The Watergate scandal of 1973 claimed many casualties, political and otherwise. Along with many personal reputations and careers, President Richard Nixon’s bold attempt to achieve a sweeping reorganization of the domestic portion of the executive branch was also pulled into the vortex.
Now, Mordecai Lee examines Nixon’s reorganization, finding it notable for two reasons. First, it was sweeping in intent and scope, representing a complete overhaul in the way the president would oversee and implement his domestic agenda. Second, the president instituted the reorganization administratively—by appointment of three “super-secretaries”—without congressional approval. The latter aspect generated ire among some members of Congress, notably Sam Ervin, a previously little-known senator from North Carolina who chaired the Government Operations Committee and, soon after, the Senate’s Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities—known to the public as “the Watergate Committee.”
Asserting that Nixon’s reorganization effort represents a significant event in the evolution of the managerial presidency and public administration, Nixon’s Super-Secretaries presents the most comprehensive historical narrative to date concerning this reorganization attempt. The author has utilized previously untapped original and primary sources to provide unprecedented detail on the inner workings, intentions, and ultimate demise of Nixon’s ambitious plan to reorganize the sprawling federal bureaucracy.
What Readers Are Saying:
". . . a fascinating and highly readable look at the major effort to rethink the structure and relationships of the federal executive . . . covers in great depth and accuracy the events associated with the experiment to institute the counselor approach . . . promises to be the definitive history of the Nixon reorganization effort and a significant addition to the scholarship regarding the presidency and public administration . . . puts one back into the early 1970s atmosphere of Washington, a time when Nixon and his inner circle of loyalists seemed intent on challenging long-held views of what was normal in regard to the workings of the federal bureaucracy, presidential-legislative relationships, and intergovernmental relations . . . the author does an excellent job of detailing the intricacies of a bureaucratic system with the White House itself, EOP agencies like the Domestic Council and OMB, the agencies and departments of the executive branch, and the individuals involved."--Jeremy F. Plant, professor of public policy and administration, Penn State University, Harrisburg
"Mordecai Lee provides a lively and authoritative account of an important administrative reform undertaken in the shadow of Watergate. He argues persuasively that Nixon's experiment with super-secretaries might have been the last grand attempt to impose order on the bulk of the federal bureaucracy."--Alasdair S. Roberts, Rappaport Professor of Law and Public Policy, Suffolk University Law School
"Amid the political hurricane that was Richard Nixon’s abortive second presidential term, there was a bold and sweeping initiative to create “super-secretaries,” armed with enormous power and focused on bringing an administrative transformation to Washington of the sort not seen for a generation. Lee’s book is a fascinating exploration of the grand legacies of this last great effort to reorganize the federal government. As we debate the role of presidential czars and big government, Lee’s analysis is an invaluable guide to the historical roots and guiding principles for making our vast and complex government work."--Donald F. Kettl, Dean of the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution
"This engaging book tells a story that is particularly important to presidential scholars and students of the bureaucracy."--Choice
"By challenging conventional wisdom on presidential reorganization, Lee provides what amounts to a treasure trove of insights concerning the numerous managerial challenges now increasingly faced by modern presidents. . . one can hardly deny his aptitude for unearthing the significance of such episodes in presidential history. That is what makes this book such a valuable source, especially for young and future scholars who did not get to experience these events firsthand, as Lee did."--Presidential Studies Quarterly
"...a highly readable account...the entire book is a challenge for readers to appreciate...it was, as Lee so aptly describes, a reorganization of, by and for the president...beyond a management blueprint, we get a hint of the kind of political earthquake in store if a president tried to reorganize comprehensively today."--M. Ernita Joaquin, University of Nevada-Las Vegas, Public Administration Review
"Few books on public administration are as lively and interesting as Mordecai Lee's story. Lee's description of plans for the new system is rich, thorough, and fun to read."--Richard P. Nathan, Congress and the Presidency