February 10, 2009

Article Two, Section Two (Part One)

The President shall
nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.
If by chance you skimmed over the enthralling Hawthorne-esque prose of our Founding Fathers above, this section of the Constitution charges the President with the task of appointing high-level advisors, officers, and adjudicators to be confirmed (or rejected) by the Senate.

Historically, much ado has been of "Cabinet-Level Positions" because these are the people with the ear of the president. And because of the (purposefully) vague language concerning the specifics, many changes have been made to what departments are Cabinet-Level and which are not. For instance, the Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency used to be a Cabinet-Level post. When the Department of Homeland Security was formed in 2003, FEMA became a sub-department - along with the Transportation Security Administration, the US Secret Service, Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the US Coast Guard.

The point is: things change. When Washington (and his hot wife) took office, George appointed only four people to his Cabinet: Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson; Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton; Secretary of War Henry Knox; and Attorney General Edmund Randolph. Over the years, new departments have formed while others stay in existence but no longer enjoy Cabinet status.

Take, for example, what we now call the United States Postal Service. The Post Office was created in 1792 by order of President Washington, but didn't reach Cabinet Level status until President Andrew Jackson invited Postmaster General William T. Barry to sit as a member of the Cabinet in 1829. The Post Office Department had the ear of the President until 1971, when Richard Nixon outsourced the operation as part of the Postal Reorganization Act, creating the quasi-governmental entity known today as the United States Postal Service.

Ok, enough nerd talk - but just a little more contextual background. There has been much ebb and flow over the previous 43 presidential administrations, but below is a list of current high-level advisors. There are Cabinet Members - all Secretaries with the exception of the Attorney General - and there are Cabinet-Level Officers. Confusing, but there is a distinction - namely, Cabinet Members need to be confirmed by the Senate whereas Cabinet-Level Officers do not necessarily need to be. Fun side fact - the Departments of State, Treasury, Defense, and Justice are known as the "Big Four" because they commonly have the most interaction with the President. During meetings of the Cabinet, these four people sit in closest proximity to the President and Vice President. Alright, enough preamble (historic document humor):

Cabinet-Level Officers
Tracking so far? Good. Because this is where it really gets good. But you're going to have to wait. I have a big policy suggestion that I'm going to lay out - but this post is already pretty long and I want to keep your attention. So check back tomorrow. It'll be good.

"Bureaucracy is not an obstacle to democracy but an inevitable complement to it."
Joseph A. Schumpeter


Lewis Cash said...

Join Flea, Willie Nelson, and Paula Abdul (wtf?!?) in supporting adding a US department of peace.


Samuel Isaac Richard said...

Dennis Kucinich is the Congressman behind that proposal, and I'd definitely be alright with its formation...

Here's a list of other proposed departments - http://tinyurl.com/apmeuf - I'll have one more for you tomorrow morning...

Elisa M. said...

FYI/update: Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske was just appointed to be the 'drug czar'. And I'm sure you know about Gregg...