I hate to comment on the circus which is currently entertaining the masses, but I can’t resist commenting on this article (which was passed along by a commenter).
The article, by Conor Friedersdorf, is perfectly wrong – almost incredibly so. I still can’t quite believe someone actually wrote this and got it published in a respectable place.
Here’s the meat of the article:
For him [i.e. Newt], specific policy improvements can’t just be undertaken. It is first necessary to "fundamentally" change the federal government, or whatever piece of it is performing sub-optimally — in this case, the State Department. Of course, if Bolton kicked off his tenure as Secretary of State [in a Newt administration] by attempting a "complete, thoroughgoing transformation" of the agency, including the culture of its employees, the certain outcome would be that he’d accomplish nothing.
Take a moment to savor the "be undertaken" in the first sentence. Everything written about "policy improvements" should be written passively, so as to not betray the real actors (i.e. the bureaucracy).
The situation here is (presumably) that Newt wants to have some policy improvements "be undertaken" and his favored policy improvements run counter to those favored by the State Department. If Newt has some policy ideas that he wants to be undertaken in the area of foreign relations, and if these policy ideas run counter to the positions of the State Department, we all know whose policy ideas will triumph. In case you’re confused, the State Department’s ideas will be undertaken, Newt’s ideas will not. Since Ronald Reagan, Republicans have tried to work with entrenched bureaucracies whose ideas of policy improvements are counter to their own. The results are in, and the bureaucracy wins in the end.
Gingrich then, far from being crazy, is correct. If he has policy improvements that must be enacted by the State Department, and if these ideas would be opposed by the State Department, enacting them is a waste of time. Even if they were nominally enacted, they would not be implemented or enforced.
Interestingly, Friedersdorf in part stumbles on the correct conclusion when he says that Newt would accomplish nothing if he set out to change the State Department. After all, as President, Newt could only replace a few State Department employees. The vast majority of the employees of the Department would not change and it’s impossible to change an institution whose membership you cannot change.
This is why voting is a waste of your time. Even if you like Newt’s policies, he can’t possibly enact them.