In today's Washington Post, E.J. Dionne's column is titled, "In Charge, Except When They're Not."
"Is President Bush the leader of our government, or is he just a right-wing talk-show host?
The question comes to mind after Bush's news conference this week in which he sounded like someone who has no control over the government he is in charge of. His words were those of a pundit inveighing against the evils of bureaucrats.
'Obviously,' said the critic in chief, 'there are some times when government bureaucracies haven't responded the way we wanted them to, and like citizens, you know, I don't like that at all."
"Yes," writes Dionne, "and if you can't do something about it, who can?"
The possible answer, one which some folks won't like, is that no single person - including a president - can do very much about it.
There are currently 1.8 million civilian federal employees. Of those, a president appoints fewer than 3,000. Anyone acquainted with the workings of the federal government realizes how difficult and time-consuming it is to terminate an employee, even with cause. In short, the president is stuck with what he has.
Yes, through his appointments a president can have some general impact on policies. But to expect him to be able to "do something about it" when the bureaucracy, as it is wont to do, stumbles simply isn't realistic. Mr. Bush is no more federal workers' manager than he is a right-wing talk-show host.