Resolutions for a President of the People
Jimmy Carter comes to Washington soon to bring his voters “Why Not The Best” government. This is a tall order — one that needs new ideas and modes of operation. In the spirit of the New Year, here are some modest resolutions which could Help Mr. Carter become a President of the People — for a change: 1. Make site visits to the major departments and agencies on a continual basis. Customarily the president stays in the White House isolated by his staff and memoranda. Announced and unannounced visits to the working bureaucracy would include meeting with the unsung public servants who so often jeopardize their job by doing it too well.
2. Urge your Cabinet secretaries to have more general press conferences and to initiate regular departmental meetings with their civil servants that are open to the public.
3. Conduct some news conferences with citizens or citizen groups asking you questions on specific subjects such as consumer protection, environment, housing, energy, tax reform and access to government. There is no reason why only the press should be given the opportunity to ask questions.
4. Convene a White House conference on citizen participation to refine the ideas you espoused during the campaign to bring more opportunities for citizens to participate in the making of government policy.
5. Develop a practice whenever special interest groups, such as the oil, steel or auto industries, ask to meet with you on a specific matter to have their critics join them so that you can best separate the founded from the unfounded assertions. I understand that you have employed this technique on occasions in Georgia.
6. Open White House functions to a broader representation of the American people. In the past the social activities have drawn from a tightly knit guest list representing considerations of economic and political power. It is time for powerless people to have proper access to on-going White House functions.
7. Urge Congress to open its Senate and House floors proceedings to television coverage. It will not only help attendance and performance, but the voters will learn more about their national legislature in action or inaction.
8. Once in a while, pick up the telephone and call one of the bureaucracies with an average citizen’s problem. Six telephone
referrals later you will reach the person who is supposed to answer your questions. No way of telling what interesting conversations with the rank and file will lead to, but they sure beat the small talk at White House receiving lines.
9. Look at the way past presidents spent their days in the White House. They seem to have been straitjacketed by their own scheduling philosophies that carried them relentlessly through one pro forma day after another.’ Imagine not having any aides for a week — how would you spend your time by your own sights?
Happy New Year, Mr. Carter. May the American people provide you with what you requested of them — “advice, criticism and intimacy.” Those words of yours, if heeded, can help you achieve a just presidency.