Priorities, Personal Characteristics, and Performance: Presidents and Their Appointees
Haglund, Evan Thomas
Whether designing and implementing history-changing policy such as the Marshall Plan for rebuilding Europe after World War II or miring presidents in scandals like Watergate and the Iran-contra affair, presidential appointees matter. These appointees matter because they can influence both what agencies do and how well they do it. My dissertation seeks to explain how presidents systematically prioritize positions for initial appointments, how labor markets shape variation in the personal characteristics of appointees over the course of an administration, and how these characteristics can influence individual appointee and agency performance. By evaluating presidential electoral motivations along with their policy preferences, the first chapter outlines how presidents choose which appointed positions to fill first. The second chapter describes the constraints on presidential appointment choices imposed by limited pools of potential appointees and the consequences for appointee and agency capacity. I then compare appointee and careerist performance by analyzing ambassadorial performance. These chapters draw on interviews with former Presidential Personnel Office staffers and analysis of original datasets of appointment timing, appointee backgrounds and qualifications, and ambassadorial performance; and the findings lead to important implications for how presidents choose appointees and for what scholars, journalists, and the general public should understand about presidents and their appointees.