Contempt of Congress
The Prez demonstrated once again the contempt in which he holds the Democratic Congress (as well as the balance of powers and the system of checks and balances written right into the Constitution). Actually, it's my belief that he held the Republican Congress of the past few years in the same contempt, but as they continually did nothing more than defer to him on all issues, he never really had much of an occasion to express that contempt right out in the open.
Yesterday he went around Congress to appoint a new ambassador to Belgium. Well, OK, on its face that doesn't sound absolutely horrendous, but the new ambassador to Belgium is none other than Sam Fox, the Republican donor who was Mr. Moneybags for the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the organization that lied about John Kerry's Vietnam war record during the last presidential campaign and brought the term swiftboating into the vernacular to mean smearing a political enemy. Yeah, I guess you could say that Bush owed him a political favor.
What makes this most brazen, though, is the fact that Bush was going through the motions with the nomination, sending Fox to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for confirmation hearings and, when it looked like the committee was (understandably) expected to vote him down last week, withdrawing the nomination from consideration. Any reasonable person would've expected that that would be he end of it. But no, of course, it wasn't.
The President has the power to make appointments when Congress is in recess so that anything urgent can be taken care of if Congress is not expected to be in session for a while. That power is actually listed in the Constitution, so there's no denying its validity, but it's worth remembering that the Constitution was written 220 years ago, and transportation and communication being what they were in the 18th century, the framers no doubt expected Congress to be out of session for long periods of time. In this case, the Senate committee was in session and set to vote, but by pulling the nomination, the Prez also pulled the plug.
Dems in Congress were, not surprisingly, extremely upset by the development. But nobody's terribly shocked. John Kerry summed up the situation pretty accurately: "This nomination was withdrawn because the administration realized it would lose in the Foreign Relations Committee. Unfortunately, when this White House can't win the game, they just change the rules, and America loses." Something worth keeping our eye on is the fact that a technicality may undermine Bush's best-laid plans (Fox was appointed to serve as a volunteer, but it's apparently illegal to volunteer for ambassadorships).
There were also two more recess appointments, as well. Bush also appointed Susan E. Dudley to oversee federal regulatory policy at the Office of Management and Budget and Andrew Biggs, who The Washington Post identifies as an advocate of privatizing Social Security, to be deputy commissioner of the Social Security Administration. Even Connecticut for Lieberman senator Joe Lieberman was annoyed by the Dudley appointment, for which the committee he chairs, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, was preparing to convene hearings. Through a spokesperson, Lieberman said that through this action the Prez "shows disrespect" for the Senate. Is Joe realizing that the Prez isn't his pal? Somehow I still doubt it.
In a related story, found while looking for Sam Fox in Google News, a planned statue of Brit pinup Samantha Fox in Serbia has been cancelled after she walked out on a concert and a diplomatic dinner with a Serbian minister. The crowd at the show apparently wanted to see her two most prominent pinup credentials and even sang an impromptu song on the subject. Oh well. I'm sure she'll be able to use some of her other assets to get a statue somewhere else.