The Insiders: A look at a dozen powerful posts
Still doesn't ring any bells?
Okay, let's try a different tack. Ever worry about just who can have access to your medical records? Then it may interest you to know that it was largely up to this 44-year-old former political science major and law school escapee, holed up in an office in the behemoth Hubert Humphrey Building, to devise medical-privacy standards intended to be the law of the land. So sensitive are the rules that the Bush administration--lobbied by business interests--has just decided to delay and review them.
And that was only one of dozens of deeply sensitive policy matters he was charged with handling in the Clinton administration. "It was the best health job in the government," says Claxton, now ensconced at the Institute for Health Care Research and Policy at Georgetown University.
Now that Bush has made his top White House and Cabinet picks, most Americans, no doubt, believe that his team is in place. After all, from here on out, whenever the administration makes headlines around the country, it will likely be over the mugs of Bush or his Secretaries.
Political insiders, of course, know that it takes a lot more than a few towers to make a power grid. Indeed, at this moment, from Austin to Akron, and from Anchorage to Atlanta, Bush administration wanna-bes--be they lofty academics or lowly former campaign grunts, friends or fund-raisers for the man in the Oval Office--are running grubby index fingers down the 334 pages of the "Plum Book," the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee's indispensable listing of the 6,722 government jobs that the new administration gets to fill, and are mentally decorating their new offices.
But even the Plum Book can't tell you just how power emanates outward from the West Wing. In fact, says Paul Light, of the Brookings Institution, government has acquired so many new layers of political appointees over the decades that "power has been diffused, and so has accountability." Back in 1960, for example, there were only 78 jobs carrying the title of deputy assistant secretary, said Light. By 1998, there were 484 such slots.
The people who actually convert philosophy into policy and practices often have comically long titles and aren't at the top of the pay or prestige scales. Many of them will never brief the President directly, and only a few of them will experience the pomp and glitter of a state dinner. But "why would you want that?" asks Claxton, scorn saturating his voice. "I don't give a damn about that." Most, like Claxton, will spend four years turning pale under out-of-the-way fluorescent fixtures. A few will suddenly find themselves blinking into television klieg lights because of, say, a run on the Turkish lira, or maybe an airline strike.
But visibility can be a mixed bag. Elizabeth Moler, who ran the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission during the Clinton Administration, remembers being surprised to learn, on meeting her counterpart from England, that the woman was dogged by the tabloids, her garbage sifted through, her children taunted at school. "FERC has been a very obscure place," she says. That obscurity, however, may have vanished when the lights flickered out in Silicon Valley earlier this year.
And there are important reasons for the President to hope that his lesser-ranking appointees keep a low profile: He may accomplish more by issuing byzantine rule changes and advisory letters--or by having his appointees simply sit on the bureaucracy's initiatives--than he ever could by clapping the shoulders of Democrats and liberal Republicans on Capitol Hill. What follows is a look at a dozen or so of the sub-Cabinet-level transformers who will be critical to the wiring of the Bush Administration.
Click on the links below to read more:
At the Pentagon's heart
Comptroller, Defense Department
The Medicare maven
Administrator, Health Care Financing Administration
Assistant Secretary of Labor, OSHA
Deputy National Security Advisor
Focusing on bias
Chairman, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Deep within OMB
Administrator, Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs
The overseer of financial markets
Undersecretary of Treasury for Domestic Finance
Administrator, Office of Federal Procurement Policy
The numbers' cruncher
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Treasury for Tax Analysis
Administrator, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
FERC: Back in fashion
Chairman, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
A civil servant with clout
Chief Actuary, Social Security Administration
In search of a super-scientist
Chief Scientist, Environmental Protection Agency (proposed)