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Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Malkin Takes Apart White House ICE Appointment; Is Bush Administration Showing Early Signs of Second Term Exhaustion?

President Bush has nominated Julie Myers to head the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency under the Department of Homeland Security. Myers is a former federal prosecutor and has since held several Bush administration political appointments, including a stint as Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Export Enforcment.

More significantly, Myers was Special Assistant to the President for Personnel. None of her political appointments, however, involved managing a bureaucracy as big and dispersed as the 20,000+ employed by ICE.

It appears Myers is getting the appointment in great part because she has all the right connections, among them the fact her uncle is Gen. Richard Myers, the highly respected departing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Defense Department. She was also at one time DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff's Chief of Staff. She also put in a stint on the staff of Independent Prosecutor Kenneth Starr.

Myers may well be extremely competent, but her lack of specific experience with the areas of responsibility entrusted to ICE or with management of a huge career staff bureaucracy has Michelle Malkin steaming: "Oh, give me a ^*&%$# break and a half! This nomination is a monumental political and policy blunder in the wake of the Michael Brown/FEMA fiasco."

Malkin also compiles a quickie compilation of other illustrations of Bush protegees getting plum jobs. It should be noted that all presidents appoint friends and supporters to political jobs in the government. But being a political appointee is not sine qua non evidence of incompetence. Having been a Reagan political appointee, I can attest to having met many who were tremendously talented and some who were clearly in jobs that were way over their heads.

In any case, Malkin is spotlighting a problem that deserves attention. It should also be noted that presidential administrations that get into a second term often begin to show signs of exhaustion that are reflected in a high rate of turnover early in the second term and less aggressiveness on the policy and political fronts.

Putting an inexperienced lawyer like Myers in a position that is highly visible in one of the most political explosive issues on the map - illegal immigration control - may well be an early sign of just such exhaustion in the ranks of the Bush administration.