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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A Deliberative Cabinet

Raymond Smith, a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute, writes in The New York Times about deliberation within the executive branch:
Over the past half-century, however, the expansion of the White House staff has centralized deliberation and decision making increasingly within the confines of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW. This reliance on professional staffers, political advisers and media spinmeisters within a constrictive White House “security bubble” deprives presidents not only of the deep substantive policy expertise of top civil servants but also of the political judgment of cabinet members who are often successful politicians.
A strengthened cabinet could promote frank and creative deliberation, help coordinate policy across government and make sure all members are delivering the same political message. All of this could go far in staving off the inertia and drift so common in presidential second terms.
Smith's suggestions include the following:
Employ the cabinet as a deliberative body: Cabinet meetings have become little more than occasional photo ops. Under Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, for example, cabinet meetings were held monthly; the Obama team has met less than one-third as often. By contrast, the British, German and many other parliamentary cabinets meet weekly to assure that the entire team shares a common and coordinated vision. More regular and meaningful cabinet meetings could strengthen links across departments and with the White House staff, bolstering cooperation and reducing overlap and miscommunication.