President Obama has employed a series of recess appointments to circumvent Senate holds and install four ambassadors, the head of the Government Printing Office, and the Deputy Attorney General. One of the ambassadorial appointments was to Syria, which raised some hackles among Republicans because they don’t think Syria should be rewarded with the “undeserved concession” of an ambassador at all, as incoming House Foreign Affairs Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen put it to Fox News.
The Deputy A.G. appointment is the most controversial of the bunch. His name is James Cole, and his appointment has been “in limbo” since May. He did some consulting work for AIG, the insurance company that became the focus of evil in the bailout world in the early days of the Obama Administration, but the real problem is his position on terrorism, which he pointedly views as “a devastating crime” akin to the drug trade or mob activity.
Republican Representative Peter King of New York fired off a press release declaring it “absolutely shocking that President Obama would appoint someone who has diminished the 9/11 terrorist attacks by comparing them to the drug trade and who believes that a civilian courtroom is the appropriate venue for 9/11 trials.” He went on to call James Cole “one of the worst appointments by President Obama during his presidency.” I’d say Donald Berwick, the health-care honcho who was also installed by circumventing Senate confirmation, is also a strong contender.
Back when he moved to block Cole’s confirmation in the Senate, Alabama’s Jeff Sessions said he would have preferred a nominee with “a more traditional view of the role of the Attorney General as someone who prosecutes criminals, protects the United States, and defends law-abiding Americans from terrorists and thugs who attack them.” I would have thought those were the minimum qualifications.
Our previous adventure with a civilian terrorist trial was a staggering embarrassment for the Administration, in which Cole’s boss, Attorney General Eric Holder, allowed an al-Qaeda bomber to skate with convictions that amount to aggravated vandalism for his part in the deaths of 224 people in embassy bombings. We also treated an act of war against a military vessel, coincidentally also named the Cole, as a “crime,” and look where that got us. It doesn’t appear that any degree of failure for this approach will shake the faith of Obama appointees that next time it’ll end like a two-hour season finale of Law & Order. If only we could find a way to blame al-Qaeda for global warming…
Over at the Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin sees the Cole appointment as the end of “bipartisanship,” although it might be entirely too polite to pretend it ever really had a “beginning.” She also mentions that Cole once represented the interests of a Saudi prince against 9/11 families in an insurance claim. The prince in question, Naif bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, is said to be “a tremendous human rights abuser.” It looks like the least objectionable item on the Cole resume is working for AIG.
There isn’t much that can be done about these recess appointments, short of declaring war and refusing to confirm any more Obama nominees. The Democrats were fond of building nice little stone walls around Bush nominees, and Bush in turn made his share of recess appointments to get around them. Recess appointments have become like border incursions between the hostile states of Whitehouseistan and Congressalonia, testing to see how far things can be taken before the Senate goes nuclear.
It’s not as if there was any real chance Obama would give Jeff Sessions what he wanted, and appoint a tough-as-nails Chuck Norris type to make Eric Holder his sidekick in a wild buddy action-adventure, filled with witty banter and Chuck teaching Eric how to kill terrorist with roundhouse kicks. This was always going to be more about giving Holder a Mini-Me. A serious Attorney General’s office awaits the election of Barack Obama’s successor.