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December 6, 2004
Bring A Crowbar And A Jackhammer

George Bush today appointed two new members of the Civil Rights Commission, replacing two whose terms have expired. However, at least one of them may need to be bodily removed from the offices as she threatens to stay put until she is good and ready to go:

President Bush on Monday moved to replace Mary Frances Berry, the outspoken chairwoman of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission who has argued with every president since Jimmy Carter appointed her to the panel a quarter century ago.

But Berry balked at leaving now, arguing through a spokesman that she and vice chairman Cruz Reynoso, who also is being replaced, have terms that run until midnight Jan. 21, 2005. The White House maintained that their six-year terms expired Sunday and that Berry and Reynoso had been replaced.

The last time Berry went to the mattresses with George Bush was almost exactly three years ago, when she threatened to keep the first Bush appointee, Peter Kirsanow, from taking his seat on the commission. The AP covered the story on December 7, 2001:

Administration officials are trying to avoid a three-ring circus at Friday's regularly-scheduled meeting of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, but they may have little luck since the committee's chairwoman has taken the role of ringmaster.

President Bush's appointee to the commission was sworn in at the White House Thursday night and planned to attend the commission's regularly scheduled meeting, but commission chairwoman Mary Frances Berry said the administration will have to send in U.S. marshals to seat Peter Kirsanow, a Cleveland lawyer and member of the largely conservative Center for New Black Leadership.

Believe it or not, that dispute took six months to adjudicate, the circus finally coming to a close only after a federal appellate court told Berry that Wilson was through. That same decision also made clear that the next term starts at the time the last term expired, which goes to the heart of the current dispute. Berry's prior term expired on December 5, 1998, at which point President Bill Clinton offered Berry another term. However, he didn't get around to formally appointing her until January 26 of the following year -- and Berry insists, despite the appellate court ruling on the Kirsanow case, that her current term expires six weeks from now as a result.

Predictably, the outgoing staff blame the Bush administration for the impasse, with reasoning that underscores why Bush replaced as many of them as he could:

Bush also replaced the commission's staff director, Les Jin, with Kenneth Marcus of Virginia. Jin said Berry's and Reynoso's tenure dispute stems from a disagreement with the White House about when they began serving their six-year terms.

"The commission has had a long history of independence and of trying to protect civil rights," Jin said. "And it just seems like we would have been much better served if they (the White House) had tried to take the initiative to engage in a conversation about a smooth transition rather than try to heighten a battle over six weeks."

The Bush administration is enforcing the law, a mission which should have been the focus of the Civil Rights Commission rather than a years-long turf war designed to promote Mary Frances Berry rather than civil rights. Berry continually put herself above the law, holding the commission work hostage while she threw her temper tantrums and attempted to trump the will of the people with the weight of the bureaucracy. Now she's trying to hang on to every last second by using an argument she lost over two years ago. Greedy and grasping hardly begins to describe it.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 6, 2004 7:30 PM

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If you blasted every boss you ever had, what do you think the result would have been? Mary Frances Berry, blunt-spoken chairwoman of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, resigned Tuesday after more than two decades of criticizing the governments, bot... [Read More]

Tracked on December 8, 2004 9:49 AM

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