October 30, 2005

Inside the White House

We have all seen pictures of the President in the Oval Office. This diagram shows you where the power actually is. As we begin our two week unit on the Presidency, we should emphasize the nature of the power in these small rooms; it is in these rooms that the agenda for a country is set. The Oval Office, as we see below, is not actually in the White House; rather, it is in a small suite of offices called "The West Wing". Although everyone in the White House complex works for, and at the pleasure of the President, only the most senior aides walk the halls among the President and Vice President. Of the three thousand people directly working for the Executive Office of the President, there are fewer than two hundred in the busy and fast paced halls of the West Wing.

Harry Truman famously stated, "The Buck Stops Here" - meaning that the President is ultimately accountable for the Administration. But no President can have their hands in every item that comes toward the government; which means - power is delegated. Each President must choose a staff who will be capable of understanding power and politics, who can advise him as to how best to explain the actions of the government to the people, and finally, who will shape the country's policy. Look through the list of names of the people working in the West Wing of the White House; who do you recognize? Karl Rove, Harriet Miers, Dick Cheney - they are all within footsteps of the President.

Trust, savvy, and competence are what keep an administration afloat; yet Presidencies are confronted with the unexpected, each day, for dealing with the unexpected is the nature of the job. Second terms are historically unkind to Presidents; why do you think that is? FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, Clinton and now Bush - all were tainted by scandal in their last years in office. It is enough to make one envy the esteem that the public holds for JFK, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George Bush Sr. - the esteem of course comes only when history, not the electorate - makes its judgment.

Over the next two weeks, we must spend our time getting to know these Presidents; the President is the 'indispenable person' in the US government, and each President leaves a mark on the history of the government, and the country.

There will not be much time to come up for air during these four class periods; as background information for the lectures, please familiarize yourself with Chapter 11 in the textbook; that's the foundation. Specifically, we need to know about impeachment, succession, the evolution of the Presidency, the role of non-elected aides, separation/sharing of powers, Presidential-Congressional relations, the fluid roles of the President, the President in wartime, public affairs, and finally, a President's legacy. Your textbook and the newspapers are the place to start. To make these points of reference more real to you, please look at the current Bush Administration, and compare it to the second term of President Clinton's. The topics we address are current events, and relevant to today's governing of the United States, but it is just as true, that questions of power, tend to repeat themselves. People like Macchiavelli and Locke and Jefferson and Franklin understood constants of human nature; the framers undertook to create a system of good government, based upon both ideals and raw power politics. Please keep this in mind as you read.

Remember - our job in this course is to make sure that the next time you vote, you do so with a clear understanding of what's at stake, and what role you play in all levels of government.

Thank you,

Pete McRoberts

1: Linda Gambatesa, Oval Office Operations
2: Personal Secretary and Personal Aide to the President
3: Scott McClellan, White House Press Secretary
4: Pamela Stevens, Assistant Press Secretary
5: Erin Healy, Assistant Press Secretary
6: Steve Hadley, Deputy National Security Advisor
7: Condoleezza Rice, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
8: Richard B. Cheney, Vice President
9: Jonathan Burks, and Veronica Vargas Stidvent, Assistants to the President for Policy
10: Joseph Hagin, Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations
11: Harriet Miers, Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy
12: Andrew H. Card, Chief of Staff
13: Dan Bartlett, Communications
14: Mike Gerson, Speechwriting
15: David Hobbs, Legislative Affairs
16: Eric Pelletier, Deputy Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs
17: Steve Friedman, Economic Policy
18: Keith Hennessey, Economic Policy
19: Suzy DeFrancis, Communications
20: Dina Powell, Presidential Personnel
21: David Leitch, Deputy Counsel
22: Margaret Spellings, Domestic Policy
23: Kristen Silverberg, Domestic Policy
24: Karl Rove, Senior Advisor to the President
25: Israel Hernandez, Assistant to the Senior Advisor
26: Alberto Gonzales, Counsel to the President


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