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Wednesday, November 17, 2004

The Insiders

President George W. Bush today nominated Margaret Spellings to be his new Secretary of Education.


Spellings, after working for Bush in Texas for 6 years, has been serving as the White House domestic policy advisor. She apparently worked behind the scenes on the No Child Left Behind legislation and will now be positioned to help with its implementation.

Last week, Bush nominated Alberto Gonzales, White House Counsel, to serve as Attorney General.

Yesterday, Bush nominated Condi Rice, National Security Advisor, to serve as Secretary of State.

Notice the pattern?

Bush is promoting White House advisors to Cabinet-level positions.

Moreover, Stephen Hadley, Rice's Deputy has been promoted to her job.

And Harriet Miers, who was Bush's personal lawyer in Texas and recently the President's deputy chief of staff, is taking over for Gonzales as White House Counsel.

This "insider game" has various implications, some obvious and some less clear. For example, it means that Bush is not looking outside the administration for new ideas and talent. He is rewarding loyalty and personal connections.

However, it also means that these personal staff members leaving the White House will for the first time face legislative scrutiny. As Cabinet members they will have to appear at Senate confirmation hearings and answer at least some potentially hostile questions about their administrative performance. This process allows at least a measure of public accountability.

Gonzales might face questions about the torture memo.

Rice might face questions about the unread WMD "footnotes" or the August 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing.

We'll have to see how this all plays out. I would not count on the Senate to fillibuster any of these nominees, but I would hope that somebody will at least bloody the records of Rice and Gonzales -- by identifying and underlining the incompetence and misdeeds -- so these officials are not viable future national political candidates or Supreme Court Justices.

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