Belmont Club

The Left Wing

Karl Rove describes what the new White House looks like compared to the old in a WSJ article. Nearly three times the number of staff. More power. More infighting. Less space. Senior staff will be required to meet at 07:30. Knock off time is midnight. Obama is confident his organization can keep up the frenetic pace of the campaign. Rove describes the hive-like conditions that have now been created.

It is rumored that as many as 160 people will be in the West Wing under Mr. Obama. Under President George W. Bush there were about 60. My old, modest-seized office has been carved into four cubicles. … There is a chief of staff, of course, but also two deputy chiefs, and three senior advisers. Some senior aides now have chiefs of staff of their own. That is new.

Rove also argues that what is also new is the way power will be wielded from behind the scenes. Cabinet officers will still be the front-men, but some of the real wires will be pulled by operators in the West Wing. Rove describes a kind of reality TV setup where the survivors rise at the expense of those who fall by the wayside.

Aides say Mr. Obama believes the cabinet structure is “outdated.” His appointment of czars to oversee technology, automotive and environmental policies underscores this belief because each new czar weakens cabinet and agency involvement in policy decisions. The White House has always had overlapping lines of authority, which creates a certain amount of conflict while everyone figures out who really has clout. But Mr. Obama has added to the confusion by making declarations that multiple people in his cabinet or on his staff have more authority and responsibility than their predecessors. In addition to creating a protracted power struggle within the West Wing, Mr. Obama’s management decisions may lead to more intrusive, larger government policies gaining traction. Why? Because left-leaning aides will be unimpeded by the White House’s budget director or cabinet secretaries as they push new policies.

Rove ends by observing that “as power that was once diffused to cabinet officers is centralized in the White House, Mr. Emanuel will have to make more decisions and referee more turf wars than his predecessors.” But this perpetual insecurity will ensure a state of permanent dependence on Emmanuel. And the Oval Office.