Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Clinton, Obama, and the White House

If memory serves, Bill Clinton ran against George H.W. Bush on many issues. One of the smaller ones was the size of Bush's White House. Supposedly it was too large, too autocratic and subordinated the cabinet members too much. So Bill promised to reduce the size of the White House staff by 25 percent. Carrying out the promise in his first term caused many contortions and much confusion, particularly as he also wanted to set up an economic council (under Rubin) as part of his "it's the economy, stupid".

Cut to 16 years later. Obama made no such promise, even though Dems have made a general attack on the Bush presidency for being too autocratic. As I sit here watching the news, it seems to me, without proof, that Obama is expanding the number and reach of people in his White House office. If true, a couple observations:
  • it might be a way to finesse policy differences, by giving each position a seat at the table. That would fit with Obama's perceived pattern of hoping to reconcile differences.
  • it is also a step away from "cabinet government", power moving from the departments to the White House.
  • certainly it is another layer of bureaucracy, posing another challenge to Mr. Emanuel.

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