Tuesday, November 23, 2004
Bush is taking on the Establishment
It's time the Washingtong bureaucracy fully supported the President's agenda regardless of their personal beliefs. James Glassman calls for the Gossification of the executive branch:
Worse, many, if not most, career civil servants at middle and upper levels resist implementing policies they don't like and do their best to shape their own.
Such bureaucrats often lean left - because federal jobs attract people who believe in a missionary government and because Democrats controlled Washington almost continuously for a half-century. But the White House seems finally to be making bureaucratic transformation a top priority.
The next target has to be State. My brief experience on an advisory board examining public diplomacy revealed foreign service officers seething with contempt for Bush, whom they consider an uncultured, unilateralist dolt.
Indeed, the White House should put someone like Bolton in the No. 2 post of every department and key agency, with explicit responsibility for rooting out administration opponents and gaining control of policy. How to do that when bureaucrats have the equivalent of academic tenure? Make their lives miserable, transfer them or re-educate them. But don't leave them in place.
Particularly in need of transformation are the Labor Department, which is practically a union local; Justice; Treasury; Education; the Food and Drug Administration; the Environmental Protection Agency; and the SEC.
The attitude of many top bureaucrats can be summed up thus: "This is 'my' agency. The politicals are only renting a room for a while. I can ignore them and subvert them. Eventually, they will leave, and I'll still be here doing the real policymaking."
Fred Barnes says the President "has not been broken by establishment forces" and is leading the insurgency against them:
Contrary to the doubters, the establishment does exist and does throw its weight around. It consists of the permanent bureaucracy, much of the vast political community of lobbyists and lawyers and consultants, leftovers from Congress and earlier administrations, trade groups and think tanks, and the media. The establishment can and does shape the zeitgeist in Washington and, importantly, a huge chunk of the Senate is establishment-oriented and dozens of senators themselves members of the establishment. It's become more Republican in recent years but is still center-left in ideological tilt. But it's liberal in a reactionary way, passionately opposing conservative change.
In the eyes of the establishment, the Bush tactics, the Bush agenda, and Mr. Bush himself are over the top. The president is girding for battle. He's aiming to consolidate control of his administration, drive out recalcitrant (read: establishment) elements, and make the permanent government heel, especially at the CIA and State Department. He's kept his White House staff intact, from political adviser Karl Rove to speechwriter Mike Gerson to budget chief Josh Bolten, as a kind of headquarters cadre. The White House aides who've departed, such as national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and counsel Alberto Gonzales, were dispatched to take over Cabinet agencies.
If Mr. Bush is anxious his insurgency might fail, he hasn't let on. On the contrary, he exudes confidence that, despite the establishment, he'll succeed in his second term. Mr. Bush did make one bow to the establishment last week. He showed up in a tuxedo at the British embassy for a party honoring Ms. Rice. "One tux a term," a White House official said. "That's our idea of outreach to the Washington community."