The Irrelevance Of The Cabinet

Jun 7 2012 @ 3:22pm

Todd Purdum checks in on the president's putative "team of rivals": 

The larger truth is that modern presidents, with a few exceptions, don’t need, and don’t use, Cabinet members as privy councillors on the most important questions. They have other people for that. Presidents do need competent, even if anonymous, executives to run the vast machinery of the federal government, but most Cabinet secretaries don’t really do that either—at least not in the classic C.E.O. sense—leaving such work to their deputies and the professional civil-service staffs. In fact, experience has shown, it is hard for modern presidents to attract private-sector C.E.O.’s to serve in the Cabinet because of the financial and personal sacrifices required. Hank Paulson, George W. Bush’s Treasury secretary, once told me that if he’d known how arduous the confirmation would be for his own non-controversial appointment to the post he would never have left Goldman Sachs. The Cabinet these days amounts to a kind of demographically balanced assembly of team mascots, with increasingly ill-defined roles.