The abuse of the recess appointment perhaps isn’t President Bush’s most egregious attack on our Founders’ carefully crafted system of checks and balances, since others before him have exploited this constitutional loophole. But the implicit reasons behind each of the three significant recess appointments he made this week —installing the officials without Senate confirmation during the congressional recess—are quite egregious, and each in their own way.
The one that’s gotten the most attention is Sam Fox, our new ambassador to Belgium.
It’s typical, if still highly inappropriate, for cronies of the president to get cushy ambassador gigs. But Sam Fox wasn’t just a big donor of Bush. He gave $50,000 to the Swift Boat liars that smeared Sen. John Kerry’s war record during his 2004 presidential bid.
Of course, the Bush campaign always insisted it had nothing to do with the smear merchants, even though the group had ties to Karl Rove. But to go the extra mile after being stiff-armed by the Senate, to appoint a major backer of filthy politics to a major post, shows how politics are played in the conservative movement.
Get dirty now, get rewarded later. No consequences for your actions. No disincentive to smear again.
The second is Andrew Biggs, to become the No. 2 man at the Social Security Administration.
Biggs is not only committed to the dismantling of Social Security via privatization. As associate commissioner of SSA, he was behind an effort to use the agency to pump out misinformation and undermine support for the program.
He is one of the many examples of how the White House is trying to cripple the civil service, and prevent our government from providing us with objective, factual information.
Finally, we have Susan Dudley becoming administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, also known as the “regulatory czar” because it reviews regulations throughout the government.
OMB Watch explains her significance:
“Dudley’s record is one of anti-regulatory extremism,” said Rick Melberth, Director of Regulatory Policy at OMB Watch. “She has opposed some of our nation’s most basic environmental, workplace safety and public health protections.”
Dudley has falsely proclaimed ground-level ozone to be beneficial, opposed ergonomic standards to protect workers from repetitive stress disorders, and even suggested that airbags should never have been mandated in automobiles.
This is also a big part of the conservative game plan to cripple the civil service. When civil servants try to implement laws passed by our democratically-elected Congress, such as the Clean Air Act, folks like Dudley are installed to bring the hammer down, prevent the law’s implementation, and put the special interest ahead of the public interest.
And if Dudley’s appointment is not bad enough, there are reports that it could get worse. The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire reported Friday that Bush is considering putting the executive vice president of the National Association of Manufacturers in change of the agency that regulates the safety of the organization members’ products.
The prospective appointee, Michael Baroody, would become head of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. While at NAM, the former Reagan administration and longtime Republican lobbyist, according to Public Citizen president Joan Claybrook, “spearheaded campaigns designed to cripple the regulatory agencies and deny consumers access to the courts. He has made a career out of opposing any measure to hold negligent corporations accountable for preventable harm.”
A detailed analysis of Baroody’s record by Public Citizen concludes, “President Bush would be hard-pressed to find a more inappropriate nominee to head the Consumer Product Safety Commission.”
The abuse of the recess appointment weakens our system of checks and balances. It is a particularly egregious insult to the voters who in November gave the Democrats a majority in the Senate to curb Bush’s unfettered power to appoint whomever he wanted. But the three people he appointed this week threaten to do even greater harm.