Day 239 – When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Might Want to Think About Making Some Key Nominations.
Photograph by Thomas
Dear Mr. President,
I know you follow the news but may not have time to read it all so I wanted to point out a story this week by CNN, one of your frequent “fake news” targets. The headline of the article is “Trump has nominated 42 people for US attorney. Only one is a woman”.
Following your inauguration, about half of the U.S. attorneys that served during the Obama administration resigned. In early March, you fired the remaining 46 U.S. attorneys. Neither of these occurrences was unprecedented.
It took, however, until June for you to begin nominating replacements, and of the 93 positions, less than half are filled. Only one is a woman and, not surprisingly, “[t]he vast majority of Trump’s 42 U.S. attorney candidates appear to be white.”
If the importance of the role of a U.S. attorney is lost on you, the article reminds us that they “initiate investigations and decide charges. They steer federal enforcement priorities — from drugs to cybercrime to political corruption — and significantly affect who lands in prison, and for how long.”
An almost all white, all male set of U.S. attorneys…do we need to say anything more? Yet again none of this should surprise any of us. It also shouldn’t be news to you that the American public will hold you accountable for these decisions.
And for someone who touts himself as the great decider, there has been an extreme lack of decision-making on the personnel front overall. As we have mentioned here before there are the scores of other critical positions still open in your administration.
The Washington Post and Partnership for Public Service, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, “are tracking more than 500 key executive branch nominations through the confirmation process. These positions include Cabinet secretaries, deputy and assistant secretaries, chief financial officers, general counsel, heads of agencies, ambassadors and other critical leadership positions. These are a portion of the roughly 1,200 positions that require Senate confirmation.”
The Post and the Partnership for Public Service are tracking 599 key positions requiring Senate confirmation. Of these, more than half have no nominee. The totals are 320 with no nominee, 3 awaiting nomination, 158 formally nominated and 118 confirmed.
Some of this seems purposeful. But looking at the list, it seems downright irresponsible.
There are no nominees for ambassadors to Egypt, Venezuela, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Yemen, and South Korea, among others, not to mention, no one named yet to be the Special envoy for North Korea human rights issues.
Also, let’s talk about the number of positions that direct U.S. activities on a regional basis like the assistant secretaries for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, South Asian Affairs or Near Eastern Affairs. Or the fact that Nikki Haley is still missing a deputy representative to the United Nations.
Your answer may be that Secretary Tillerson is undergoing some changes at State Department, some of which may be warranted, but overall more than 40% of positions requiring Senate confirmation remain open at the Department of State.
Or perhaps your answer is that you are limiting the size of government. Or that you have decided to torpedo American hegemony as our relationships with other countries limp along. No longer is there sustained negotiation or even persuasion. Of course the art of diplomacy is MIA in the White House, but it’s also gone around the world including some of the most dangerous and strategically important places.
And even at the Defense Department, there are openings for Senate approved positions including, incredibly, the assistant secretary for Asian and Pacific security affairs!
On the domestic side, vacancies abound at Agriculture, Education, Energy, and in agencies or offices like USAID or the Peace Corps.
In your own executive branch, it should not be a shocker that the three positions in the Office of Science and Technology Policy are without a nominee seeing that they provide “the president and his senior staff with scientific and technical advice, ensures that the policies of the executive branch are informed by sound science and that the executive branch’s scientific and technical work is properly coordinated.” I know I’m not alone in saying it’d be nice to have some of that now.
No one up for Federal Election Commission, Federal Trade Commission, Social Security Administration…the list goes on.
You’re not even giving yourself or the country a chance. No interim appointee or civil servant will make the crucial, long-term decisions that are necessary to move this country forward.
Get the nominations out there.
And to put it as lightly as possible, perhaps you should also be more judicious in your choices. Who worse to lead NASA than a non-scientist climate denier? Who worse to lead the EPA than someone who has sued the EPA 14 times? Who worse to lead Education, HUD, Energy…you get my point.
You said you would hire the best people. We’ll give you a mulligan. There are 50+ openings left for U.S. Attorney, let’s have a re-start there.