Is Personnel Policy?

In politics, there is an old saying: personnel is policy. What a president does is determined to a large extent by the people he hires.

Consider the rumors that Donald Trump is considering appointing Mitt Romney as his Secretary of State. Trump’s stated foreign policy involves a much friendlier approach toward Russia. But he’s not likely to get that result by appointing a well-known Russia hawk. (Which may explain why Trump campaign adviser Kellyanne Conway is going on the Sunday talk shows to warn against the Romney appointment, trying to use the media to manipulate her boss–not exactly the harbinger of a healthy, well-functioning administration.) Or consider his appointment of Myron Ebell to head his EPA transition team. Trump himself has gone either way in his public pronouncements on global warming, but putting a noted global warming skeptic in charge of environmental issues would give his policy a definite direction.

The role of personnel in shaping policy is not an accident. American government is designed to impose a lot of checks and balances, and one of those checks is the process by which a president appoints his Cabinet officers.

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