[Marxism] The claimed irrelevance of presidential appointments

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Dec 9 12:07:42 MST 2008

Monday Dec. 8, 2008 13:51 EST
Gen. Hayden and the claimed irrelevance of presidential appointments

(updated below - Update II - Update III)

A report from U.S. News & World Report today suggests that Obama is 
considering having Gen. Michael Hayden -- Bush's former NSA Director -- 
remain on as CIA Director.  I have no idea whether that report is true, 
but here is what I do know:

(1)  In May, 2006, Barack Obama voted against confirming Gen. Hayden as 
CIA Director. Obama was one of only 15 Senators to oppose Hayden.  In 
his speech on the Senate floor explaining his vote, Obama emphasized 
Hayden's role as Bush's NSA Director in implementing and overseeing 
Bush's illegal warrantless surveillance programs -- programs Obama has 
repeatedly decried as an assault on the rule of law.

In fact, Obama, while acknowledging in his speech that Hayden was 
"qualified," described Hayden -- accurately -- "as the architect and 
chief defender of a program of wiretapping and collection of phone 
records outside of FISA oversight."  Obama said his vote against 
Hayden's confirmation was necessary "to send a signal to this 
Administration that even in these circumstances President Bush is not 
above the law" and "in the hope that [Hayden] will be more humble before 
the great weight of responsibility that he has, not only to protect our 
lives, but to protect our democracy."

If, less than 3 years later, Obama chooses as his CIA Director the very 
same Michael Hayden -- who, during his confirmation hearing, justified 
Bush's illegal NSA spying and said how proud he was to help implement it 
[to say nothing of his (at best) equivocations on torture] -- then it 
should be quite . . . let us, for the moment, say "interesting" . . . to 
watch him and his most loyal supporters explain and justify that.

(2) Until five weeks ago, I literally never heard anyone claim -- in 
either party -- that it was irrelevant who the President appointed to 
his Cabinet and other high-level positions.  I never heard anyone depict 
people like the Defense Secretary and CIA Director as nothing more than 
impotent little functionaries -- the equivalent of entry-level clerical 
workers -- who exert no power and do nothing other than obediently carry 
out the President's orders.

In fact, I seem to recall pretty vividly all sorts of confirmation 
fights led by Democrats over the last eight years (John Aschroft, John 
Bolton, Alberto Gonzales, Michael Hayden, Steven Bradbury) -- to say 
nothing of the efforts to force the resignation or dismissal of people 
such as Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and Gonzales -- that were based 
on exactly the opposite premise:  namely, that it does matter who is 
empowered to lead these agencies and departments, and specifically, that 
their ideology not only matters, but can, by itself, warrant rejection. 
  Nobody ever claimed that Ashcroft, Bolton or Hayden were 
"unqualified."  It was their beliefs and ideology that rendered them 
unfit for those positions, argued Democrats.

When and why did everyone suddenly decide to change their minds about 
this and start repeating the mantra of some Obama supporters that 
high-level appointments are irrelevant because only the President 
counts?   For the people who now make this claim to justify Obama's 
appointments, were any of them objecting during any of the above-listed 
confirmation fights that those fights were wasteful and unjustified 
because presidential appointments are irrelevant?


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