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The Politics of Presidential Appointments


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In this impressive new book, David Lewis tells us why presidents often--but not always--rely on political appointees to staff bureaucracies. With its mixture of insightful theory, careful statistical tests, and a deep understanding of how bureaucracies work, this book represents the scientific study of bureaucracy at its finest. -- Charles Shipan, coauthor of "Deliberate Discretion?" Political science is sadly currently producing few scholars concerned with improving the management of the federal government. David Lewis is a striking exception. This well-argued, methodologically rigorous study of the baleful impact of the increasing number of political appointees in agencies on government performance makes an important contribution both to the academic literature and to an important practical debate about governance. -- Steve Kelman, Harvard University This book is an important contribution to our understanding of how power works in the executive branch of government. Lewis is careful in his arguments, precise with his data, and logical in his presentation. He has collected and analyzed impressive evidence to explain the techniques of politicization and their consequences. This book is the most complete analysis of presidential personnel policy available. -- James P. Pfiffner, George Mason University This is a remarkable work. Lewis challenges some of the basic assumptions that have been made in past research on this subject. He demonstrates that the increase in politicization occurred until 1980 and then flattened out. Lewis finds that while politicization continues, it is not trending upward as past research suggests. All presidents do not have the same incentives when it comes to politicizing the bureaucracy. -- Richard W. Waterman, University of Kentucky

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix Acknowledgments xiii Chapter 1: Politicization in Theory and Practice 1 Chapter 2: The Nature and History of the Modern Personnel System 11 Chapter 3: Why, When, and Where Do Presidents Politicize the Bureaucracy? 51 Chapter 4: The Pattern of Politicization: A Quantitative Overview 80 Chapter 5: The Pattern of Politicization: A Closer Quantitative Analysis 103 Chapter 6: Politicization and Performance: The Case of the Federal Emergency Management Agency 141 Chapter 7: Politicization and Performance: The Larger Pattern 172 Chapter 8: Learning the Lessons of Politicization 202 Notes 221 List of Interviews 265 References 267 Index 283

About the Author

David E. Lewis is assistant professor of politics and public affairs at Princeton University. He is the author of "Presidents and the Politics of Agency Design".


Winner of the 2009 Richard E. Neustadt Award for the best 2008 book on the U.S. Presidency, Presidency Research Section of the American Political Science Association Winner of the 2008 Herbert Simon Award for the Best Book, Public Administration Section of the American Political Science Association Honorable Mention for the The Charles H. Levine Memorial Book Prize, 2009, International Political Science Association's Research Committee on the Structure of Governance One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2009 "[Lewis] delves into an assessment of the pros and cons of the process through a systematic and balanced examination of the available evidence. The result is impressive: a careful, nuanced, and thoughtful analysis of a major part of government that few citizens know much about. Lewis reminds us that the tension between competent and loyal government employees is nearly as old as the United States itself."--Karen Hult, Democracy Journal "This book is a major scholarly advance for understanding both the conditions under which presidents choose to politicize the bureaucracy and their choices' ramifications for effective government."--M.E. Bailey, Choice "Lewis's work contributes to a growing literature on the relationship of the bureaucracy to the rest of the political system... The most valuable contribution of The Politics of Presidential Appointments, however, is its description of the Byzantine system of presidential appointments and the clarity with which it presents the trade-offs between presidential control and bureaucratic competence."--Patrick Roberts, Presidential Studies Quarterly "This is certainly the best book on appointments so far, and one that will come to define how we write books on the presidency that attempt to meld theory and evidence... The Politics of Presidential Appointments will provide the starting point, and rightfully so."--Andrew B. Whitford, Perspectives on Politics "Every now and again, a book comes along that challenges not only what you think about a topic, but how you and everyone else you know go about studying it. David Lewis's latest offering is exactly such a book... This book ... represents a genuinely new age of empirical work on the executive branch, and it sets the standard by which all future work on the topic will be measured."--William Howell, Political Science Quarterly

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