Personnel Is Policy: Alternative Universe Watch

by: Paul Rosenberg

Sat Nov 29, 2008 at 20:54


In quick hits danthrax pointed to a Heritage Foundation "Backgrounder" from January, 2001, "Personnel Is Policy: Why The New President Must Take Control Of The Executive Branch".  By now, I figure that anyone still arguing that personnel appointments don't matter is beyond reason.  The real questions are how they matter, how much different appointments matter for different purposes, etc.  But it's also true that there's a valid self-reflexive question: how much do our questions miss the mark entirely.  And that's where the always helpful cautionary sci-fi alternate universe schtick comes in mighty handy.

Well, I don't actuallty have an alternative universe handy.  No transporter, so I can't mock up a transporter accident.  My copy of the I Ching is deeply buried, so the whole Man In The High Castle thing won't work.  Guess that's why I'm clicking on links to the Heritage Foundation, eight long years ago.  But lo!  It does seem to be working...

President-elect George W. Bush laid out a dream and a remarkably detailed policy agenda during his election campaign, with proposals ranging from substantial reform of Social Security and Medicare to ambitious changes in federal education policy and ways to reduce the historically high tax burden on the American people.

Yes-alternative-universe-indeedy!

Now let's see what he says about all that policy/personnel stuff!

Paul Rosenberg :: Personnel Is Policy: Alternative Universe Watch
Okay, let's get started:

In order to achieve his ambitious agenda, President Bush will need not only to build coalitions on Capitol Hill but also to move decisively to solidify commitment to his agenda within the executive branch. Because of the extended dispute over the election results, the President-elect has lost precious time in making the transition to the Oval Office. He faces historically unprecedented pressure in getting his team into place quickly and enabling them to do the necessary spade-work for new policies within federal agencies and departments. The President-elect must seize the initiative by making sure that the quality of his personnel managers--at the second and third tier positions in the Administration--matches his policy agenda.

I think we can all agree that Bush was wildly successful on this one, though not, perhaps, in the way the Heritage Foundation might have imagined.

It is at these levels of government that the crucial details of policy will be formulated and executed.

Or not.

To be successful, the new President must resist pressure to rely "more on the federal government's civil service employees" and to reduce his reliance on political appointments, particularly in key agencies that will play a major role in advancing his agenda. He must protect his right to select appointees based not only on their managerial prowess but also on their commitment to his policy agenda and their ability to advance, articulate, and defend it.

Trade-offs, trade-offs.  Managerial prowess?  Or commitment to the policy agenda and ability to advance, articulate, and defend it?  I know these guys say we should have both, but, really, isn't that, like, overkill?

He must also protect the integrity of the civil service and maintain a clear distinction between career and non-career functions.

Oops! Coffee-on-keyboard alert!

Finally, the President must make sure that his team at the White House and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) initiate the essential training of the political appointees in their management responsibilities under the Civil Service Reform Act and the Hatch Act. Political appointees must be well-educated on the fundamental importance of the merit system and the laws, rules, and regulations that protect the civil service from political manipulation in order to ensure the smooth implementation of the President's agenda.

Forget Star Trek. Forget Philip K. Dick.  This is one alternative universe I will never forget!


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Looking under every rock? (4.00 / 1)
Yes indeed! Managerial prowess was in such abundance that the Bush Administration even had time to focus on the little things like cronyism and political vendettas.

and they did this to a lot of third-way, DLC, and "New" democrats (4.00 / 1)
You would have thought that our efforts to compromise and meet them halfway would have meant that W would say "yeah, these guys are pretty fair choices, let's leave them be."

Tit-for-Tat (0.00 / 0)
At least Bush allowed Kennedy to write the Education Bill.  Let's see how many R's are invited to write policy for Obama.

It is dangerous for a national candidate to say things that people might remember.
 - Eugene McCarthy


"Allowed" Isn't Quite The Word For It (0.00 / 0)
Kennedy got snookered, and so did everyone who voted for it.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

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