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Tilting at Windmills

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June 6, 2006

SAFAVIAN 'PROBABLY NOT' QUALIFIED....In terms of the criminal trial, it's important that David Safavian, the Bush administration's former top procurement official, acknowledged yesterday that he provided "a lot of insight and advice," including government information not available to the public, to Jack Abramoff. Since Safavian was arrested last September for doing secret favors for Abramoff, his former employer, it was a key admission.

But for political purposes, I think this development was even more entertaining.

Safavian conceded to Justice prosecutor Peter Zeidenberg that he most likely didn't believe he had the qualifications to be chief of staff at the Government Services Administration, the position he held when he had the dealings with Jack Abramoff he is accused of covering up.

"Did you think you were qualified for the job?" Zeidenberg asked.

"Probably not, actually," Safavian said.

What a helpful admission. In fact, I can think of dozens of top administration officials who might have similar responses to the same question.

For example, I'd love to hear the response to the "Did you think you were qualified for the job?" question from former Small Business Administration head Hector Barreto, a former Republican fundraiser who had no experience or relevant qualifications. Or maybe his replacement, Steven Preston, who has the same problem.

For that matter, why don't we also pose the same question to Stewart Simonson, the Health and Human Services Department's point man "on matters related to bioterrorism and other public health emergencies," despite a complete lack of experience in the fields of public health and/or national security. And how about Douglas Hoelscher, who went from being a low-level White House staffer, arranging presidential travel, to a top post in the Department of Homeland Security despite no experience at all?

We could also ask Ellen Sauerbrey, who Bush appointed to be Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration, despite having literally no background in setting up refugee camps, delivering emergency supplies, and/or mobilizing international responses to humanitarian crises. We could then ask Julie Myers, who Bush named to help lead the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, despite the fact that she has no management experience at any level.

This list just never seems to end. Safavian's admission was helpful, but we'd probably get the same response out of most of the administration's political appointees. There might as well be a "No Policy Experts Need Apply" sign hanging in the West Wing.

Steve Benen 9:55 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (39)

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Is this a great government or not? At last individuals are allowed to rise to their levels of incompetence, emulating their leader.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on June 6, 2006 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

...and from tomorrow's headlines: Bush Admits He is "Probably Not Qualified" for White House Top Job.

Posted by: mrkranky on June 6, 2006 at 10:11 AM | PERMALINK

This quibbling over who's qualified and who isn't is just more typical blustering from liberals with Bush Derangement Syndrome. A president has the right to nominate whoever he wants to serve in a given position, and he has the right to choose people he knows will work well with him and who share his views. To liberals, though, I guess this kind of cohesion and like-mindedness has to take a back seat to distractions such as "experience" and "qualifications," particularly if it means they get to bash Bush some more. Are you ever going to just shut up and let these people do their jobs, even if they're not doing them perfectly?

Posted by: American Hawk's stand-in on June 6, 2006 at 10:21 AM | PERMALINK

GeorgeDeutsch.

Lest we forget.

Posted by: knobboy on June 6, 2006 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

Why exactly do we need a Small Business Administration? Apart from the fact that we have one now, I mean.

I'm all for hiring people who can do their jobs, but since we hardly ever think about whether their jobs really need doing it's a little hard to get exercised about the issue. Not just for me either, from the look of things.

Posted by: Zathras on June 6, 2006 at 10:28 AM | PERMALINK

You forgot "Heckvua job" Brownie. And how about the gang from the Heritage Foundation they sent over to run the CPA in Iraq? It's always been about ideology, not competence.

Posted by: Gregory on June 6, 2006 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

Shorter Zathras: Since I dispute the legitimacy of a government agency, it's fine that it be run incompetently. Nice attempt to change the subject, there, Zathras.

Or, as P.J. O'Rourke put it long ago, Republicans claim government doesn't work, and then get elected and prove it.

Posted by: Gregory on June 6, 2006 at 10:32 AM | PERMALINK

Forget the Age of Aquarius, it's the age of kakistocracy and it's at least as routine and pervasive in business as it is in government if not more so.


(kakistocracy) n.
Government by the least qualified or most unprincipled citizens.

Posted by: CFShep on June 6, 2006 at 10:34 AM | PERMALINK

Does the government encounter the same difficulties as the private sector finding qualified workers? I fairly sure nepotism, cronyism, political expediency and settling favors rule Bush's personnel practices. However, aren't highly qualified, highly educated and heavily experienced people likely to look for work in the private sector? Their compensation there is likely higher, public scrutiny and criticizm lower, and long term stability for a job well done lengthier. Why would you run a refugee agency for $85,000 a year when you could triple that outside of government leading a similar sized firm? Could Bush or any other president staff all the positions needing filled with the exemplary level of people the public clamors for?

Posted by: steve duncan on June 6, 2006 at 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

Unlike the other jobs, it really doesn't matter who runs the SBA since it's a bullshit agency.

Posted by: Miracle Max on June 6, 2006 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

Bush:

I want my Auntie Harriet on the Supreme Court. Cuz you never know... see... when your might need see... some help from the Court see...

Posted by: koreyel on June 6, 2006 at 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

Why would you run a refugee agency for $85,000 a year when you could triple that outside of government leading a similar sized firm?

To serve your country and to do good. I know, I know, those are hard concepts for a Republican to grasp, but not everyone is motivated by money and greed.

Could Bush or any other president staff all the positions needing filled with the exemplary level of people the public clamors for?

Any other president? Yes. Clinton managed to. His Administration was staffed top to bottom with highly-qualified people. He appointed experienced experts, not hacks.

Posted by: Stefan on June 6, 2006 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

If a chef at a resturant didn't know how to cook, should he be given another chance? No. If you cannot cook, please do not make my food. You are just going to make the same mistakes again and again. This holds true for the government, except, instead of screwing up a 10$ meal, they screw up people's life.

Posted by: Tyler on June 6, 2006 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

A longer Miracle Max:

Unlike the other jobs, it really doesn't matter who runs the SBA, FEMA, Department of Homeland Security, Health and Human Services Department, Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement since they are all bullshit agencies.

Mo' betta smarta trolls please.
That is, if they exist.

Posted by: Cruel troll killer on June 6, 2006 at 10:54 AM | PERMALINK

Could Bush or any other president staff all the positions needing filled with the exemplary level of people the public clamors for?

Clinton appointed James Lee Witt to head FEMA, of whom Wikipedia says '...Witt overturned FEMA's previously poor reputation. A 1992 interim report by the US Congress (prior to Hurricane Andrew led to further criticism of FEMA) had said that "FEMA is widely viewed as a political dumping ground, a turkey farm, if you will, where large numbers of positions exist that can be conveniently and quietly filled by political appointment..."[1] By 1996 an Atlanta Journal-Constitution editorial said that "FEMA has developed a sterling reputation for delivering disaster-relief services, a far cry from its abysmal standing before James Lee Witt took its helm in 1993. How did Witt turn FEMA around so quickly? Well, he is the first director of the agency to have emergency-management experience. He stopped the staffing of the agency by political patronage. He removed layers of bureaucracy. Most important, he instilled in the agency a spirit of preparedness, of service to the customer, of willingness to listen to ideas of local and state officials to make the system work better."[2] Witt's term of office saw approximately 348 Presidential declared disaster areas in more than 6,500 counties and in all 50 states and territories. Witt supervised the response to the most costly flood disaster in the nation's history at that time, the most costly earthquake, and a dozen serious hurricanes.....'

Bush appointed "Heck of a Job" Brownie, former head of the Arabian Horse Association.

Compare and contrast.

Posted by: Stefan on June 6, 2006 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

Surely one understands that the whole point and purpose of 'public service' is to parley one's tenure, however ineptly one performed, into a higer paying private sector job. Or better still: K Street.

These hacks are just resume polishing so as to get into position to steal the money directly rather than through intermediaries which gets tedious I'm sure.

'Heck of a job' they're doing, too.

Posted by: CFShep on June 6, 2006 at 11:09 AM | PERMALINK

There are plenty of qualified people who are interested in jobs al all levels of government. Vacancies normally get dozens of applications. It's nonsense to say that no qualified people are applying and therefore we have no choice but to hire unqualified political hacks - utter nonsense. I work in the feneral government and know this from personal experience.

Posted by: Virginia Dutch on June 6, 2006 at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

GOP = Goobers on Parade

Posted by: Advocate for God on June 6, 2006 at 11:30 AM | PERMALINK


steve benen: This list just never seems to end.

here's another one.....


President Bush nominates Grover Norquist's brother David to be new Chief Financial Officer of the Department of Homeland Security. - 1/18/06

Posted by: thisspaceavailable on June 6, 2006 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

Qualified people do apply for government jobs. Do the BEST qualified apply? Do people who have paid for an expensive, private college education, paid their dues in the bowels of a couple companies, risen to heights commensurate with their intelligence and skill, then go work for a third or fifth or tenth of what they're worth in the private sector? Does the bursar's office at their children's universities, the mortgage company, the credit card companies or everyone else they owe money reduce their charges to take into account their sacrifice of working for the public good at their government job? My point is however qualified an administration employee is it's likely there are far better people still out there. The highest tiers get people that may have made their money and can afford a pay cut (see the new Treasury Sec) but mid-level staffers are hard pressed to take a pass on jobs exponentially more lucrative than working for the feds. And look what you get with those staffers feeling undercompensated. Many jump at the chance to take bribes, gifts under the table, meals and trips. Dangle a position in a lobbyist's office and they bolt. Also, I'm sure Clinton had his share of hacks. Everyone was so focused on his and Hillary's foibles that I'm sure more than a few people's incompetencies slipped under the radar.

Posted by: steve duncan on June 6, 2006 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

I'd like to thank KD for his choice of 'guest' to hold down the fort in his absence as opposed to the last time.

Maybe the loud screams of outrage were actually heeded and Kevin now feels secure enough to leave us in more capable hands.

Posted by: CFShep on June 6, 2006 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

This was a very good post. More names and titles of the incompetent, please.

Posted by: Powerpuff on June 6, 2006 at 12:02 PM | PERMALINK

(see the new Treasury Sec)

Did I miss a confirmation hearing somehow?

Ya'll might want to take note of Goldman Sachs' involvement as an enabler of the Fannie Mae fiasco. Mr Paulson may be otherwise engaged responding to the SEC and DOJ...

(go to BusinessWeek.com - read all about it.)

Posted by: CFShep on June 6, 2006 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

Powerpuff: More names and titles of the incompetent, please.


how about this guy....

Dr. Lester Crawford, the former commissioner of the FDA, is under criminal investigation by a federal grand jury over accusations of financial improprieties and false statements to Congress. 4/29/06

crawford was head of the f.d.a. for all of 3-months...

you might have missed the resignation...

it happened right after katrina....

Posted by: thisspaceavailable on June 6, 2006 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

But really, isn't this just them fulfilling their supposed 'mandate' to 'finish the Glorious Reagan Revolution'?

I'm rummaging for the neatly compiled list of all of Ronnies' hacks who were indicted for fruad and non- or malfeasance in office. It's pretty impressive and doesn't even include the Iran-Contra abrogation of the Constitution.


"Under accelerating incompetence in America, this may change. Social systems can survive a good deal of folly when circumstances are historically favorable, or when bungling is cushioned by large resources or absorbed by sheer size as in the United States during its period of expansion. Today, when there are no more cushions, folly is less affordable." Barbara Tuchman "The March of Folly"

Posted by: CFShep on June 6, 2006 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

now in this case....i guess competence wasnt the issue...


Jack Abramoff's administrative assistant Susan Ralston left that job to work for White House political adviser Karl Rove.

Posted by: thisspaceavailable on June 6, 2006 at 12:30 PM | PERMALINK


how about josh bolton?

Federal debt on the day (6/26/2003) Josh Bolten became director of the Office of Management and Budget: $6.592 trillion

Federal debt on the day (3/28/06) Josh Bolten was promoted to Bush's Chief of Staff: $8.364 trillion

Posted by: thisspaceavailable on June 6, 2006 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK


how about condi rice....


Clinton National Security Advisor Berger hands off anti-terrorism folder to incoming NSA Rice in January; it "sits unopened" on her desk until Sept. 12, 2001, by her own admission.

also....

Condoleezza Rice was scheduled to deliver a speech on national security on September 11, 2001 that was void of any mention of Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda or Islamic terrorist organizations.

Posted by: thisspaceavailable on June 6, 2006 at 12:34 PM | PERMALINK


if you count brownie.....cant you count chertoff..

"I have not heard a report of thousands of people in the convention center who don't have food and water." Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff 9/1/05


although he had to be a better choice than bush's first pick.....bernie kerik...

Posted by: thisspaceavailable on June 6, 2006 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

did you know....

David Safavian's wife, Jennifer is chief counsel on oversight and investigations on the House Government Reform Committee.


i guess this is more cronyism than a question of competence...

Posted by: thisspaceavailable on June 6, 2006 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

OT

People who richly (heh) deserve to not only be thrown out of the Senate but read out of the Democratic Party:

A Sad Estate of Affairs
The debate over the estate tax has offered an opportunity for Democrats to pounce. So why havent they?

>>Republicans also want to get this done fast before the newly appointed Treasury secretary, Henry M. Paulson, chief executive of Goldman-Sachs, faces potentially embarrassing confirmation hearings. Paulson is allegedly a deficit hawk. With a personal net worth of about $700 million, he's also a poster child for why the super-rich can well afford to have their estates taxed.

>>Republicans also want to get this done fast before the newly appointed Treasury secretary, Henry M. Paulson, chief executive of Goldman-Sachs, faces potentially embarrassing confirmation hearings. Paulson is allegedly a deficit hawk. With a personal net worth of about $700 million, he's also a poster child for why the super-rich can well afford to have their estates taxed.

>>Three other wavering Democrats are Ken Salazar of Colorado, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, and Mark Pryor of Arkansas. These "red" states are conservative on social issues, but what does their average citizen gain from estate-tax repeal?

Where does Mary Landrieu think the money will come for Louisiana's flood defenses if Congress keeps gutting the tax code? The average Arkansan can only dream of worrying about the estate tax, but lead promoters of repeal are the Arkansas-based Walton family billionaires of Wal-Mart fame.


By Robert Kuttner A Sad Estate of Affairs
The debate over the estate tax has offered an opportunity for Democrats to pounce. So why havent they?

>>Republicans also want to get this done fast before the newly appointed Treasury secretary, Henry M. Paulson, chief executive of Goldman-Sachs, faces potentially embarrassing confirmation hearings. Paulson is allegedly a deficit hawk. With a personal net worth of about $700 million, he's also a poster child for why the super-rich can well afford to have their estates taxed.

>>Republicans also want to get this done fast before the newly appointed Treasury secretary, Henry M. Paulson, chief executive of Goldman-Sachs, faces potentially embarrassing confirmation hearings. Paulson is allegedly a deficit hawk. With a personal net worth of about $700 million, he's also a poster child for why the super-rich can well afford to have their estates taxed.

>>Three other wavering Democrats are Ken Salazar of Colorado, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, and Mark Pryor of Arkansas. These "red" states are conservative on social issues, but what does their average citizen gain from estate-tax repeal?

Where does Mary Landrieu think the money will come for Louisiana's flood defenses if Congress keeps gutting the tax code? The average Arkansan can only dream of worrying about the estate tax, but lead promoters of repeal are the Arkansas-based Walton family billionaires of Wal-Mart fame.


By Robert Kuttner
http://www.prospect.org

Throw Mary off first, okay?

Posted by: CFShep on June 6, 2006 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

Don't know how that post got so jumbled up.

Weird things sometime happen which I cannot account for in the simple act of pasting text.

Sorry.

Posted by: CFShep on June 6, 2006 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

Somebody's arguing that the "best" might not be interested in government careers. Perhaps, but is that a reason to hire the worst instead?

Posted by: Virginia Dutch on June 6, 2006 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

Steve Duncan:
"Qualified people do apply for government jobs. Do the BEST qualified apply? Do people who have paid for an expensive, private college education, paid their dues in the bowels of a couple companies, risen to heights commensurate with their intelligence and skill, then go work for a third or fifth or tenth of what they're worth in the private sector? Does the bursar's office at their children's universities, the mortgage company, the credit card companies or everyone else they owe money reduce their charges to take into account their sacrifice of working for the public good at their government job? My point is however qualified an administration employee is it's likely there are far better people still out there."

Steve, this may surprise you, but there are a lot of qualified, talented people who could fill these jobs who went to public universities. Or should we restrict these posts to people with degrees from the Ivies or Stanford, as is seemingly the case with our high courts?

Posted by: Vincent on June 6, 2006 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

Good thing the press is all over this debacle.

The Fourth Estate has been looted and burned.

Posted by: gar on June 6, 2006 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

Either public or private schools, Vince life isn't cheap. I'd have to have a patriotic/public spirit streak a mile wide and deep to leave a few hundred thousand dollars on the table over several years to help a bunch of bureaucrats shuffle papers fom pile "A" to pile "B". How many great, stellar attorneys are public defenders? Most people want fair market value for their skills. It's no different selling your labor than selling your car. Tell you what, you think people should sacrifice for the public good and part with something of value for less than market value? Back it up, go sell that used 2005 Chevy SUV you own for $5000 below Blue Book and donate the proceeds to the Defense Department. No can do? Where's your public spirit? Your labor, your car, your house, what's it matter? Your point is we should all take less than what something is worth in the interest of public service. Make sure Rummy gets that check, OK?

Posted by: steve duncan on June 6, 2006 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

Can we add Tracy "We have to understand that there is risk throughout the nation" Henke to the list?

I do believe that she's the one in charge of allocating all the anti-terror funding to Missouri, Oklahoma, etc. Her qualification for the job apparently was that at her prior position in the DOJ she edited out findings in a report on racile profiling that indicated blacks and hispanics are subject to more police violence when stopped.

Having found one of their own, the Bushies promoted her to the position of assistant secretary for grants and training at Department of Homeland Security, where she was in charge of the wonderful grant procedure that has so brilliantly diverted money from NYC and DC to the true homeland.

Posted by: Diana on June 6, 2006 at 5:06 PM | PERMALINK

True Diana, government funds diverted to Oklahoma in an effort to keep buildings from getting blown up would be a BIG waste of money.........

Posted by: steve duncan on June 6, 2006 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK


and here's another...

don;t forget

philip cooney..

chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality..until last summer...

he now works for exxon

Posted by: thisspaceavailable on June 7, 2006 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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