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 THREE
The Cabinet Meeting: 1

"C ABINET" is a group concept. It refers to what several people can do by way of assisting a chief executive when they function as a group rather than as individuals. It refers to a group working together to serve some end which could not be served so adequately by the same persons working separately. This being true, an essential precondition to the Cabinet's existence is the existence of a corporate framework within which a group can operate. This framework is provided by the Cabinet meeting. Since a Cabinet which never met is a contradiction in terms, the Cabinet meeting becomes the heart of any discussion of the Cabinet as an institution. Indeed, the term and the institution originated in the presence of precisely these ingredients, i.e., several persons whose group identity and group activity were established by the fact of their frequent meetings with President Washington.


THE POTENTIAL FUNCTIONS OF THE MEETING

The setting of this chapter is the Cabinet meeting; the subject matter is group activity. At the outset it is helpful to indicate the functions which might be performed for the Chief Executive in the context of a group meeting -- some categories of potential Cabinet usefulness. They will provide us with standards or guideposts to help us in evaluating or interpreting actual performance. Keeping in mind the special properties of the Cabinet as a group of highest level, interdepartmental advisers to the President, it could hypothetically serve three distinguishable functions. If any

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