The Politics of Presidential Appointments: Political Control and Bureaucratic Performance

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Princeton University Press, Apr 21, 2008 - Political Science - 293 pages
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In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, many questioned whether the large number of political appointees in the Federal Emergency Management Agency contributed to the agency's poor handling of the catastrophe, ultimately costing hundreds of lives and causing immeasurable pain and suffering. The Politics of Presidential Appointments examines in depth how and why presidents use political appointees and how their choices impact government performance--for better or worse.

One way presidents can influence the permanent bureaucracy is by filling key posts with people who are sympathetic to their policy goals. But if the president's appointees lack competence and an agency fails in its mission--as with Katrina--the president is accused of employing his friends and allies to the detriment of the public. Through case studies and cutting-edge analysis, David Lewis takes a fascinating look at presidential appointments dating back to the 1960s to learn which jobs went to appointees, which agencies were more likely to have appointees, how the use of appointees varied by administration, and how it affected agency performance. He argues that presidents politicize even when it hurts performance--and often with support from Congress--because they need agencies to be responsive to presidential direction. He shows how agency missions and personnel--and whether they line up with the president's vision--determine which agencies presidents target with appointees, and he sheds new light on the important role patronage plays in appointment decisions.

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About the author (2008)

Dr. Nathan Grills is a Public Health Physician at the Nossal Institute of Global Health (University of Melbourne) and is working in disability and chronic disease prevention in India. Nathan completed an MSc Global Health Sciences and then PhD in Public Health at Oxford University where he explored the role of faith in the response of Faith-based groups to HIV. David E. Lewis is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Political Science at Vanderbilt University where he researches and teaches on the American presidency, executive branch politics and public administration. David and his family attend the Village Chapel in historic Hillsboro Village in Nashville, Tennessee. S. Joshua Swamidass, MD PHD is assistant professor of Immunology and Pathology, Laboratory and Genomic Medicine Division, at Washington University, St. Louis. He is both a Christian and a Scientist. Dr. Swamidass often speaks to student groups about integrating our faith and vocation, finding God's calling for our careers, how Christianity and Science are compatible, and ways of understanding Genesis and Evolution.

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