The Presidential Branch: From Washington to Clinton

The Presidential Branch: From Washington to Clinton

The Presidential Branch: From Washington to Clinton

The Presidential Branch: From Washington to Clinton

Synopsis

Hart's study of presidential staffing contends that the major institutional trends and developments in the history of the executive office have not only remained unchanged since the mid-1980s but have been reinforced by the controversies of the Bush and Clinton presidencies. The idea of comity survived a 12-year period of divided government; it was tested during those years, but not successfully challenged, and the presidential branch is still almost immune from effective congressional scrutiny. The efforts of reformers to persuade presidents to change the way the presidential staff functions continue to be ignored.

Excerpt

In September 1993 the Clinton administration launched its National Performance Review report, the result of an intensive six-month study under Vice President Al Gore at redesigning, reinventing, and reinvigorating the entire national government. No department or agency escaped the reach of the "reinventing government" team, a team dedicated to cutting red tape, reducing costs, and making the federal government perform more efficiently. But the agency at the center of government, the Executive Office of the President, received only cursory attention from the National Performance Review. the reason given by Vice President Gore was that the presidential staff is "regularly reinvented with each change of administration, the implication being that incoming presidents automatically refashion the character and nature of the way the White House operates by virtue of the new staff appointments they make.

In many respects, incoming presidents do "reinvent" the White House, though not necessarily in the sense that the Clinton administration has used the notion of "reinventing government." More often than not, presidents- elect give surprisingly little attention to the nature and organization of the presidential staff before they assume office, and there is a lot of evidence in the history of post-Brownlow presidential staffs that presidents and their staffs have had an almost unlimited capacity to make the same mistakes that their predecessors made. But the "reinvention" of the presidential staff that does take place with each new administration brings to the White House new personalities, new styles of operation, new decision-making structures, different priorities, and different images of presidential leadership. While such changes may not amount to a complete transformation of the institutional basis of the Executive Office of the President, they are nonetheless important and often have a significant bearing on the performance of a particular president. From the political scientist's perspective, then, Vice President Gore's assertion that the White House regularly reinvents itself with each new president serves as a convenient reminder that books about the presidential staff may also need some "reinventing" from time to time.

The first edition of The Presidential Branch was written halfway through President Reagan's tenure and appeared in print shortly after the . . .

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