Friday, November 9, 2007

Governor-elect Beshear: Liar or Fool?

"We're not going to go in wholesale and fire everybody just because they didn't happen to be hired by a Democratic governor," Beshear said.

I sincerely hope Steve Beshear is lying. Because if he's not lying, he's a fool who has already condemned his administration to failure, more than month before it even begins.

The Fletcher Fubar of the merit system has obscured what used to be common knowledge and accepted wisdom:

The whole purpose of having a class of employee positions outside the the merit system is that each new governor replaces them with his own political loyalists.


If the new governor does not replace the previous governor's loyalists with his own loyalists, he is - follow this carefully, now:

Not. Doing. His. Job.

I'm not talking about retribution or teaching anybody a lesson. I'm talking about the plain impossibility of running state government if the non-merit policy makers - the Cabinet Secretaries, the Department Commissioners, the Division Directors - are loyal to the previous administration.

(More after the jump.)

It doesn't matter if they've performed genuine miracles in that position (something which - trust me - no one appointed by Fletcher has come close to doing.)

What matters is that anyone whose job it is to implement the elected executive's policies must be loyal to that executive. Competent, but loyal.

Any new governor who does not immediately fire every political appointee of the outgoing governor is setting himself up for failure.

And I say that as someone who counts more than a few Fletcher appointees as good friends.

Now, I've watched Steve Beshear as a politician for going on 30 years. He has never impressed me as either a liar or a fool.

So it's possible he's being extremely clever - out of pure self-defense.

For weeks we've been hearing that Fletcher appointees, anticipating their dismissal about five minutes after Beshear takes the oath of office on December 11, have been planning to spend the five weeks between the election and the inauguration sabotaging their own departments. Apparently Fletcher appointees in both the Transportation and Justice Cabinets have already begun falsifying and shredding documents.

Put yourself in Beshear's place for a moment. As governor-elect, you're looking at five weeks during which your political enemies can undermine your administration at will, while you are helpless to stop them.

What do you do?

Maybe you announce that you intend to govern through bipartisan cooperation. That you will hire people based on merit, not political affiliation. That you won't conduct wholesale firing of Fletcher appointees.

And the very first person you appoint to your transition team is republican Steve Pence, the sitting Lieutenant Governor.

Suddenly, the shredders stop whirring. "Hmm," people think. "Maybe Beshear really is that stupid. Maybe he really is going to keep at least some of us on. Maybe I might be one of the survivors. Maybe I should hold off on the sabotage until I know for sure."

Now you've got a little breathing room, a small insurance policy. You smile at everybody and don't mention that under state law, political appointees can be fired for any reason or for no reason - not "just because they didn't happen to be hired by a Democratic governor."

And if, come Inauguration Day, you fire every Fletcher appointee before the sun sets behind the Capitol, you won't be either a liar or a fool.

Cross-posted at BlueGrassRoots.