Obama 'Shifting Power From Traditional Cabinet Posts'; Will Media Complain About 'Too-Powerful Executive'?

I guess President Josiah Bartlet, the mythical president in The West Wing television series, would have been pleased. 

Jonathan Martin at Politico.com reports that the Obama Administration is concentrating lots of power at the top (bolds are mine):

West Wing on steroids in Obama W.H.

President Barack Obama is taking far-reaching steps to centralize decision-making inside the White House, surrounding himself with influential counselors, overseas envoys and policy "czars" that shift power from traditional Cabinet posts.

Not even a week has passed since he was sworn in, but already Obama is moving to create perhaps the most powerful staff in modern history – a sort of West Wing on steroids that places no less than a half-dozen of his top initiatives into the hands of advisers outside the Cabinet.

For all the talk of his “Team of Rivals” pick in Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Obama last week handed the two hottest hotspots in American foreign policy to presidential envoys – one to former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, and the other to a man who knows his way around Foggy Bottom better than Clinton does, Richard Holbrooke.

"Czar" Carol Browner will head up Obama's fight on global warming, where once his energy and environmental chiefs might have stepped in. Tom Daschle scored a ground floor office in the West Wing not by running Health and Human Services – but because of his role as Obama's health-reform czar.

Pulling power close is something all recent presidents have done – and on the campaign trail, Obama spoke out against George W. Bush’s attempt to expand his executive authority.

But when it comes to building his own team, Obama is taking the notion of a powerful White House staff to new heights, leaving little doubt who will set policy and guide the politics of the his newborn administration.

..... Aides say he believes the Cabinet structure is outdated because it doesn’t recognize that problems like global warming sprawl across several agencies, often requiring a sort of uber-Cabinet member – a czar – to confront them.

That helps explain the selection of Browner as an "energy-environment" czar, said one Obama aide.

.....What’s notable about Obama’s approach – and expands on the approaches taken by Bush and Bill Clinton – is the number of different areas where Obama is seeking to tap a central figure, outside the Cabinet structure, who will carry out his wishes.

Does anyone remember candidate Obama telling us that "the Cabinet structure is outdated"?

A later Politico paragraph notes that "The structure also allowed Obama to bypass the Senate confirmation process on two nominees who would have proven controversial, by merely picking them for White House jobs instead." Heck, why have a Cabinet at all?

Does anyone expect the press to object to this apparently unprecedented consolidation of power that avoids the Senate's advise-and-consent role, or to let readers, listeners, and viewers know how Obama's actions compare to his campaign rhetoric?

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.