Necessary Due Diligence on Nominations

In 1989, Senator John Tower was President George H. B. Bush’s first choice for Secretary of Defense. President’s almost invariably get their choices for cabinet positions confirmed by the Senate. According to King and Riddlesperber [1] in the post-War era from 1945 to 1988, opposition to the nomination of cabinet officials was dominantly based on policy differences, but still are very rare.  On paper,  it looked like Tower had the necessary qualifications including Chairmanship of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Moreover, Senators are generally loathe to embarrass their own.

However, Senators perhaps knew Tower too well. Although, he served competently in the Senate he was reputed to have a drinking and womanizing problem. Part of the ultimate rejection of Tower was a little political payback to Bush winning the previous election, but Tower would have survived the nomination process had there not been very real and serious  issues with Tower’s character.

In retrospect, the Senate did President Bush an important and historic favor. Ultimately, Dick Cheney was approved overwhelmingly by the Senate for Secretary of Defense. Whatever present reservations there are about Cheney’s recent performance as vice president, there remains consensus that he was a key element of the successful effort to remove Saddam Hussein from Kuwait in the first  Gulf War.

The Senate, particularly, the Republicans, as the opposition party now have an obligation to exercise due diligence and put up a substantial fight against at two of the remaining  nominations of President Barack Obama. The opposition should not be based upon political or policy differences but on the simple question of character.

Eric Holder, Jr. the nominee for Attorney General, should be opposed based on the role he played in the Mark Rich pardon and the pardons of the Puerto Rican terrorists — pardons that were clearly made for political expediency under President Clinton. As Deputy Attorney General, he had a obligation as a presidential legal adviser to stand up to President Clinton’s ill-advised pardons. The president would have probably still issued the pardons, but at least he would have been ignoring the proper legal advice.  There may come a time when a  sensitive legal issue comes before President Obama. He deserves an Attorney General whose legal advice is  not hostage to cynical political calculations.

There is no informed and intellectually  honest person who believes the nominee for Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner,  did not deliberately cheat on his income taxes. He is just too smart and informed about his tax obligations to have committed an inadvertent over sight. There is no doubt as to Geither’s credentials or that he would try to implement Obama’s policies with competence. However, he lacks the character to be granted the fiducial  responsibility of Treasury Secretary. Just as yourself if you would hire a brilliant financial analyst to handle your finances if you knew that he cheated on his own taxes. We are told that  Geithner is so brilliant that we have to overlook his character. Is that the moral message the Obama wishes to endorse?

The Democrats, perhaps not for the most altruistic motives, helped President Bush (41) by forcing the selection of Dick Cheney over John Tower for Secretary of Defense. It is time that Republicans paid that back favor to President Obama. He would be best served by an Attorney General with character to tell the President what he make not want to hear and a Treasury Secretary worthy of the trust placed in that position.

[1] King, J. D. and J. Riddlesperger, chapter in From Cold War to New World Order, 2002.

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