Philip K. Howard of Common Good on the President's right to say, "You're fired." An excerpt:
A historical halo hovers over the civil service because it replaced the spoils system, in which public jobs were rewarded to political hacks. As originally designed in the Pendleton Act of 1883, civil service was a system of neutral hiring. Reform leader George William Curtis believed that “if the front door were properly tended, the back door would take care of itself.” Originally civil service did not diminish the president’s power to manage or fire federal employees (other than barring demands for campaign contributions), because that was considered unconstitutional.