Another word on Stimson

I disagree with Mark’s “Good” on the occasion of the departure of the odious Cully Stimson from the Defense Department, because as the AP noted, “he … made his own decision to resign and was not asked to leave by Defense Secretary Robert Gates.”

This is not about Stimson leaving; people leave all the time. This is about Gates allowing him to remain a day, never mind three weeks, never mind (apparently) indefinitely, after a speech (not a rumor or a leak or a he-said/she said) that was not a careless slip of the tongue but a considered series of inferential steps. It’s also about Gates allowing a deputy assistant secretary to say a few days later with a straight face that the speech did not reflect his values and still not fire him. Unless we believe in temporary demonic possession, how exactly do you write, rehearse, and deliver such a speech without noticing at some point that it isn’t consistent with your values? You can’t have it both ways: either Stimson was publicly crosswise to the constitution and the American system, and therefore dangerous to the national enterprise, or incompetent to do the part of his job which involves mentation and communication, that is, all of it, and therefore dangerous to the national enterprise. These were the options the day after the speech, and that’s when we should have heard from Gates.

Stimson should have been fired at once, publicly, and for cause, by the SecDef, for subverting exactly the values that entitle the DoD to send its troops into harm’s way. Gates never got around to it, and indeed is still sitting in the wings not saying anything. For this spectacular piece of malfeasance [sic: this was a duty for Gates, not an option] he will forever have a reversible medal with a red C for cowardice on one side and a red C for clueless on the other, worn however he chooses from day to day.

Author: Michael O'Hare

Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, Michael O'Hare was raised in New York City and trained at Harvard as an architect and structural engineer. Diverted from an honest career designing buildings by the offer of a job in which he could think about anything he wanted to and spend his time with very smart and curious young people, he fell among economists and such like, and continues to benefit from their generosity with on-the-job social science training. He has followed the process and principles of design into "nonphysical environments" such as production processes in organizations, regulation, and information management and published a variety of research in environmental policy, government policy towards the arts, and management, with special interests in energy, facility siting, information and perceptions in public choice and work environments, and policy design. His current research is focused on transportation biofuels and their effects on global land use, food security, and international trade; regulatory policy in the face of scientific uncertainty; and, after a three-decade hiatus, on NIMBY conflicts afflicting high speed rail right-of-way and nuclear waste disposal sites. He is also a regular writer on pedagogy, especially teaching in professional education, and co-edited the "Curriculum and Case Notes" section of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Between faculty appointments at the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, he was director of policy analysis at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. He has had visiting appointments at Università Bocconi in Milan and the National University of Singapore and teaches regularly in the Goldman School's executive (mid-career) programs. At GSPP, O'Hare has taught a studio course in Program and Policy Design, Arts and Cultural Policy, Public Management, the pedagogy course for graduate student instructors, Quantitative Methods, Environmental Policy, and the introduction to public policy for its undergraduate minor, which he supervises. Generally, he considers himself the school's resident expert in any subject in which there is no such thing as real expertise (a recent project concerned the governance and design of California county fairs), but is secure in the distinction of being the only faculty member with a metal lathe in his basement and a 4×5 Ebony view camera. At the moment, he would rather be making something with his hands than writing this blurb.