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Sunday, January 08, 2006

The President appoints another unqualified friend while Lieberman changes his tune about supporting a Bush nominee

After the screw up of Michael Brown, President Bush appoints another unqualified friend named Julie Myers to head the Department of Immigration? Will Bush ever learn?

From the New York Times
Senate Democrats this week sharply criticized President Bush's decision to install Julie L. Myers, a White House official, as head of the nation's immigration enforcement agency despite concerns on the part of some about her qualifications for the job.

Ms. Myers, a 36-year-old lawyer, will be sworn in on Monday. She currently serves as the president's special assistant for personnel and previously worked as an assistant secretary at the Department of Commerce. She has never managed a large department or dealt extensively with immigration issues.

When Mr. Bush nominated Ms. Myers last year, Democratic and Republican senators raised concerns about her lack of experience, and her Senate confirmation appeared to be in doubt. Some critics said they feared that her political connections, rather than her qualifications, had driven the decision to select her to lead the bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which has 15,000 employees and a budget of about $4 billion.

On Wednesday, Mr. Bush bypassed the Senate confirmation process and used his power of recess appointment to install Ms. Myers as director of the bureau, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security. The department's secretary, Michael Chertoff, praised Ms. Myers, saying that she possessed "the experience, judgment and determination" necessary for the job.

But some Senate Democrats said they were still concerned about her ability to manage the bureau. The agency has been beset by controversies, including accusations of mismanagement of its budget and questions about its effectiveness in enforcing immigration laws.

At the Department of Commerce, Ms. Myers supervised a unit of 170 employees.

While President Bush is still up to his old tricks of appointing his buddies, Senator Lieberman does a flip-flop in appointing Bush's pals with his lack of support of Myers.

Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut, said on Friday that Ms. Myers "really was not qualified for the position." Mr. Lieberman said Congress had intended the position to be held by someone with at least five years' management experience.

"In my opinion, she lacks the management background," he said. "And one of her key responsibilities is to enforce immigration laws, and she has virtually no immigration experience."

Is this the same Lieberman who had no problem with appointing Bush's other friend, former FEMA head Michael Brown? Let's take a look back in time...

Michael D. Brown, relieved of his hurricane relief duties Friday, didn't get much scrutiny from the Senate at a 2002 confirmation hearing.

The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency appeared before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, then chaired by Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, D-Conn., when he was nominated as the agency's deputy director. The polite 42-minute hearing attracted only four senators, and before it was over, Lieberman offered his support.


But bloggers on Friday suggested that Lieberman could have learned three years ago that Brown might not be up to such a task. An online debate began late Thursday when Juliette N. Kayyem, a lecturer in public policy at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, posted an account of Brown's June 19, 2002, confirmation hearing.

Titled "42 Minutes of Shame," she described how "Mike Brown suffered 42 breathtaking minutes of serious nothingness (unless Lieberman's withering questioning regarding whether Brown would sufficiently keep the Senate informed - duh, yes) to become deputy director of FEMA."


Lieberman talked about FEMA's expanding role, how the disaster relief agency has "got to prepare for and respond to terrorist attacks at home." He quizzed Brown about whether the new mission would find FEMA continuing to maintain its network of strong contacts with state and local officials.

"We've already started down that path," Brown said. "Our partnership has to be with all agencies responding to disasters, all first responders."

Lieberman told him, "That's a good answer."

He spent 8 minutes asking Brown a series of questions, including one on chemical and biological preparedness. "Regardless of the cause of the disaster," Brown assured him, "our response is the same."

Later in the hearing, Lieberman returned for a new round of questions, notably one about preparedness in Connecticut in case of a disaster at a nuclear facility.

Brown said FEMA's role was "a very serious one," and he pledged to look closely at evacuation plans to make sure they were adequate.

Such replies were adequate for Lieberman, who told Brown at the end of the hearing, "I certainly will support your nomination."

Lieberman is just too much. The only reason he is now against Myers is because of the FEMA screwup with Hurricane Katrina and the bi-partisan outrage over the qualifications of Myers.

In other words, if this criticism was split by party lines, Lieberman would have no problem offering his support for Bush's nominee.

Now lets jump back to Myers...

Mr. Bush nominated Ms. Myers for the position in June, but the decision first stirred a furor in September after Hurricane Katrina, as the administration faced criticism about the performance of Michael D. Brown, then the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Mr. Brown, a Republican without prior experience in managing disasters, was brought to Washington by a friend, Joe M. Allbaugh, his predecessor at FEMA.

Ms. Myers, who has held a variety of federal jobs over the last four years, drew attention because of her ties to the White House and some senior officials. She is a niece of Gen. Richard B. Myers, who recently stepped down as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the wife of John Wood, Mr. Chertoff's chief of staff.

Criticism of her nomination was not limited to the comments of Democrats. In September, National Review, an influential conservative publication, urged Mr. Bush to withdraw Ms. Myers's nomination. In an editorial, the magazine compared her to Mr. Brown and called her "another unqualified nominee for a vital position in the Department of Homeland Security."