In Defense of "Insiders" ...

Matt Lewis
|
Posted: Jun 01, 2008 2:40 PM
Over at the NYT, Jill Abramson does a good job of pointing out why insiders are important.  Here's an excerpt:
"The furor over Washington insiders ignores recent history, as well. In the obituaries last month of the former White House chief of staff Hamilton Jordan, it was noted that some of the failures of the Carter administration were rooted in its lack of sophistication about how Washington works. There were similar criticisms lobbed at the Arkansans who populated the Clinton administration."
Ronald Reagan understood this.  Though he and Jimmy Carter both came to Washington as outsiders, Carter alienated the insiders, and ended up an impotent president.  Reagan, a consummate outsider, knew enough to surround himself with a mix of Californians, as well as some shrewd DC insiders. 

Reagan also paid homage to DC insiders like Members of Congress, prominent newspaper publishers, etc.  He was an outsider who knew he needed insiders.

I would argue that George W. Bush could have done a much better job in this area, as well.  Granted, he had enough "insiders."  However, he brought in few of his "enemies" (whereas Reagan made the consummate insider, James Baker, for example, his Chief of Staff).  Bush also famously goes to bed early (Reagan did the dinner party circuit). 

And even U.S. Senators often complain that they have never (or rarely) met with President Bush.  These folks obviously have big egos, and like to be consulted, from time to time.  What is more, Bush seems unwilling -- or too stubborn -- to woo media elites, another group of people with over-sized egos.

This is one of the many areas where Bush and Reagan are quite different. 

One could argue that Bush's unpopularity has, at least, something to do with his failure to consult enough Members of Congress, or to cultivate enough allies in the media, as The Great Communicator did.

Of course, Abramson's piece is more about the insiders that surround a presidential candidate on the inside the White House or a campaign -- than about wooing the insiders on the outside.   For example, she argues that insiders are better-equipped to vet vice presidential picks, than some well-meaning staffer from back home.

With the McCain and Obama campaigns both decrying the influence of lobbyists, Abramson's piece is especially well-timed ...