July 31, 2006

The Risen Doctrine: If a Government Department is Not Working, Where do you Look to Find the Problem?

Carroll Andrew Morse

Last week, Insight on the News (a conservative weekly affiliated with the Washington Times) ran an item alleging a serious rift between Newt Gingrich and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice…

Conservative national security allies of President Bush are in revolt against Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, saying that she is incompetent and has reversed the administration’s national security and foreign policy agenda.

The conservatives, who include Newt Gingrich, Richard Perle and leading current and former members of the Pentagon and National Security Council…

The reference to Gingrich was based on a quote from Gingrich’s July 16 appearance on Meet the Press
Mr. Gingrich agrees and said Miss Rice's inexperience and lack of resolve were demonstrated in the aftermath of the North Korean launch of seven short-, medium-, and intermediate-range missiles in July. He suggested that Miss Rice was a key factor in the lack of a firm U.S. response.

"North Korea firing missiles," Mr. Gingrich said. "You say there will be consequences. There are none. We are in the early stages of World War III. Our bureaucracies are not responding fast enough. We don't have the right attitude."

Robert Bluey of the Human Events Right Angle Blog was skpetical of Insight's interpretation of Gingrich's meaning. The jump from the direct quote -- where Secretary Rice is not mentioned -- to the anti-Rice meaning implied by Insight was a large one, so Mr. Bluey contacted Gingrich’s staff in order to clarify. They confirmed that Gingrich's criticism of the bureaucracy was not intended as criticism of Secretary Rice…
Gingrich spokesman Rick Tyler disputed a story from conservative magazine Insight on the News ….“Newt is supporting Rice,” he told HUMAN EVENTS. “So far she is saying and doing the right things.”
A response to Mr. Bluey from Insight editor Jeff Kuhner explaining his magazine's interpretation of Gingrich's remarks included this fascinating (at least to me) statement…
Condi Rice is the head of the State Department. If [Gingrich is] not happy with the policies of the State Department, then I don't see how he could be happy with Condi.
In Mr. Kuhner's response, we see another case of a journalistic assumption we can call the Risen Doctrine: what happens within government bureaucracy, below the level of the leadership, is either beyond reproach or maybe just not worth reporting on; failures within a government departments should always be assumed to be failures of leadership to set proper policies, and never to be poor execution of the policies set by the leadership.

It’s not breaking news to say that no respectable journalist accepts the reverse of the Risen Doctrine -- assume first that problems within a government department originate from the bureaucracy’s inability to properly execute, and not from the leadership’s bad choice of direction. Journalists would argue (quite rightly) that leaders not continually called upon to explain and correct their errors in public inevitably become sloppy and inefficient and probably worse.

But the same sloppines and worse will happen to permanent bureaucrats never held accountable. Problems in the bureaucratic execution of policy will not be corrected if the public never learns about them. And the public will not learn about the problems bureaucracies have turning policies into effective actions for as long as the mainstream press remains thoroughly uncurious about them.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

I love it. How many times have I heard that gov't should be run like a business? Who gets the blame when a department screws up? The workers? If so, can I come and work for your company?

The boss is ultimately responsible for what happens in his/her dept. That is business. That is why the boss makes the big bucks.

Except, of course, when a Rep is in charge. Then we have to blame those lower down the ladder, who are bureaucrats, and so can be assumed to be Dems working to sabotage the process.

Ms Rice is in charge. What happens in her shop is her concern.

Mr Bush is the Pres (the CEO, if you will). What happens on his watch is his responsibility. If his people aren't executing, find someone who will.

Except, this Pres values loyalty way above competence. FEMA, anyone? How about Treasury Sec'y O'Neill? Remember him?

And Ms Rice is loyal. She has been part of the team for years. If she is weak and ineffective, why was she promoted? There is ample evidence that she was weak and ineffective as NSA chief. She got promoted because she was loyal. I seriously, seriously doubt that she does anything that doesn't Mr Bush would find objectionable.

So, actually, why blame Ms Rice? Let's put the blame where it belongs: on the CEO who put an incompetent person in charge. After all, he's the decider. It was his bad judgment that gave her the job.

Posted by: klaus at July 31, 2006 9:25 PM

This President is a laughing stock. The Idiot in Chief! Maybe he could run on the republican ticket for a rhode island senate seat.

Posted by: Rino Cooke at August 1, 2006 3:57 PM

Assuming one is willing to consider the idea that journalist's apply the Risen Doctrine and that this is a bad thing, it seems like the example Carol has used does absolutely nothing to prove her point. How does the dust up over Condi's handling of North Korea have any bearing on that debate? If you are going to critize the current U.S. approach to North Korea, how can the fault possibly be laid at bureaucratic execution of policy as opposed to the formulation of the policy itself? I would love to see someone articulate what the policy is and has been for the last six years with regard to North Korea. We have not had one. The fault for that lies squarely at the top of the State Dept. food chain (and the admin). There may be instances where a well forumlated policy is done in by poor execution from the bureaucrats and journalists miss that fact because of their fealty to the so-called Risen doctrine, but this is not one of those instances.

Posted by: Jim at August 1, 2006 4:19 PM


Gingrich didn’t blame the bureaucracy for allowing NK to fire its missiles. He used NK as one example of why we should consider ourselves embroiled in WWIII, then expressed concern about how our bureaucracies aren’t responding as if they are in a world war. To be fair, you can’t tell that from the way Insight edited the quote. Here’s the unedited version…

North Korea firing missiles. We say there’ll be consequences, there are none. The North Koreans fire seven missiles on our Fourth of July; bombs going off in Mumbai, India; a war in Afghanistan with sanctuaries in Pakistan. As I said a minute ago, the, the Iran/Syria/Hamas/Hezbollah alliance. A war in Iraq funded largely from Saudi Arabia and supplied largely from Syria and Iran. The British home secretary saying that there are 20 terrorist groups with 1200 terrorists in Britain. Seven people in Miami videotaped pledging allegiance to al-Qaeda, and 18 people in Canada being picked up with twice the explosives that were used in Oklahoma City, with an explicit threat to bomb the Canadian parliament, and saying they’d like to behead the Canadian prime minister. And finally, in New York City, reports that in three different countries people were plotting to destroy the tunnels of New York..

I mean, we, we are in the early stages of what I would describe as the third world war, and frankly, our bureaucracies aren’t responding fast enough, we don’t have the right attitude about this.
From the above quote, the quote below…
We are sending signals today that no matter how much you provoke us, no matter how viciously you describe things in public, no matter how many things you're doing with missiles and nuclear weapons, the most you'll get out of us is talk.
…and nothing more, Insight tells us that Newt Gingrich thinks that Condoleezza Rice is incompetent, inexperienced and lacks resolve.

So when somebody says that “bureaucracies aren’t responding fast enough”, do you believe, along with Insight’s editors and other apparent subscribers to the Risen Doctrine, that the only possible explanation is that their current leadership is incompetent and that no other explanation is worth investigating?

p.s. Two r's and two l's is the male form of Carroll.

Posted by: Andrew at August 1, 2006 6:07 PM

Sorry to be redundant, but it's really very simple.

Who's in charge of the State dept: the bureaucrats, or the POTUS?

If it's POTUS, isn't it his jpb to make sure that the bureaucrats are doing their job? And isn't it their job to carry out the orders and policy of the POTUS?

And if nothing is being done, where does the blame lie, based on the questions above?

Posted by: klaus at August 2, 2006 5:42 PM


If you are willing to say that since POTUS should be held responsible for everything the State Dept. does, then POTUS should also have the power to hire and fire all State Dept. employees at will, then I will at least give you credit for some intellectual honesty on this.

Posted by: Andrew at August 2, 2006 6:08 PM


First off, sorry about the gender switch.

With the full quote for consideration it does seem that Insight put a spin on Gingrich's comments that was not necessarily warranted. In their defense, their failing could be due to the convoluted nature of the argument Newt appears to be advancing. Putting aside whether the WWIII comments are accurate or helpful, there exists a tremendous disconnect betweeen many of the problems Newt is identifying (our response to North Korea, the current debacle in the middle east) and then the cause he ascribes to those problems (bureaucracies aren’t responding fast enough). If Newt's complaint is, as is suggested by latter quote, that we are not sending sufficiently clear signals in our responses to world events, then that is a failing of policy formulation and hence the administration, not policy execution which could be properly laid at the feet of the bureaucrats.

As I said before, there may well be examples of disfunctional bureaucracies failing to properly implement sound policies (though even then some blame must go those at the top for failing to fix the problems -- you know the old buck stops here mentality) but North Korea and the situation in Lebanaon do not fit the bill. So here's a question why then would Newt blame the bureaucrats?

A few possible answers:
1) he knows Condi/Bush are to blame but will not for attack now, because of his own future political aspirations
2) blaming bureaucracies is the easy way out (this is sort of the reverse Risen doctrine). The words bureaucrat and bureaucracy have incredibly negative connotations for most Americans. Claiming our problems are the fault of weak, inneffectual "bureaucrats" at the State Dept. is politically expedient. Its akin to a politician claiming he/she will balance a budget by cutting "waste, fraud and abuse." Nobody is going to rush to the defense of the faceless, nameless bureaucracy. In addition, you make all those who dislike and distrust government happy (which happens to comprise Newt's base), whevever you bash a bureaucrat/bureaucracy.

Posted by: Jim at August 3, 2006 4:29 PM