Veterans of the conservative movement are familiar with Morton Blackwell’s Laws of the Public Policy Process. His most quoted law is the 26th: “Personnel is policy.” Laws 21 and 30 are less famous, but inform a proper approach to number 26: “An ounce of loyalty is worth a pound of cleverness”; “Better a snake in the grass than a viper in your bosom.”

Most politicians ignore Blackwell’s laws on personnel. When they enter public office, they look to fill their teams with people who fit into a few traditional categories: experts in campaign machinery who helped win the election, subject-matter experts with prior experience in a similar office, and people with gravitas, who will impress the public as muscular hires and signal that the newly elected officeholder is serious. What often gets overlooked—and what is without question the most important criterion to use when weighing potential hires—is philosophical alignment with the candidate and commitment to his program and governing agenda.

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