Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Madness Of King George: Cronyism

One of the hallmarks of any modern dictatorship is the appointment of close friends and political cronies to positions of power. This insures that the dictator's power remains well entrenched and uncontested, as the people are left out in the cold. Normally, here in the U.S., we have a Senate confirmation process that prevents such questionable practices. Unfortunately, it's not fool proof, as King George demonstrated yesterday.

From The Ministry of Truth:

President George W. Bush today recess appointed the following individuals:

Floyd Hall, of New Jersey, to be a Member of the AMTRAK Reform Board.

Enrique J. Sosa, of Florida, to be a Member of the AMTRAK Reform Board.

Nadine Hogan, of Florida, to be a Member of the Board of Directors of the Inter-American Foundation (Private Representative).

Roger W. Wallace, of Texas, to be a Member of the Board of Directors of the Inter-American Foundation (Private Representative).

Gordon England, of Texas, to be Deputy Secretary of Defense.

Benjamin A. Powell, of Florida, to be General Counsel of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Ronald E. Meisburg, of Virginia, to be General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board.

Julie L. Myers, of Kansas, to be Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security (Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement).

Tracy A. Henke, of Missouri, to be Executive Director of the Office of State and Local Government Coordination and Preparedness at the Department of Homeland Security.

Arthur F. Rosenfeld, of Virginia, to be Federal Mediation and Conciliation Director at the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.

Ellen R. Sauerbrey, of Maryland, to be Assistant Secretary of State (Population, Refugees, and Migration).

Dorrance Smith, of Virginia, to be Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs).

Robert D. Lenhard, of Maryland, to be a Member of the Federal Election Commission.

Steven T. Walther, of Nevada, to be a Member of the Federal Election Commission.

Hans Von Spakovsky, of Georgia, to be a Member of the Federal Election Commission.

Peter N. Kirsanow, of Ohio, to be a Member of the National Labor Relations Board.

Stephen Goldsmith, of Indiana, to be a Member of the Board of Directors of the Corporation for National and Community Service.

So much for "advice and consent" and "an up or down vote". Many, if not all of these folks, have never been granted hearings for their appointments. I realize that recess appointments are legal, but they were not intended as a way to side-step legislative review. They are supposed to be used for emergency situations where a position is too important to be left vacant and the Senate is not in session. Certainly every member on this list could have waited until after the Senate's winter break. Yet one more example of King George trying to eliminate even the pretense of accountability for his actions.

Anyone remember Michael Brown of FEMA, arguably the most incompetent crony appointment in recent memory? Clearly Bush doesn't really warrant the benefit of the doubt on his appointees. This current crop of bureaucrats contains some rather questionable names.

From DailyKos:

Hans von Spakovsky is probably best-known here already. He has been involved in all sorts of "voter integrity" issues on behalf of Republicans that would give many here pause, to say the least, plus the Texas redistricting.

Steven Walther is a lawyer based in Reno whom Sen. Reid strongly recommended. He represented Sen. Reid during a recount of the vote after his narrow reelection victory in 1998, but does not appear to have campaign finance law experience.

Robert Lenhard is an attorney for AFSCME. While there, he helped challenge the constitutionality of McCain-Feingold in the courts. His wife, Viveca Novak, is the Time Magazine journalist most recently involved in the Rove-Libby situation, but he was mentioned for this slot months before that all happened.

As noted in Adam B's diary at Kos, none of these individuals had any sort of hearing or public disclosure prior to Bush's appointment yesterday. It's entirely possible that they may not turn out to be any sort of problem, though given the contentious nature of our last three national elections, I think the public deserved to see these three vetted by the Senate.

The issue I have with this is that, similar to Bush's violation of the FISA Act, this is nothing more than the President asserting executive power just to show that he can. It eliminates the possibility of any discussion on the appointees and assures that Bush need not weather any contrary opinions. But worst of all, it deprives the American people of any knowledge of the government functionaries involved in critical aspects of our democratic process. One has to ask: is this the act of a President supporting democracy and freedom, or the act of a coward trying to hide from accountability?

We can't afford another "Heck of a job, Brownie"...

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