An Important Point
Here's just a sampling of headlines from today's Washington Post:
- State Dept. Won't Order Diplomats to Iraq
- TSA Minimizes Failure to Detect Threats
- FEMA Accused Of Wasting More Katrina Funding
- Justice Dept. Conducting Criminal Probe of Baghdad Embassy Contracts
This is a pretty typical day for the newspaper. Can there be any doubt at this stage that management of federal operations is not just something that's worthy of the next president's attention, but the critical issue facing the country in the next few years? If recent history has taught us anything, it's that we should be judging our candidates on the basis of how well they will manage the critical functions of the federal government, which are literally a matter of life and death to Americans. And we should be holding their feet to the fire when they make cavalier policy proposals like not replacing half of federal employees who retire and threatening to cut health benefits for political appointees.While presidential candidates like to focus on policy proposals, and political reporters remain obsessed with the who's-up-who's-down horse race aspects of the campaign, the critically important issue is whether the next president will form an effective team of appointees, make sure agencies have the capacity to perform the roles they've been assigned, and hold federal managers and executives accountable for results. This issue ought to be central to the campaign, and its barely on the periphery.