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The Dartmouth
March 4, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Cronyism Run Amok

"Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job." So said President George Bush to FEMA Director Michael Brown, shortly before Brown resigned in disgrace due to his agency's poor response to Hurricane Katrina. Several years prior, Brown resigned from his previous job as head of an Arabian horse association, also in disgrace. How did Brownie get his position in FEMA with such a blot on his record? The previous Director of FEMA, Joe Allbaugh, was an old friend of the previous FEMA chief and brought him aboard. Oh well. Given Brown's previous experience, perhaps we should count ourselves lucky that the federal government's response to Katrina wasn't shooting the victims to put them out of their misery. They do it to horses, after all...

Merely one week after the latest public face of Bush cronyism, Michael Brown, resigned in disgrace. President Bush nominated Julie Meyers to be head of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. Given the name and mission of the agency, one might expect its leader to have experience with, say, immigration enforcement and the laws and policies surrounding customs.

Nope, guess again. Instead, she has no experience dealing with these matters. None. Zip. Zero. Zilch. So if not for her knowledge or experience, why was she nominated? Could it possibly be because her uncle is Air Force General Richard B. Meyers, the outgoing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff? Or that her husband is the chief of staff for Michael Chertoff, the chief of the Department of Homeland Security? Granted, Meyers did work on export controls while she was an employee of the Department of Commerce, but this is hardly the same as credentials in customs or immigration law and policy.

But don't just take it from me that she was appointed due to nepotism. Meyer's own words point to the same conclusions. At her nomination hearing, she testified, "I realize that I'm not 80 years old. I have a few gray hairs, more coming, but I will seek to work with those who are knowledgeable in this area who know more than I do."

Here is my suggestion: instead of having Meyers work with people who know more than she does, which is hardly a short list, we should appoint one of them in her stead!

But, of course, hardly content to allow cronyism to stop there, Monday morning President Bush made the ultimate cronyism appointment with his nomination of Harriet Miers to the US Supreme Court. Miers has no judicial experience of any kind, shape, or form. Unlike our new Chief Justice, John Roberts, who argued no less than 39 cases before the Supreme Court, Miers has never made a single argument before the Supreme Court. She is not a prominent legal scholar. How does someone of this caliber get appointed to the Supreme Court? By working for President Bush, in one form or another, for twelve years, beginning as an advisor to his transition team when he was the Governor-elect of Texas. Indeed, she has been one of Bush's most stalwart protectors to date, working to shield him from both legal and political problems.

The American people deserve better than a US Supreme Court justice whose sole qualification is her close personal relationship with the president. In New Orleans, we saw the results of the Bush Administration's cronyism. I hope that the Senate will examine Miers's record, or rather the lack thereof, and send a clear signal that enough is enough.

We can ill afford a Michael Brown with a lifetime appointment.