May 18, 2004

Best and Brightest

We really are chasing the best people out of public office. Who but egomaniacal gas bags would want to put up with rancorous partisanship? WSJ Political Diary today includes a nice farewell to a good man:

White House special envoy for the Western Hemisphere Otto Reich will leave the Bush Administration in June. He says the reasons are "personal," but one factor that made his tenure less than gratifying was a gross pattern of abuse on Capitol Hill in the confirmation process.

Mr. Reich originally had been George Bush's nominee to be Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs in 2001. He had the votes to be confirmed. But Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd and his first lieutenant on the Senate foreign relations committee, Janice O'Connell, blamed Cold-War warrior Reich for the defeat of the Nicaraguan Sandinistas in the late 1980s and were determined to block his nomination.

Vicious mud slinging ensued. At least one sloppy, lazy "journalist" spread rumors that Mr. Reich had ties to a Cuban terrorist. Mr. Dodd also whispered to Senate colleagues that the nominee was going through a hostile divorce and hiding assets from his wife. None of the charges stuck for the simple reason that they lacked merit. Finally, Mr. Reich reports that Ms. O'Connell told another Hill staffer that she had a plan to make it financially impossible for him to take a government job by raising questions about the sale of his private consulting business. Under the terms of the deal, Mr. Reich was scheduled to receive payments over four years, something State Department lawyers told him was completely legal and ethical. But Mr. Reich tore up the contract anyway. Out of mud, Mr. Dodd simply refused to allow the confirmation hearings to proceed.

Mr. Reich went on to serve honorably in the White House instead, putting spine in Bush policies in Latin America. He might have stayed longer (and many others might be more willing to serve) if such abuses of the confirmation process had not been tolerated.

--Mary Anastasia O'Grady

I love the hurly burly of politics. I have admitted that I was over the top in my opposition to President Clinton.

I have no solution to rancor, but I'd like to see both sides limit it to high-level elected officials. Let Senate, House and Presidential candidates take the gloves of a'la the 1800s Republicans and Federalists (the occasional New Jersey Duel could be scheduled on Fox). But judges and Assistant Secretaries of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs should be allowed to do their job and keep away from the fray.

Posted by jk at May 18, 2004 11:45 AM
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