The Corner

Re: “You Have to be Able to Manage and Run the Bureaucracy”

While I agree with K-Lo that this is not a particularly good (or inspiring) reason a candidate should want to be President, I also think conservatives should pay attention to how they believe respective presidential candidates would deal with the vast federal bureaucracy, large portions of which are staffed with civil servants who are hostile to a conservative governing agenda.  Transforming government requires more than being able to give a good speech and make sound policy decisions.  It also requires recognizing that appointments matter (“people are policy”), and that process matters.

Consider that one thing that has hampered the Bush Administration’s effectiveness is its preference for “loyalists” over those with professional and ideological qualifications.  This has resulted in many situations in which political appointees have been over their head, and been unable to manage the bureaucracy in line with the Administration’s stated policy goals.

Of course, as y’all would expect, I think that these sorts of considerations favor Thompson.  As I wrote in my NRODT article on Fred:

It’s easy to cite Thompson’s consistent commitment to conservative principles — a record of commitment no other candidate can match. It’s also important to understand the other things Thompson, and Thompson alone, brings to the campaign. Thompson understands that it is not enough to endorse and advocate conservative principles to see conservative policies enacted. Over the past 25 years, countless conservative policy initiatives have died a quiet death, or were horribly transformed, within the bowels of the federal bureaucracy. Understanding how policy is implemented within administrative agencies is essential if a conservative policy agenda is to be fulfilled.

Attention to such “process” concerns may not excite the faithful on the stump, but it’s crucial. As chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, Thompson conducted meaningful oversight of the Clinton administration and its campaign shenanigans, and advanced needed regulatory reforms. One of his reports identified over $200 billion in waste, fraud, and abuse.

Romney has enough management experience that he might be able to do well in this regard as well.  My only concern (which may or many not be justified) would be that his MBA mindset might lead him to think that professional qualifications alone are enough and to give sort shrift to ideological commitment to the administration’s overall agenda.

Jonathan H. Adler — Jonathan H. Adler teaches courses in environmental, administrative, and constitutional law at the Case Western Reserve University School of Law.

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