Sinecure: An office which requires or involves little or no responsibility, where recipients are able to store up titles and easy salaries.
A Figurehead requires active participation, but nor real power.
Your choice, one or the other, but "sinecurism" is a major cause of bureaucratic indifference in that it is quickly telegraphed to the staff that their department, division, etc have no real purpose other than that which is politically convenient to the front office, in this case, the White House.
Bill Clinton started all this, although I'm sure you can go back and find others. He filled his cabinet with no-names slot-fillers, Warren Christopher, Sandy Burger, Togo West, Janet Reno, Madelaine Albright, William Cohen, who from time to time had to march out in front of cameras, or appear before Congress, while real power was wielded out of the office altogether, or by imbedded deputies (FOB) such as Webb Hubbell. The Clinton White House's disinterest in foreign policy and national security matters was well known long before Monica Lewinsky.
Key to know is real power was wielded based on what was politically important to the White House, meaning those over at DOJ, for instance, knew their job or slot was important only insomuch as it was important to the Boss. Everyone else just naturally went into a glide pattern.
Barack Obama conveyed the same message in January, 2009 when he first began hiring his new agency and department heads, tragically, in the middle of a war, where thousands of American lives are still at risk.
Simply compare the President's latest statement on fixing this problem (improve the system, don't change it, and no heads will roll) with Janet Reno's testimony before Congress after Waco, where she stated it was the process that failed, and no heads would roll.
Then compare the President's statement yesterday with actual changes on the ground, as we are seeing them unfold...drastic changes at TSA check-points in how people are to be scanned, even though no TSA people, or procedures were involved in allowing the underwear bomber to board Northwest flight 253 in the first place.
This is a typical front office deflection, by redirecting people's attention to front line workers, who the flying public sees every day. As for no-fly lists and watch lists, I'd wager that if I were to go the Northwest ticket counter at Schiphol, with no luggage, no passport, wanted only a one-way ticket, and paid cash, I wouldn't be able to get on a flight....no matter that my name was Smith. No way. (There's something really smelly about that entire series of events which does not seem to be of interest to media.)
There was clearly a systemic failure on managing and sharing intelligence about this fellow, but was it "the system" or the humans running the system? We think the latter, and believe a serious side by side investigation of the Bush years and Obama year will bear that out.
Of course, it's impossible to prove a negative, but it can be quantified how many air travelers were turned away in 2008, 2007, etc, because of the watch or no-fly list, and compare that with 2009. We believe this was a major purpose of the Al Qaida probe, whether the bomb ever went off at all, to see how many holes could be found in the bureaucratic system. (Isn't it curious that when there's a high probability of failure, they always send dolts like Reed or Abdulmutallab, both just a Queen of diamonds short of deck? And when did Al Qaida go on a budget? Why tip everyone off with a one-way ticket? Why not spring for the extra $900?)
We recommend to 1) any investigative reporter who wants to do a serious step-by-step analysis of what happened and why on Christmas Day, and 2) the Republican Party, who I believe will still be allowed to participate in Congressional hearings on this matter by that time, that there be revealed a detailed list, top to bottom, of positions that changed hands in all the effective agencies and departments. It is clear that both John Brennan and Janet Napolitiano are either not in charge (sinecures) or totally incompetent for this type of work. Of course, Hillary never was in charge over at State, that goes without saying. As for failures at CIA (the president only referred to "intelligence" failures, which could have all sorts of meaning coming out of his forked mouth), we believe Leon Paneta the most competent of the lot.
If not in charge, it would be nice to know who is. Several firings should be in order, and the GOP congressional team should be just the ones to draw the nation's attention to that.
So, once again, it seems that what the President really meant about "improving" the system was to take it back to the level of competence and responsiveness that existed under Bush. I'm not a Republican, but even I can find political hay in that analysis.
The good news, at least they already have a list of the people who can bring it back up and running; the people they just let go.
It's becoming more and more clear that President Obama is indifferent to matters of national security such as terrorism. That has clearly trickled down. What he is not indifferent to is the American public's increasing anger over this fact. His speech yesterday was to designed to mollify the latter, not change course on the former.
Just never forget, there is nothing so dangerous as indifference...and nothing so mean. Of all the things God finds abhorrent, i am sure indifference is among the highest.