The rise of the fourth branch of government – that’s the title of an opinion piece in today’s Washington Post. It’s a pretty good article, as far as it goes. For example
There were times this past week when it seemed like the 19th-century Know-Nothing Party had returned to Washington. President Obama insisted he knew nothing about major decisions in the State Department, or the Justice Department, or the Internal Revenue Service. The heads of those agencies, in turn, insisted they knew nothing about major decisions by their subordinates. It was as if the government functioned by some hidden hand.
Clearly, there was a degree of willful blindness in these claims. However, the suggestion that someone, even the president, is in control of today’s government may be an illusion.
Yes, this is very true. The President (and Attorney General and other Administration leaders) claiming he knows nothing about very significant actions by his government is somewhat ludicrous. It leaves you thinking that either he and his administration are incompetent or willfully unaware.
Yet there is truth in this article about the massive power and autonomy of the government and the civil service. The thing that is missing is any sense that the administrative branch of government might be too big, too powerful, too independent.
There is no sense of what to do about this problem, this danger to our society.