Unelected staff electing themselves as ‘president’

As someone who positions himself more on the conservative-libertarian side of the world from time to time, I still want President BidenJoe BidenHouse Passes 1 Trillion Infrastructure Bills, Advances Social Spending Plan Virginia Democrats Concede Loss of State House Liberals, Moderate Strike Deal on Biden’s Agenda, Clearing the Way for MORE votes to be successful, because if you are successful in your job as president of all Americans, then our nation is successful.

Up to that point, during his opening speech, Biden said: “However, hear me clearly: disagreement must not lead to disunity. And I promise you this: I will be a president for all Americans. I will fight as hard for those who did not support me as I will fight for those who did. “

I honestly think the president meant what he said. The question is, do all of your staff members and within your broader inner circle agree with that unifying American sentiment? We now live in increasingly toxic political times, so it would be safe to assume that some of those closest to the president don’t want to be a part of that pollyanna sweetness and cuteness and would rather metaphorically tread on the throats of those they oppose.

Since that’s a possibility, two more questions logically come to mind: How much influence do these people have over the president? And how much autonomy do they have to enact policies?

I suspect that even most Democrats, privately at least, would admit that the Biden White House has stepped into Troubled Waters lately and that the president doesn’t always present himself as the captain of his own ship. If you take your hand off the wheel from time to time, who grabs it? And does that person believe in his mind that they know better than President Biden?

To be sure, since the George Washington administration, there have always been members of the presidential staff who believe themselves to be more intelligent and capable than the president himself. That usually delusional arrogance aside, we come to the most pertinent fact: the elected American people said that selfish staff members did absolutely nothing.

But, since that thought process seemingly unfolds within the West Wing from time to time, we have three relatively recent examples to ponder.

The first was when, on March 30, 1981, Ronald Reagan was shot in an assassination attempt. As Richard V. Allen, President Reagan’s national security adviser at the time, correctly reported for The Washington Post on March 25, 2011:

“Within hours of the shooting, as doctors struggled to save the president and reporters clamored for information, Secretary of State Alexander Haig repeatedly wrongly insisted that he was in charge of the federal government.

“Constitutionally, gentlemen, you have the president, the vice president and the secretary of state, in that order, and if the president decides that he wants to transfer the helm to the vice president, he will do so,” Haig explained to journalists in the press room of the White House, apparently forgetting that the Speaker of the House and the President pro tempore of the Senate appear before the Secretary of State in the line of succession. And then, in a dozen words that would become famous, he said, ‘From now on, I’m in control here in the White House.’

“… That long-awaited statement has become a classic Washington moment, and one that would end Haig’s own presidential suitability. A powerful cabinet secretary had made a terrible mistake during a national crisis that required him to show calm and dominance. “

Worse than that, Haig looked crazy “Dr. Strangelove“To several Americans during that surreal moment, and it most likely petrified many of them.

Next on the list, we take the Reagan White House and rethink the dispute between Chief of Staff Don Regan and First Lady Nancy Reagan. To no one’s surprise, it was a battle easily won by a first lady who knew exactly how to protect her husband from an overly ambitious staff. (In full disclosure, I worked in the Reagan White House during that time as a writer. While there, some thought Regan believed himself to be the “co-president” or the “prime minister” of the country).

Before Nancy Reagan threw him out of the White House, the embattled chief of staff tried to tell the media that she was the one who had too much power. Mrs. Reagan instantly destroyed that accusation with humor when, before an audience of editors, she said with a laugh: “This morning I had planned to clarify the differences between the United States and the Soviet Union on intermediate-range missiles, but then I decided to clean Ronnie’s sock drawer.” Game, set and goodbye Mr. Co-chair.

Finally, we come to an anecdote from Bob Woodward’s 1996 bestseller that recounts the election between president Bill clintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson Clinton Voters oppose holding Joe Manchin and the exodus of Georgia Secretary of State workers hostage: Trump ‘had no idea how elections work’ MORE and Senator Bob Dole, entitled “The chose. ”

Although I am not impartial, I worked for Dole, after the Senate, as its director of communications and knew both Clinton and Woodward, I really believe that the book captures some of the best political swings of all time.

And in that book, we learn that Clinton had his share of employees or inner circle who apparently believed they could do their job much better than he could. Woodward said: “Many of those close to him rebelled and turned him in, providing the media with unflattering reports on his decision-making. … It was one thing for this advice to be given in private. It was quite another for it to appear in print, as these unflattering stories and many others had. In fact, the harshest and most authoritative criticism of his administration had often not been made by his opponents or by Republicans. It came from the inner circle, even from his wife and vice president at times. Clinton told a friend that she was paying a terrible price due to the frustration of others who had their own ideas on how to do their job. Who could I trust?

In fact, who could he trust?

Conservative, libertarian or not, I believe that Clinton is the most brilliant president of the modern age. And yet, even with his brainpower and exceptional communication skills, he was still plagued by that disease born in the White House in Washington: staff members and inner-circle cronies who think they are smarter than the president and who can. be prone to making unilateral decisions. decisions based on that belief.

Like Nancy Reagan with her “Ronnie”, there is no doubt that the first lady Jill bidenJill BidenOvernight National Security & Defense: Washington gathers for Colin Powell’s funeral. Son pays a moving tribute to Colin Powell at the service. she has her husband’s back – how you should do it.

While history has recorded a number of “legends in their own minds” about the White House staff, there can and should only be one president of the United States at a time. Right now, that’s Joe Biden.

Douglas MacKinnon, a political and communications consultant, was a White House writer for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George HW Bush, and a former special assistant for policy and communications at the Pentagon for the last three years of the Bush administration.


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