Mary Dejevsky The US constitution is a spare and functional document, and pretty much everything a constitution should be. It eschews the high rhetoric of the Declaration of Independence, prescribing instead how the system should work. It has been widely admired and imitated, and where it has not been imitated - as with the voluminous and ill-fated EU constitution - it probably should have been. As Washington correspondent, I carried a copy around with me through the high dramas of the second Clinton term - the Presidents impeachment over his lies about the Lewinsky affair and the tied election of 2000. It stood up well under those stresses, providing a solid framework for what should happen in some of the most uncertain and extreme situations a country has to face. Ten years on, though, I wonder whether the confused and desperate aftermath of the 2000 election in Florida was not an early sign that the US constitution, or maybe the processes that have grown out of it, need to be revisited. Is the US constitution running out of road? Several recent developments show that the US system of government is not functioning particularly well. Exhibit A might be Bob Woodwards latest book, Obamas Wars, which - according to the excerpts - shows a new President completely at sea and at loggerheads with half his staff and the top brass. Granted that journalists tend to focus on discord and that spats between political leaders and military commanders have a long line of precedents, Woodwards sources still reveal a President of frightening inexperience sometimes at a loss to deal with hostile views and vested interests. This, at a time when the economy was languishing and crucial decisions had to be taken about campaign pledges on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Exhibit B might be the slew of early departures from Obamas team, the most recent being the head of the National Economic Council, Larry Summers. Again, early departures in themselves are not novel. Clinton suffered a similar haemorrhaging of his early appointees. Arguably, Bush was unusual in the number of senior figures, who served two terms. Some people fail to settle in Washington; others find the work of the government not to their taste. Sometimes chance intervenes, as with the unexpected decision of the long-serving Mayor of Chicago not to run for another term, which could deprive Obama of his White House Chief of Staff. Or, it could be that a new President has a relatively limited pool to choose from and tries to play safe, while a more experienced President discovers that there are people better suited to his purpose out there. This is not to argue that Presidents require more experience before they take the job. Exhibits A and B do, however, make the case for more continuity higher up the echelons of a new administration. Would the system not benefit from something more akin to Britains non-partisan civil service to advise and manage both the official transition and beyond? This might be anathema in a system that deliberately relies so much on patronage. But the number of posts that have to change hands can leave a new President flailing. With Obama, many lower-level posts were still unfilled after he had been in office a year. Worse, because it unnecessarily hobbles a new administration, is the extent to which possibly significant proposals broached by another country to the outgoing administration can go missing. While the US takes it for granted that a new administration starts with a blank page - outgoing officials take their files with them others do not appreciate how total the disconnect is, and may feel offended when the new administration fails to follow up. All in all, the ignorance, bickering and sheer incompetence that the present system fosters in a new administration is not worthy of a world power in the modern age. In the meantime, the US constitution and the way US politics functions are looking somewhat frayed around the edges. President Obamas inexperience may have made his first 18 months more difficult than they might have been, but his countrys outdated institutions made things much, much worse. The Independent