November 16, 2004


Cabinet moves to consolidate control: In his choice of Rice as secretary of State and Gonzales as attorney general, President Bush prizes loyalty over change. (Peter Grier, 11/17/04, CS Monitor)

Given that presidents have been constitutionally limited to two terms only relatively recently, historically speaking, it's difficult to say with precision what normal cabinet turnover is for a reelected chief executive. But Bush's cabinet was unusually stable throughout his first term, experts note. That's especially true in light of the fact that the administration is Republican. GOP administrations tend to have more turnover, says Prof. Mackenzie.

"Republicans don't like serving in government as much as Democrats. They tend to leave and go back to the private sector," he says.

In this context, the current cabinet shuffle may reflect pent-up demand. A change of eight to 10 seats would be comparable to historical examples, according to political scientists.

"It looks to me like turnover will be similar to other terms," says James Pfiffner, a professor of government at George Mason University in Virginia. [...]

First cabinets reflect the face a new administration wants to present to the nation. Ethnic and geographic balance is important, as well as payback. John Ashcroft, at the time of his appointment, was widely seen as someone who would be amenable to the social conservatives who have been among Bush's most enthusiastic supporters. Colin Powell, a celebrity in his own right, was a pick likely designed to bring the new team policy gravitas.

Four years later the calculations are different. The appointment of Mr. Gonzales may well excite Hispanics, who supported Bush and the GOP in 2004 to an unprecedented degree. But it also means that the White House is unlikely to be surprised by Justice Department pronouncements about the arrest of suspected terrorists, as it sometimes was during the Ashcroft era.

Ms. Rice will be the first African- American woman to serve in the nation's highest diplomatic post. But she also has detailed knowledge of Bush's thinking on foreign policy matters, given that she spends many weekends at Camp David with the president and his family. She's less likely than Mr. Powell to clash with other key figures - such as Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Cheney - on key matters of war and diplomacy.

The best thing a president could do with the Cabinet is get it down to six or so departments again.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 16, 2004 9:58 PM

I don't think he's going to do that, mainly because, by appointing cabinet officers, he can develop strong potential senate/gubernatorial candidates out of practically nothing. He'll probably take your advice, OJ, and put the Party first.

Posted by: Timothy at November 16, 2004 10:33 PM

Timothy - true (and being HUD Secretary probably helped Martinez) but the benefit of shutting down cabinet depts (especially the smaller ones) outweighs the development of a handful of people (who can be developed in other ways like task forces, running for Congress, etc).

Posted by: AWW at November 16, 2004 11:21 PM

As for State, Bush will get what he wants and deserves: loyalty and unprejudiced advice.

Diplomad which I highly recomend to all BroJudd readers quotes a retired FSO as follows on Powell:

I can make the criticism that follows because I am retired; active duty FSOs would be terrified to say it. Despite all his talk of the need for loyalty up and down the chain, Powell himself was not completely loyal to the President. His loyalty -- as one political appointee in the XX bureau noted -- was to "his own celebrity status." He was always triangulating, making sure that however a major initiative turned out, he, Powell, would still look good in the eyes of the Washington Post, New York Times, and the talking heads in DC.

As for the size of the cabinet. I susspect that it is a non-issue for the President. As a Taxpayer, I would truly love to see the Department of Education swallowed by the earth. But my guess is that unless there is a special occassion, i.e. photo-op, the President doesn't see the Secretary of Education more than twice a year. State and DoD may be more like a couple of times a week.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at November 17, 2004 1:51 AM

It seems to me kind of ridiculous to assert that this President values loyalty over change when he continues to move to change the foreign policy meme that has held the US in thrall for the last 60+ years. Advocating the march of democracy across the globe and fighting for that is such a monumental change that it is silly to suggest that by his changes, the President is valuing loyalty over change. What he values is appointees who will advance the vision of America and the world he advocates, a vision that, on 11/2, received the majority of votes cast.

Posted by: Morrie at November 17, 2004 9:20 AM

Competency is assumed when the nomination is made, so the only criterium then is loyalty.

At meetings, I assume everyone pipes up with ideas and opinions. Then the president makes a decision and everyones goes with it. Those who can't, should resign.

Posted by: erp at November 17, 2004 11:58 AM