What Should Obama Do About Robert Gibbs?

This is a great example of the “Peter Principle,” which explains the phenomenon of “kicking a man upstairs,” thus rewarding him for doing a bad job by promoting him.

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Maureen Dowd’s column over the weekend, entitled “No Love From the Lefties,” calls for White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs to be “yanked” from his job. Once you read through all her arguments (mostly having to do with his comments about the “professional left”) you’ll see she doesn’t really want him fired, she actually wants him promoted:

He has always wanted to be an inside counselor to the president. So Obama—who bonded with Gibbs during the campaign, over sports, missing their families and how irritating the blog-around-the-clock press corps is—would be wise to promote him to a counselor. Let someone who shows less disdain for the press work with the press, and be the more engaging face of the White House.

This is a great example of the Peter Principle, which explains the phenomenon of “kicking a man upstairs,” thus rewarding him for doing a bad job by promoting him. According to Dr. Laurence J. Peter, “In a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to the level of his incompetence”--and so we see bureaucracies filled with incompetent managers, mostly folks who previously did a good job at a lower level but then were given one too many promotions. Technically, Dowd’s proposal could even be what Peter humorously calls a “lateral arabesque,” in which Gibbs would receive a new title and a new desk location, but no real responsibilities. (This is similar to the Dilbert Principle, named after the comic strip, which states that the most ineffective workers are moved to the place where they can do the least damage: management.)

In his famous 1969 book, The Peter Principle: Why Things Always Go Wrong, Dr. Peter talks about the fact that very few managers ever get demoted or fired for incompetence--and the effect of that on society. From the book jacket: “Dr. Peter’s glorious revelation explains why incompetence is at the root of everything we endeavor to do--why schools bestow ignorance, why governments condone anarchy, why courts dispense injustice, why prosperity causes unhappiness, and why utopian plans never generate utopias.”

It could also explain why the left, including Maureen Dowd, is so unhappy that President Obama’s utopian plans never seem to generate utopias. It’s been 40 years since Dr. Peter stumbled upon the truth, and in that time government has come to be widely viewed as incompetent. It might also explain why so many voters today think things are always going wrong. Dr. Peter was on to something.