Wisconsin has the real “Governator”

March 9, 2011

California’s Governator turned out to be mostly a bad joke, but Wisconsin’s Scott Walker looks like the real deal for sticking to his principles to reform abusive collective bargaining procedures for government employee unions. And the Wisconsin state senate Republican caucus deserves a lot of credit for at last realizing the Democratic minority had no intention of acting in good faith and finally passing those collective bargaining reforms:

Wisconsin’s Senate has been paralyzed on dealing with its budget because it requires a 20-vote quorum to address budget issues. And tied into the governor’s budget bill was the provision that caused all of the Democrats in the Senate to flee the state — a provision diminishing collective bargaining rights for state workers too wages only, leaving benefits and work rules for most state employees to be determined by the legislative process instead.

But Wisconsin’s Senate does not require 20 members to be present to pass non-budget legislation, and some people have asked why the Republicans haven’t simply passed the union provision separately. Well, tonight, they did just that.

The state assembly is scheduled to vote tomorrow. Passage is all but assured, and Governor Iron Man Walker should sign it soon thereafter. Unions are already talking about a general strike, so things should be quite… interesting, tomorrow.

Meanwhile, let me pose an Allahpundit-style exit question: Minority-party legislators have fled the state to prevent a democratically elected legislature from doing its job and instead are trying to impose its own will on the majority — in effect, attempting to overturn the results of the last election. Meanwhile, union members are using extremist language, vile insults, and inciting violence to intimidate those same elected official and, by extension, the voters who put them in office. Now, riddle me this: Who are the anti-democratic fascists here?

Mexican police chief did indeed flee to the US

March 9, 2011

A few days ago I wrote about the disappearance of Marisol Valles García, who at 21 was the youngest police chief in Mexico. Subsequent news articles claimed she had vanished or walked off her job, but few were willing to credit the idea that she had sought asylum north of the border. Understandable; it would be a little embarrassing for Mexico, if true.

Well, it is true:

After fleeing Mexico to request asylum, the young police chief of the Juárez Valley was
released from a detention center in El Paso and moved north of the U.S. border, officials said Tuesday.

The location of Marisol Valles García, 21, and her family is not being disclosed.

“Marisol Valles García is in the United States,and she will have the opportunity to present the facts of her case before an impartial immigration judge,” said an official with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

It’s never a good sign when a police chief has to flee for his or her life, but, given the short life expectancy of Mexican chiefs of police these days, I don’t blame Valles Garcia at all.

via Borderland Beat

A team of malcontents

March 9, 2011

As it’s evolved in the American system, a president’s Cabinet comprises secretaries who run their departments as a sort of viceroy for the president, who has overall responsibility for the operations of the Executive branch. Ideally, the president sets the broad policy and the secretaries see that it’s implemented. They also render advice to the president as need on matters within their purview and report to Congress when required.

That’s the theory, at any rate. In practice, the Cabinet has become less important as a body as it’s grown larger (the original Cabinet comprised just five secretaries, six, if one includes Vice-President Adams) and more unwieldy: today there are 22 Cabinet secretaries and Cabinet-level officials. And, as the bureaucracy has grown, president have come to rely more on White House staff to get around bureaucratic inertia and those pesky congressional reporting requirements.

Also, Cabinet secretaries are rarely disinterested technocrats, but power-players in their own right, often representing major factions of the president’s coalition, a practice that goes back to Washington. They can even be the president’s political rivals, brought into government to buy their loyalty — for example, Lincoln’s famous “Team of Rivals.”

The functioning of the Cabinet is news today because, as the Washington Post relates, it isn’t functioning; many members feel ignored and slighted by the White House in the last two years, and the president now has to spend time mending his team of malcontents:

News this week of the first departure of a Cabinet secretary from the Obama administration comes amid a wide-ranging effort under the new chief of staff, William M. Daley, to repair badly frayed relations between the White House and the Cabinet.

During the first two years of President Obama’s term, the administration fully embraced just a few of his superstar picks – people such as Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Education Secretary Arne Duncan. But many more agency chiefs conducted their business in relative anonymity, sometimes after running afoul of White House officials.

Both sides were deeply disgruntled. Agency heads privately complained that the White House was a “fortress” that was unwilling to accept input and that micromanaged their departments. Senior administration advisers rolled their eyes in staff meetings at the mention of certain Cabinet members, participants said.

Obama himself said his advisers were relying on him too frequently as a messenger, rather than letting his appointees carry important themes to the country, senior administration officials said. And the president felt isolated. “One of the first things he said to me was, ‘I want to see these people more often,’ ” Daley said in an interview.

Cabinet members also registered their grievances with Daley shortly after he arrived in January. “You hear the same thing: ‘I don’t think we’re used well.I don’t think we’re consulted enough,’ ” Daley said. “Whether it’s true or not, perception becomes reality, and I think there’s a desire to feel more part of a team.”

Halfway through one’s term is a heckuva time to start building one’s team.

This isn’t a new problem, of course; other presidents of both parties have sidelined Cabinet members by relying on Executive Office staff. Nixon’s Secretary of State, William Rogers, was often bypassed by the National Security  Adviser, Henry Kissinger.

But in Obama’s administration, it’s apparently reached new levels with the centralization of control in the White House through the unprecedented number of appointed (and not subject to Senate confirmation) “czars.” And the White House’s disappointment in several Cabinet officials, such as Interior’s Ken Salazar and Lisa Jackson at the EPA, reflects poor personnel choices. That, and the fact that Obama complains he doesn’t see them often enough, speaks to his own mediocre management skills and apparent passivity. (How hard is it to call up Labor, for example, and arrange a meeting with Secretary Solis?)

Another problem that I see is symbolic of Big Government: the Cabinet is simply too large with too many departments, indicative of a federal government that tries to do too much. The growth of White House staff is a response to the expansion of government departments and their bureaucracies, making the whole structure unwieldy. Rather than appoint a “Cabinet communications director” —yet another “czar”— the White House and Congress should look seriously at eliminating several of the departments*, downgrading others to sub-cabinet level, and leaving a core than can truly advise the president on those matters that genuinely are part of his job.

Yeah, I don’t expect that to happen any time soon, either, especially with the current crowd in charge.

*Starting with Commerce (the Census Office should be a separate agency subject to confirmation), Labor, HUD, Transportation, Education, HHS, and Homeland Security, which was a poor response to the weaknesses revealed by 9/11. Each may have a salvageable function or two (such as providing statistics), but, in general, they’re just money-sinks and corruption-attractors. Get rid of them.

PS. You’re right. It is a slow news day.

LINKS: Publius takes a noticeably snarky view of this. More from Hot Air.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)