June 25, 2004

This is one Augean Stable that's not gonna be cleaned...

Every now and then I read someone who says, "Why doesn't Bush clean house at the State Dept?" Or, "Why doesn't Powell crack the whip over his contumelious subordinates?" God knows it needs to be done, but, in fact, it can't be done. Joel Mowbray explains why:

...Common sense would dictate that the President of the United States would have the ability to shape his entire administration, including his foreign policy team.

But when it comes to the State Department, common sense doesn’t apply. Even most senior positions are filled by careerists, people who do not change from one administration to the next. And because of union rules that even Jimmy Hoffa never would have had the guts to demand, State’s career Foreign Service employees can’t be fired by the Secretary of State—even for a felony conviction.

Sounds crazy, yet it is sadly true. Clinton’s Secretary of State Warren Christopher ignored personnel policy and fired a woman who had plea-bargained to a felony count—of defrauding the State Department. She sued, she won, she got her job back, and got back pay. Why? Because, the court ruled, the Secretary of State can’t fire even a convicted felon.

To add one more level of institutionalized insanity, the Secretary of State does not even have any authority over personnel decisions, except for the small percent that are considered politically-appointable. All hiring, firing, transferring, and promoting is done by a panel of senior Foreign Service Officers (FSOs).

This presents very real political problems, especially when current FSOs harbor as much contempt for Bush as the 26 signers of the letter explicitly endorsing the defeat of the President come November...

State Department toads feel perfectly free to sabotage America's foreign policy, thumb their noses at the President, and indulge their love for murderous dictators er, ahem, stability at all costs...and in general, like liberal elitists everywhere, scorn the wishes of voters, especially American voters.

I'm going to give Colin Powell a lot more sympathy and understanding in the future. (thanks to Betsy Newmark)

Posted by John Weidner at June 25, 2004 5:26 PM
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