One of the biggest frustrations I have with White House staff (of any party) is that moment when happy West Wing “warrior functionaries” get drunk on their power and start micro-managing, inserting themselves too deeply in obscure Department of Defense operations than is politically healthy.
Despite anything the underestimated White House powerbroker Rick Dearborn says (and, for the record, I like Rick as he always treated me well when I had dealings with Sessions), it’s just a matter of efficient use of Presidential Authority–you can’t govern agencies with a commissar. They don’t replace competent, loyal Cabinet Secretaries. Take the Department of Defense. We can only assume President Trump appointed Defense Secretary Mattis to be awesomely effective in his job, so, if that’s the case, certain chubby White House staffers need to get the @!#$ out of the way and let Secretary Mattis work his magic–however he darn well wants.
Obstructing Secretary Mattis by objecting to his staffing decisions (or by appointing a commissar to mind him) is a direct contravention of Presidential interests. Trust me, the weeds of DoD staffing is not a political hill the White House wants to die defending. And it’s a really, really great way to alienate the guy the Boss appointed to run his DoD affairs in the first place. Let Cabinet Officials do their jobs.
Knee-jerk “hey that departmental appointment isn’t one of our guys!!” interference from some Soft JV West-Wing Snowflake does a lot to complicate things that should be relatively simple. The nomination of talent for the poor bloody DoD bureaucratic infantry should not be a politically costly drawn-out process, chock full of folks who couldn’t (or wouldn’t) make the cut.
Such foolishness does little more than sacrifice Presidential momentum and, ultimately, saps Presidential power.
It has to stop. Let DoD–or at least the Department of the Navy and Marine Corps–get to work.
Appoint a Mattis-minded SECNAV ASAP.
If You Love It Let It Go….Manage Itself!
Look, White House Staff meddling starts with every good intention (variants of “we need our guys in there!”), but these West Wing Denizens are 1) far too far removed from the agency they’re “over-overseeing” to make a good pick and 2) they’re overwhelmed with day-to-day dramas and end up moving too darn slowly.
Respect the fact that White House micromanagement kills everything, and, well, despite his hostility to “Big Government”, I don’t think President Trump wants to kill off the DoD.
A clogged staffing pipeline has consequences. I mean, I watched Ray Mabus struggle to staff his office, hamstrung by a sclerotic White House NSC staff who couldn’t be bothered to find a suitable female replacement for Robert Work. After a long while, the White House picked poorly, leaving their hapless pick, Jo Ann Rooney, to sit in purgatory for a year before the White House finally got around to withdrawing their deeply flawed pick. The second pick, Janine Davidson, was far better received, but it took the White House three years (!!) to make the change. That’s just unacceptable, and it does the administration little good (though some Mabus-haters probably sighed in relief).
The same pattern is manifesting itself in the Department of Defense (and Department of the Navy and Marine Corps) today. White House staff have wasted time defending their own power-base-boosting picks, floating candidates who either couldn’t (or wouldn’t) make it through the vetting process (Bilden) or were just not realistic (if Wikipedia is to be believed, one GOP stalwart floated for SECNAV apparently got busted using a sitting SENATOR’s auto-sign pen to sign his performance evaluations). Again, this has to stop.
Get a SECNAV nominated now.
Dear President Trump:
So, President Trump, if you want to get stuff done, let Secretary Mattis generate his slate, pick from the best one offered up, and move forward!
Look, anybody Secretary Mattis picks is, by definition, “your guy” and will do well by you. (And trust that if they don’t, Mr. Mattis will simply END them.)
A prompt, trouble-free SECNAV nomination (remember, Ray Mabus was nominated on March 27, 2009, so the clock is ticking!), is a real political boon. And that–if your “loyal-but-misguided” staffers can let go of the fact that a SECNAV nominee may not be a dyed-in-the-wool supporter of one member of the White House staff or another–that is the only way to get “wins” on the board for a White House that desperately needs some “wins”.
So, my message to you, Mr. President, is to nominate a Mattis-generated slate of Department of the Navy and Marine Corps leaders. They’ll get nominated with little expense of political capital and do well by Your Administration. I’ll guarantee that if nominated, those DoD staffers will get some “wins” on the board far faster than the set of squabbling functionaries staffing the West Wing–functionaries who put their interests before yours–ever will.
So, Mr. President, I urge you to nominate a SECNAV this week–no–nominate a SECNAV TOMORROW.
Time is a’wasting, and there’s a lot to do.
Let’s get it done!
(You know my email if you want to discuss this, Mr. President! Craig.hooper AT nextnavy dot com. Good luck with your pick!)