George Washington managed to do his job with a Cabinet of four. Barack Obama has more than twenty Cabinet and Cabinet-rank officials. Our president has demonstrated a knack for assembling Cabinet members that parrot his vision for America. Their talents are varied. Some are especially good at reciting buzzwords and phrases, creating a unified front through simple, mindless repetition. Janet Napolitano tossed out this gem in October 2011:
Nearly three years ago, when President Obama came into office and nominated me for this position, he and I both knew that we were inheriting a broken immigration system with a patchwork of laws and outdated requirements that were in desperate need of updating.¹
Her words sounded suspiciously similar to something Eric Holder said later that month:
“It is understandable that communities remain frustrated with the broken immigration system, but a patchwork of state laws is not the solution and will only create problems.”²
Both Holder and Napolitano were repeating the president:
Indeed, after years of patchwork fixes and ill-conceived revisions, the legal immigration system is as broken as the borders.³
Cabinet members have tremendous power to enforce and even set policy. Holder’s remark was backed by Justice Department lawsuits against states that crossed the president on immigration, a move the Supreme Court may reject when it delivers its decision on SB 1070 (see: Five Offensive Traits Democrats Share With Illegal Immigrants). The harassment continued today as Arizona’s Sheriff Joe Arpaio was sued by the Justice Department which, ironically, leveled charges of abuse of power.
Cabinet officials also have the opportunity to operate behind the scenes, quietly carrying out policies that contradict what Americans hear from the White House. When the auto industry bailout began in 2009, the Obama administration spoke ceaselessly of its mission to save autoworkers’ jobs. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner oversaw the actions of his department’s Auto Team, which orchestrated the closings of hundreds of small businesses and put tens of thousands of jobs on the chopping block. It seemed that every remark made by the president that year included the words “jobs” and “small business.” As the Auto Team operated in the background, he sold the nation a bailout based on the fear of job losses in a failing industry:
The prospect of uncontrolled bankruptcy in the automobile industry meant thousands of potential job losses in manufacturing and ripple effects throughout the economy.4
An inspector general’s report on the Auto Team noted plans to close up to 2,243 dealerships, and remarked that the job losses from closing these small businesses were not a consideration (see: The Small Business Shutdown Obama Doesn’t Discuss):5
Although there is some controversy over how many jobs will be lost per terminated dealership, it is clear that tens of thousands of dealership jobs were immediately put in jeopardy as a result of the terminations by GM and Chrysler.6
Obama Cabinet members also test the waters for new White House policies. Arne Duncan took time out from improving public education by collaborating with teachers’ unions to join Vice President Joe Biden in declaring his election year endorsement of gay marriage. The response from Obama backers must have been positive. The president came out as a supporter yesterday.
With so many officials in his Cabinet, the president can contribute to our country in ways we could never imagine with a smaller cadre of advisers. For example, Energy Secretary Steven Chu brought us Solyndra, Eric Holder gave us Fast and Furious, and Janet Napolitano’s TSA brought us a vote on unionizing airport screeners. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis even finds time to devote to labor rights for illegal immigrants while millions of Americans are unemployed (see: Illegals Have an Ally in Our Labor Department).
Eric Holder has shown us that the power of the Cabinet to enforce policy dictates can rival the president’s. Members don’t have to worry about being reelected. None of the examples mentioned required the approval of Congress. Synergy can be a good thing when people work together toward a worthwhile goal. It is a bad thing when it causes bureaucrats to band together in thoughtless pursuit of one man’s agenda. Cabinet members are picked to advise the president, but are we paying for advisers, or suffering the actions of lackeys, sycophants, and loose cannons whose only goal is goading Americans to accept the nonsense spewing from their boss’s mouth? Only the president and vice president are up for reelection. Voters and Mitt Romney need to make sure that Mr. Obama’s Cabinet is running with him.