Sunday, September 06, 2009

Van Jones Resigns from Meaningless Post

"Conservatives" have been up in arms about outrageous statements made by Obama Green-Jobs czar Van Jones.

Yesterday Van Jones resigned, blaming "lies and distortions" that "distract and divide."

Meanwhile and all the while, conservatives* note with some frustration that Obama's appointment of some thirty-one czars represents administrative ineptitude of the first order.

We assume that the utter foolishness of this move is clear enough to anyone with experience at any level of organizational management. But we'll explain for the sake of having something to write about.

Any one person can manage only a limited number of direct reports. Each person reporting to an a person in an organization needs access to that person's time, attention and energy. Every person's resources are finite, so direct reports need to be limited.

Barack Obama is clearly an exceptional individual. He may indeed be the brightest and most talented person of his generation. Some can lightly but rightly view him as the anointed one. But even he has limits. Even Superman is vulnerable to kryptonite. Even Jesus had only twelve direct reports.

The President has a cabinet. Counting the VP, it has sixteen members. Six additional officials serve the POTUS at "cabinet rank." That's twenty-two.

Add thirty-one czars and you've got fifty-three direct reports. And the President has the time and energy to consult with each of them. Plus take Michelle to dinner in NYC, and have a beer with Henry Louis Gates and that hapless policeman, and tell kids to stay in school.

We note further the clear lines of authorty of each of these czars and czarinas. Amongst the czars, one is in charge of auto recovery; another, of cars. One is in charge of energy and environment; another, of international climate. One is in charge of weapons; another, weapons of mass destruction policy. One is in charge of the economy; another, the Troubled Asset Relief Program; another, pay; another, stimulus accountability. There's a czar for health and another for drugs.

Also, some parts of the world have czars of their very own. Sudan, Afghanistan and the Middle East have czars, the last especially tasked with "peace." California has a water czar. The "central region" and the "Great Lakes" have czars, though the rest of the West, the South and the East are apparently without imperial authorities to oversee them. Perhaps these appointments are being held up pending the appointment of the czar of czars. Anyway, we don't know whether regional czars have any authority in their regions for the realms of authority of the issue-czars. Can the central region czar deal with, say, economics in Kansas, or just with areas untouched by other czars' portfolios?

Now, go to the cabinet and note that by statue, certain cabinet members have executive authority for certain areas of government activity. As it stands presently, the cabinet pretty much has someone for everything. But for every cabinet member, there are just under two czars, all authorized to work in areas governed by cabinet-level departments. At least two-czars-per-cabinet-member is an average, so at least the Secretary of Veterans' Affairs has a relatively free hand to run his department.

What in the name of all that is reasonable motivated Mr. Obama to make all these appointments? Several possibilities come to mind. One is that he wanted an office and a salary for people to whom he owed favors. That might explain a few,** but we doubt, for example, that Paul Volcker thought that he ought to get a sinecure as a payoff. Maybe some were appointed as a bone to throw at their fans. But we're not sure that Carol Browner (whose name is misspelled in the Politico piece linked above) has fans.

Maybe the young President, never having run anything except a campaign, simply misoverestimated his ability to do multiple things at once, and so for every possible problem he appointed a czar, to whom he would delegate his own superior political prowess to address all that is unsatisfactory in our world. That explanation has the virtue of fitting most other issues in the Obama Presidency so far.

Well, whatever the reasons, the truth is that Obama's czars were destined to dysfunction: not simply getting nothing solved but getting in each others' way and in the way of the cabinet to foul up ordinary governmental functions.

And that's why we deem Jones' resignation inconsequential. Sure, he's aligned with the looney wing of the Democratic Party. Yes, he's one of the radicals to which David Horowitz has recently drawn attention. But so what? He was in a job that could do nothing but draw a wasteful salary. Like that's anything new.

Conservatives, as opposed to "conservatives," understand that the problem here is the scope of the Obama agenda, which is nothing short of Changing the Whole World in the First One Hundred Days. In this world, you're lucky if you can bring marginal change to one thing in one thousand days.

It was said that Reagan could express his entire administration on three points written on one 3" x 5" index card. Obama needs a 975-page document with footnotes and appendices.

By not prioritizing and focusing, Obama made the error of every leader who believes his publicity. Now forced by reality to choose one issue as a focus, he's choosing healthcare, the Holy Grail of the left since FDR failed to get health insurance as part of Social Security in the 1930s. Meanwhile, voters have moved that matter down their list, behind jobs, economic recovery, taxes and federal spending.

This will be his second mistake: to confuse the priorities of his base with the priorities of the majority. And that is not just a mistake of administration but of politics, and it will threaten to undermine his ability to sustain a majority in Congress or get himself elected to another term.
*Please note our new convention of placing the term conservative in quotation marks when it refers to the liberal stereotype of conservatives or people who behave according to that stereotype. The absence of quotation marks indicates that the term refers to those who are not stereotypical but nevertheless and truly conservative.

**We note that despite a promise to appoint career diplomats to ambassadorships, Obama has so far appointed a disproportionate number of political supporters, especially so-called "bundlers," to key posts like Tokyo. Obama seems a true heir of Jackson in this as well as other regards, minus the populism.


Bryan D said...

very humorous.

steve-o said...

Even more humorous is, after reading this, I went to the Enquirer and read the headline: "Obama to name manufacturing czar." And he'll do so here in town.

Neither a prophet or . . .

Anonymous said...

We wish we could share your outlook that people like VJ are meaningless. It's exactly these shawdowy-appointee types who use the wide-latitude of 1,000 page bills to manuever agencies such as the EPA into deciding that CO2 is a pollutant, or who establish barriers between DOJ, FBI, CIA, so that risks to our national security are increased. The FCC is another agency that has more fun in store for conservatives as well.