Senate Democrats are outraged over the recess appointment of Sam Fox by President Bush, just a few days after the White House withdrew his nomination for Ambassador. Fox, who contributed to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign in 2004, ran afoul of John Kerry on the Foreign Relations committee:
President Bush, defying Senate Democrats, gave recess appointments yesterday to three controversial nominees, including, as ambassador to Belgium, Republican donor Sam Fox, who had contributed to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the group whose ads helped doom Sen. John F. Kerry's 2004 presidential bid.
Kerry (D-Mass.), who grilled Fox about his $50,000 contribution to the group during testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in February, had complained that Fox never disavowed his actions and that he should not be confirmed. "It's sad but not surprising that this White House would abuse the power of the presidency to reward a donor over the objections of the Senate," Kerry said in a statement yesterday.
The outrage is misplaced. Despite Mary Ann Akers' unsupported assertion that the SBVT campaign "smeared" Kerry, no one has been able to refute the substantial evidentiary and testimonial record of their charges. Oh, people claim that the 250+ Swift Boat veterans have been discredited, but the best they can do is to dispute one detail in one particular battle with opposing testimony. Kerry, who made his combat service an issue in the 204 campaign as a way to cheap-shot Bush's service in the National Guard, created entire fantasies about Christmas in Cambodia, a magic hat, and allowed at least one man to deliver speeches about his personal experiences with Kerry during battles in which the man could not possibly have participated.
All of this happened three years ago. Sam Fox made a legitimate contribution to a group of veterans whom Kerry angered by publishing their photograph and implying they supported his presidential bid. Rather than focus on Fox's qualifications, or even pretending to do so, Kerry and his cohorts demanded explanations for Fox's political views on a race long over, a breathtaking bit of narcissism and more than a little Orwellian.
Before the current crop of Democratic leadership in the Senate, Presidents had been allowed the benefit of their selections for political appointments, especially those which expire at the end of the presidential term. Actually, to be fair, that started changing in the Clinton Administration, when Republicans tubed James Hormel's ambassadorship for being openly gay. And, by the way, Clinton gave Hormel a recess appointment afterwards -- and he did it in June 1999, when Congress was on a break similar to the one they're enjoying at the moment, and not during an explcit recess.
Barring Fox from taking the position was petty and vindictive, just the kind of games Democrats have played with presidential appointments for the past six years. They tried it on John Bolton, and got the same answer from the White House then. Now they want to screech with outrage, but the Senate Democratic Caucus has created this situation by ignoring the concept of presidential privilege for the entire time Bush has served in office.