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Inability to Compromise

October 15th, 2007

This is very telling about the attitude and mindset of the Bush administration:

With only 15 months left in office, President Bush has left whole agencies of the executive branch to be run largely by acting or interim appointees — jobs that would normally be filled by people whose nominations would have been reviewed and confirmed by the Senate.

In many cases, there is no obvious sign of movement at the White House to find permanent nominees, suggesting that many important jobs will not be filled by Senate-confirmed officials for the remainder of the Bush administration.

So, what is so telling about it?

Well, part of it, as explained by the NYT, is that few people are willing to step into jobs that (a) are so tainted by scandal, or (b) will be swept out by an expected Democratic administration. This is certainly true, but only to a certain extent. Really, there are 15 months left to most of these positions; are we really to believe that no one of even moderate ability is willing to have “Attorney General” on his or her resume for those reasons alone?

Additionally, this is not the beginning of this trend; Bush has been using recess appointments and other tricks to avoid Senate confirmation for years. No, what this speaks volumes about is the utter unwillingness of the administration to compromise on even the smallest matters. Like many good conservatives–and like many small children–they have to have everything go their way 100%, or they will throw a tantrum and leave, declaring, “It’s my ball, and if you don’t follow my rules, I’m taking the ball home and you don’t get to play!”

Say what you might about the Clinton administration, they followed the age-old political rules which say, if you can’t win straight out, then you compromise and get the best deal you can–but you do the job, you get it done. Sometimes you fight to a standoff, but far more often you make a deal.

That’s what this administration simply cannot do. I mean, think about all those “acting” and “interim” positions. Would it really just kill the people in the Bush administration to choose candidates who weren’t so partisanly toxic that they couldn’t get passed? Would it be absolutely impossible for them to choose someone who is safely conservative but mild enough that they could get nominated?

Of course it’s possible. The Bush administration could have filled all those positions with people with acceptable conservative credentials, people who the Democrats would have easily accepted. Let’s face it, it’s not as if the Democrats are now famous for bucking the Bush administration on slightly-right-of-center issues and candidates; if there is anything that has marked the Bush Democrats, it’s going way too far to compromise, and perpetually giving in to Bush, even on much of the outrageous stuff.

Hell, if they chose people who are only somewhat right-of-center, they could not only score political points and look accommodating, but they would have a better chance of having those appointments continue into the next administration if it’s Democratic, instead of having people who are left-of-center installed instead.

The fact that all of those positions have not been filled is a result of the Bush people unwilling to stomach even centrist-leaning Republicans. Take, as an example, court nominees. The Bush administration got 98% of its nominees confirmed by the Senate, and yet threw royal tantrums and threatened to kill off the filibuster with the “nuclear option” if the Democrats didn’t bend to their will and confirm the most extremist, unpalatable 2%–so much so, that the Bush administration kept re-nominating the same rejected judges again and again. The same is evident with Bush’s recent vetoes, where he will not so much as compromise on issues that otherwise would be no-brainers.

Bush’s partisan toxicity is bound to last until the end–no compromise, no retreat, no matter how badly it cripples the country.

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  1. October 16th, 2007 at 14:32 | #1

    We’re in that boat in the FAA. The Administrator’s term was up in early September. She announced well ahead of time that when her five years were up, she was gone (the FAA administrator has a five-year term by law).

    Sure enough, she’s gone, and now the agency is being run by the deputy administrator on an “acting” basis. The Senate would never confirm anyone who’s as partisan as the last Administrator turned out to be, and the Bush Administration can’t appoint a reasonable person, because they’d probably come in and undo everything that the last nutjob did.

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