to candidates anywhere near as incompetent as Sarah Palin, to find a leader?
No way. Even hardened Palin partisans know this. Which is why the Presidency as we know it may be an endangered species.
Well, there's no doubt that the last 3 presidential elections have delivered a dearth of qualified candidates.ReplyDelete
5 men have emerged to fight in those 3 elections. None of them could be considered Tier I candidates. Only one of them could be considered Tier II, flawed, but at least somewhat capable and qualified for the job. The other 4 were Tier III or below, unqualified and unfit for the position. I'll leave it to you all to figure out who the lone Tier II was.
Going back for decades, I can't remember an election when we didn't have at least one Tier II in a presidential election, but 2008 was one such. And from the looks of it, the Left appears incapable of sending up a Tier II candidate, to give a hint on the question above.
Really? You can't think of one example of a leftward shift in policy over the last 30 to 40 years? So you agree with me then, right?ReplyDelete