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Cheney's Henchman Gets His | The Nation

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Cheney's Henchman Gets His

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Scooter's guilty: Was justice served? Cast your vote in the Nation Poll--and tell us why.

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Nicholas von Hoffman
Nicholas von Hoffman, a veteran newspaper, radio and TV reporter and columnist, is the author, most recently, of...

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What would he tell Obama to do?

Bank of America's Ken Lewis has done his bit to reinforce the idea that the CEOs who got us into this mess are a pack of liars.

Well, they nailed Scooter. The news of I. Lewis Libby's conviction had hardly been out on the Internet before the Democrats were letting loose with war whoops of delight. "It's about time someone in the Bush Administration has been held accountable for the campaign to manipulate intelligence and discredit war critics," quoth Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid.

To which some thoughtful people will reply, "Pipe down, Harry, there but for the grace of He or She whose name may not be invoked on some but not all public occasions goes you or one of your Democratic pals."

The story behind the story of Libby's conviction is that he should never have been in Washington in the first place. What was his job? He was the chief of staff of the Vice President and the Vice President's National Security Adviser.

Why does a Vice President have a chief of staff? The Vice President has no administrative functions. Why does he need a staff or a chief to run it? And why should he have a National Security Adviser? The President already has one. Why should the Vice President have one, too?

History shows that Vice Presidential aides and staffs either occupy their time by feuding with the President's staff or by being up to no good à la Scooter.

If Libby does not get pardoned by George Bush and goes to jail, it is because he had a bunch of grand titles but no real work to do, and so he did mischief. You know the saying about idle hands and the devil's work.

The executive branch of government is weighed down by important-sounding titles and offices. The layers of useless sinecures assure ineffectual government by persons with fancy titles who spend their days at intrigue and nasty games.

This is not curmudgeonly grouching. Read the work of Paul C. Light, NYU Wagner's Paulette Goddard Professor of Public Service. Light has spent a lifetime studying the federal government and modern organization in general.

Besides bigness and badness in government, Light points a finger at this phenomenon of many layers of authority, or what he calls thickening: "The thickening of the hierarchy has obvious impacts on the operation of government, most notably in the movement of information upward and flow of command downward. And its impact on public confidence is obvious. No one is ever held accountable for government performance because no one can be held accountable, whether because single vacancies anywhere in the chain of command can produce long delays in the movement of information and guidance, or because each stop in the hierarchy creates at least some delay, however brief it might be."

Those of us outside the bureaucracy have no idea how many steps there are in the hierarchy. Paul Light does. Every six years he checks to see how much more the hierarchy has grown. As of two years ago the following is the parade of titles, grades and subdivisions a Cabinet secretary may have under him or herself:

Secretary
Chief of Staff to the Secretary
Deputy Chief of Staff to the Secretary
Deputy Secretary
Chief of Staff to the Deputy Secretary
Deputy Chief of Staff
Deputy Deputy Secretary
Principal Associate Deputy Secretary
Associate Deputy Secretary
Deputy Associate Deputy Secretary
Assistant Deputy Secretary
Under Secretary
Chief of Staff to the Under Secretary
Principal Deputy Under Secretary
Deputy Under Secretary
Chief of Staff to the Deputy Under Secretary
Principal Associate Deputy Under Secretary
Associate Deputy Under Secretary
Principal Assistant Deputy Under Secretary
Assistant Deputy Under Secretary
Associate Under Secretary
Assistant Under Secretary
Assistant Secretary
Chief of Staff to the Assistant Secretary
Deputy Chief of Staff to the Assistant Secretary
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary
Associate Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary
Deputy Assistant Secretary
Chief of Staff to the Deputy Assistant Secretary
Principal Deputy Deputy Assistant Secretary
Deputy Deputy Assistant Secretary
Associate Deputy Assistant Secretary
Chief of Staff to the Associate Deputy Assistant Secretary
Deputy Associate Assistant Secretary
Assistant Deputy Assistant Secretary
Principal Associate Assistant Secretary
Associate Assistant Secretary
Chief of Staff to the Associate Assistant Secretary
Deputy Associate Assistant Secretary
Principal Assistant Assistant Secretary
Assistant Assistant Secretary
Chief of Staff to the Assistant Assistant Secretary
Deputy Assistant Assistant Secretary
Administrator
Chief of Staff to the Administrator
Deputy Chief of Staff to the Administrator
Assistant Chief of Staff to the Administrator
Principal Deputy Administrator
Deputy Administrator
Chief of Staff to the Deputy Administrator
Associate Deputy Administrator
Deputy Associate Deputy Administrator
Assistant Deputy Administrator
Deputy Assistant Deputy Administrator
Senior Associate Administrator
Associate Administrator
Chief of Staff to the Associate Administrator
Deputy Executive Associate Administrator
Deputy Associate Administrator
Assistant Administrator
Chief of Staff to the Assistant Administrator
Deputy Assistant Administrator
Associate Assistant Administrator
Associate Deputy Assistant Administrator

If Gilbert and Sullivan had only had a chance to sink their teeth into this mess, move over Mikado. And Scooter, once they let you out, go find some useful work to do.

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