March 16, 2007
Whatever happened to competence?
By Bill Kraus
One of the questions that a candidates aren't asked during presidential campaigns is whether they know how to run the place. Or, the maybe even more important one, will the people they bring to office with them be competent administrators.
It probably isn’t asked because it is assumed that the president of the United States has the pick of the litter. The talent pool is big and—er—talented.
The super partisans will want to shrink the pool by insisting on a kind of loyalty test. Until Ronald Reagan’s recruiters were told not to hire anyone who had supported Gerald Ford at the 1976 convention, competence was, if not the only, certainly the most important criterion for public service. There has been far less bi-partisanship or even a-partisanship ever since.
Even with that kind of shortsighted limitation there should be a surplus of qualified candidates for all of those “pleasure of the President” offices.
But in the light of the butchering of the Katrina mess by “Brownie” and his boss at Homeland Security, and the mismanagement by the motley collection who are supposedly running the Veterans’ Affairs hospitals, and worse yet, the performance of several people in high places who value ideological purity over performance, it seems to be worth asking who the candidates are likely to bring with them if they win. With all of the time and resources journalists spend investigating scandals, maybe the could instead spend a little more time investigating candidates' records of recruiting well and performing competently if there’s a job on their resumes where competence mattered.
Policy and strategy are the major questions, of course, but we ignore the ability to execute both or either at our peril.
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