Last week, President Bush said that he would start thinking about Cabinet and staff changes over the weekend. The decisions he makes in this area will be our first real indication of what his second term will be like.
Even if Bush doesn't actually fire anyone, it is inevitable that there are going to be a lot of staff changes. An unusually large number of people have been with him throughout his entire term, and many go back years earlier to his campaign. No doubt, a considerable number are burned out and need to move on to the private sector where they can make more money and see their families more often.
This natural turnover will probably give Bush all the opportunity he will need to reshape his administration without the necessity of firing anyone, although that cannot be ruled out. Sometimes a high-level staff change is needed just to shake things up, and not because someone was doing a poor job. Or the president may have someone specific in mind that he wants in his Cabinet and who insists on a particular position that is already filled.
This is not to say that we can expect wholesale turnover. Many people currently in the administration may remain, but in different positions. In some cases, this will just be a reward for those who have done the heavy lifting -- perhaps in ways not altogether visible on the outside. In other cases, the president may feel he needs someone particularly trustworthy in a key position to handle a high priority matter.
Having said that, following are some thoughts on likely staff changes in the second Bush administration and a few suggestions.
Bush has said that his two highest domestic priorities are tax reform and Social Security reform. Unfortunately, he has said very little about what he means in these areas. Consequently, someone is going to have to be assigned to draft a specific proposal -- or at least detailed guidelines -- before action in Congress can proceed.
Treasury Secretary John Snow, who is expected to stay, is the obvious person to manage tax reform. I worked with him on the Kemp Commission some years ago and have confidence that he understands the issue and knows what needs to be done. Moreover, the Treasury staff is well versed on tax options and has the expertise and depth to manage what can often be a complicated and drawn-out process.
Bruce Bartlett is a former senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis of Dallas, Texas. Bartlett is a prolific author, having published over 900 articles in national publications, and prominent magazines and published four books, including Reaganomics: Supply-Side Economics in Action.
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