The Permanent Campaign Meets the Obstructionist Senate


Dan Drezner puts two and two together and wonders what it adds up to:

Executive branch burnout is a bipartisan phenomenon, and as the article notes, the real-time news cycle is only making things worse. This is particularly true on the foreign policy beat. Even if it’s 3 AM in Washington, it’s 6 PM somewhere else, and someone is doing something that will require an American response….After four years, even policy principals will find their brains going to mush.

On its own, this phenomenon wouldn’t be that big of a deal — indeed, some personnel churn is likely a good thing, prevents groupthink and all that. The problem is that this trend is intersecting with another one — the increasing length of time it takes to appoint and confirm high-level personnel. With greater fixed costs involved in vetting and sheparding people through the confirmation process, presidents will be exceedingly reluctant to let these people go, which means that many of them will stay on for longer than perhaps they should.

The 24/7 news cycle has been partly responsible for turning the executive branch into a permanent campaign, and the kind of grueling schedule Dan is talking about here is what this mostly reminds me of. Nobody seriously thinks that even a superman can handle the rigors of a presidential campaign for more than 12-18 months, but that’s what high-level White House positions have become. In fact it’s worse than that. A guy like Robert Gibbs, for example, spent a couple of years in the pressure cooker atmosphere of the Obama campaign and then went straight into the frenzied atmosphere of the White House press room. Is it any wonder if maybe he’s starting to crack a bit after nearly four years of this?

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