THE PRESIDENCY: WHERE MORE IS LESS

The executive staff of the first President of the U.S. rarely consisted of more than two men.* When George Washington did not have the heart to keep his secretaries from going on vacation, he penned all the presidential correspondence himself President Ford's executive staff totals 535.

Washington had no need of organizational charts or doorkeepers to prevent his staff from interfering with each other and becoming an irritation to him. Ford, wishing to replace Nixon's sealed chamber with an open presidency," announced that nine designated advisers would have direct access to him at all times. but this attempt at simplification did not work out in practice; there were still too many people clamoring to see him, too many interruptions, too many demands on his time. The President still needs a kind of traffic cop, and Chief of Staff Donald Rumsfeld is entrusted with deciding who should see him and when.

Although the men who drafted the Constitution were familiar with the tyranny of kings, they gave the President great power, largely because they tailored the office to fit the man who they knew would be the first incumbent. Trusting George Washington, they made him--and all his successors--commander in chief of the Armed Forces, ruled that he could be removed from office only for treason or criminal behavior, and gave him veto power over the Legislative Branch. Since then, other Presidents have increased this inherently powerful office in size, panoply, and functions, but not in effectiveness, public confidence, or contact with the people.

In setting up his own staff when he became President, Jefferson described with admiration how Washington had handled official correspondence. Each Cabinent minister received all letters relevant to his department. Should he decide that a letter required no reply, he would

____________________
*
An earlier version of this essay appeared in Time, August 4, 1975. pp. 49-51.

-286-

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