Changing Places Changing Faces
All three options have been in play this week.
Every president appoints what might be termed the “stable of staple advisory or review boards and commissions. These can be statutory groups such as the Social Security Advisory Board. Or they can be “experts” asked to pool their collective knowledge and make recommendations or propose future alternative courses of action. In the Defense arena, this type of long-range study of a particular problem falls to the Defense Science Board and Defense Policy Board.
COMMISSIONS> Then there are the special high profile boards and commissions that Congress will mandate or the White House will rush to create to score a political point (“we care enough, not like those other folks”). These usually are in response to a scandal or a serious lapse in judgment or some other failure that causes a “groundswell: for an investigation.
I have the impression that these types of special enquires are becoming more numerous. This, if true, suggests an administration unexpectedly on the defensive, unsure of where the next problem will emerge to provide new grist for the congressional investigative mill. Moreover, the leaders of these “outside” commissions seem to be more aggressive in pushing for action to implement their remedial recommendations. The White House can always “just say no,” but so long as the Democrats control Congress, they can always hold hearings and issue subpoenas requiring political appointees not covered by “executive privilege” to appear and testify – thereby stringing out the media attention on the original failure.
Such is the latest commission -- President's Commission on Care for America's Returning Wounded Warriors -- a nnounced today to be co-chaired by former Kansas Senator Bob Dole and former Clinton administration Secretary of Health and Human Services, Donna Shalala. They, along with seven more to be named next week, are to examine the Defense Department and Veterans Administration medical facilities, staffing, resources, and administrative policies and procedures for evaluating disability levels and for transitioning back to civilian life individuals wounded or otherwise injured while on active duty. The fact that the commission was announced today but only two of nine commissioners named suggests the “Walter Reed” scandal caught the White House flat—footed.
SMEAR. Coincidentally, the jury in the obstruction of justice trial of L. “Scooter” Libby returned a guilty verdict on four of five charges. Here the “smear the messenger” backfired on the White House. Beyond Ambassador Wilson, however, it now seems that an attempt is underway to undermine Stuart Bowen, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction who has been highly critical of the way U.S. companies have acted in Iraq and the fraud and waste indemic in reconstruction spending.
FIRING: This tactic was employed in the simultaneous firing of eight federal prosecutors. The administration maintains it was for cause – i.e., poor or substandard performance. Turns out that that claim might be valid in only one case at most. Of course, these gentlemen are political appointees and serve at the president’s pleasure. Still, it would be nice for the administration to not mix SMEAR tactics with what is a blatant act of political retaliation because these prosecutors didn’t go after alleged corruption by members of the “other” party.