The President's Cabinet: An Analysis in the Period from Wilson to Eisenhower

By Richard F. Fenno | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER TWO The Appointment Process

T HE natural history of every Cabinet begins with its selection by the President-elect. At this time, more than at any other point in its life cycle, the Cabinet draws widespread attention and comment. The presidential decisions leading to the composition of a new "official family" are taken during the peak period of public interest which attends the national election campaign. As executive decisions go, they are preeminently concrete and visible. Among the earliest of presidential moves, they are treated as symbolic acts of considerable significance. Out of the quadrennial avalanche of commentary, there usually emerge two distinct attitudes which the bulk of interested Americans take toward Cabinet-making -- attitudes which reflect the public's normal expectations about the over-all President-Cabinet relationship and about the potentialities of the Cabinet in action.

One view of Cabinet appointment stresses the President- oriented character of the event. On the implicit assumption that the Cabinet is of great importance to the President and that he exercises a tight control over its selection, the appointment decisions are treated as matters of the greatest moment. Weighty judgments are based on the outcome. The President-oriented view was stated this way by Professor Samuel Lindsay:

No single act of the President transcends in importance the appointment of his Cabinet. The country forms its judgment of his underlying purposes and theories of government, it takes his measure and draws more conclusions from this single act than it does from his platform, his campaign pledges, his inaugural address or his first message to Congress. It represents in a vivid way the President's concept of the

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