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Bush Nominees Are Not Qualified
NY Times
Amid Many Fights Over Qualifications, a Bush Nomination Stalls in the Senate

WASHINGTON, Sept. 23 - Faced with accusations that the Bush administration is stocking the government with unqualified cronies, the Republican chairwoman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is holding up the nomination of a lawyer with little background in immigration or customs to head the law enforcement agency in charge of those issues.

Democrats have seized on the political fury that developed over the apparent lack of qualifications of Michael D. Brown, the director, and others in the Federal Emergency Management Agency who were called on to deal with the calamity caused by Hurricane Katrina. Day after day, Democratic lawmakers have begun aggressively challenging the credentials of people President Bush wants to place in midlevel government positions.

The homeland security chairwoman, Senator Susan Collins of Maine, says she now wants to inquire further into the qualifications of Julie L. Myers to be assistant secretary of homeland security for immigration and customs enforcement.

The senior Democrat on the Senate committee, Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, said Friday that he was not persuaded by a confirmation hearing last week that Ms. Myers, who has worked the last four years at the White House and in several agencies, satisfied the legal requirement that the official in charge of the immigration agency have at least five years' experience in law enforcement and management.

Ms. Myers, 36, is on her honeymoon and cannot be immediately called to testify again. She has strong Republican connections and is the niece of Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Before she joined the Bush administration, she was a federal prosecutor in Brooklyn.

The White House continued to express support for her Friday.

"Julie Myers is well known and respected throughout the law enforcement community, and she has a proven track record as a strong and effective manager," said Erin Healy, a presidential spokeswoman.

In addition to the questions about Ms. Myers, Senator Carl Levin of Michigan has objected to the nomination of Stewart Baker to be assistant secretary of homeland security for policy. Mr. Baker, who won committee approval despite Mr. Levin's opposition, is an accomplished technology lawyer, but he has little experience in disaster management.

At the same time, the Center for American Progress, a research institute for out-of-office Democratic policy experts, has questioned whether Andrew B. Maner is qualified for his position as chief financial officer of the Homeland Security Department, which has a budget of about $35 billion and more than 180,000 employees. Mr. Maner's main government experience before joining this administration was a job in the White House press office under the first President Bush.

The questions of credentials are not limited to homeland security. For example, the main experience of Brian D. Montgomery, who in June became assistant secretary for housing and federal housing commissioner, was performing advance work in the Bush presidential campaign of 2000 and in the current administration's first term.

Mr. Montgomery's responsibilities now include overseeing the $500 billion Federal Housing Administration insurance portfolio. His background in housing is limited to a few years as communications director of the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs.

People who have studied the workings of the federal government for years say this administration is no worse than President Bill Clinton's or any other recent ones in the qualifications of political appointees.

"The vast majority of appointees are good, qualified and committed, but in every administration you have people who are not up to the job," said Patricia McGinnis, president of the Council for Excellence in Government, a national nonprofit, nonpartisan organization devoted to improving government performance through better management and leadership.

Paul C. Light, a political scientist at New York University, said, "In every administration, there are certain people you have to find places for: people who worked on your campaign or were contributors or are well connected with other politicians."

Clay Johnson III, who was head of the White House personnel office for the first three years of the current Bush administration and is now deputy budget director, said Mr. Bush's appointees had been "superbly qualified," in large part because the president emphasized selecting candidates who were committed to carrying out his policy objectives.

Across the government, there are more than 3,000 executive positions the president can fill without regard to Civil Service rules. They range from those of cabinet officers to personal secretaries. About 500 are subject to Senate confirmation.

The trick for any president, Mr. Light said, is to fill the top jobs and those that require particular expertise with especially qualified people and then find other positions for job seekers with political or personal connections.

Certain departments and agencies tend to become dumping grounds for those with connections. "In a Republican administration," said G. Calvin Mackenzie, a government professor at Colby College, "HUD is like a witness protection program."

Democrats are more likely to put their political cronies in the Commerce Department or the Small Business Administration.

David E. Lewis, an assistant professor of politics at Princeton, recently published a study of 614 federal programs managed by 245 agencies. He looked at how each program was assessed under the scale the Bush administration's Office of Management and Budget uses to determine how well a program functions. Mr. Lewis found that programs run by political appointees "get systematically lower management grades than bureau chiefs drawn from the Civil Service."

One explanation for Mr. Lewis's finding may be rapid turnover. Political appointees stay on the job an average of only two years or so, then take private-sector jobs where they use the experience and contacts they have gained in the government.

In an essay she wrote shortly after leaving the White House, Constance Horner, who was director of presidential personnel for the first President Bush, said:

"The job seekers continue to come in order, as they say in many variations, 'to give something back to the country' that's been good to them. They want only to serve 'this president' and no other. Alternatively (or perhaps more explicitly) they've 'paid their dues' and feel, however genteelly they put it, that they are 'owed something.' "

This article is very misleading. There's never been more nepotism in government than under Bush. Check here: Nepotism--Using Family to Maintain Control Then go to Resignations for a short list of resignations under Bush. Clearly no one can work with this White House. Liars and idiots are the only people he hires. In fact, one of his top aids says she doesn't trust anyone who reads books. They do one thing and they do it really well - they keep the idiotic press corp(se) bamboozled with so many lies none of them can keep up.

Is the word "nepotism" included in this article? Why not? Playing the town idiot is what the media does best.