Burrowing

November 23, 2008

From the NY Times:

“As the sun sets on the Bush administration, the survival rite known as burrowing is under way. Burrowing is when favored political appointees are transformed into civil servants and granted instant tenure on the federal payroll.

There is, of course, nothing new in this cynical practice. Dozens of political loyalists were burrowed in the final months of the Clinton administration. But the score of Bush burrowers who have so far come to light bring with them the worst pro-industry, anti-regulatory biases that have made this administration such a disaster.”

For example:

“Just weeks before leaving office, the Interior Department’s top lawyer has shifted half a dozen key deputies — including two former political appointees who have been involved in controversial environmental decisions — into senior civil service posts.” (WaPo)

And this didn’t just begin yesterday:

“The Government Accountability Office has long tracked such political-to-career conversions, and it reported in May 2006 that during the first four years of the Bush administration, 144 political appointments were converted to career positions. Thirty-six were at the Health and Human Services Department, 23 were at the Justice Department, 21 were at the Defense Department and 15 were at the Treasury Department.” (WaPo)

Then, in another Washington Post article, we get this:

“The president of the nation’s largest general science organization yesterday sharply criticized recent cases of Bush administration political appointees gaining permanent federal jobs with responsibility for making or administering scientific policies, saying the result would be ‘to leave wreckage behind.’

‘It’s ludicrous to have people who do not have a scientific background, who are not trained and skilled in the ways of science, make decisions that involve resources, that involve facilities in the scientific infrastructure,’ said James McCarthy, a Harvard University oceanographer who is president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. ‘You’d just like to think people have more respect for the institution of government than to leave wreckage behind with these appointments.’

In one recent example, Todd Harding — a 30-year-old political appointee at the Energy Department — applied for and won a post this month at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. There, he told colleagues in a Nov. 12 e-mail, he will work on “space-based science using satellites for geostationary and meteorological data.” Harding earned a bachelor’s degree in government from Kentucky’s Centre College, where he also chaired the Kentucky Federation of College Republicans. And in mid-July, Jeffrey T. Salmon, who has a doctorate in world politics and was a speechwriter for Vice President Cheney when he served as defense secretary, had been selected as deputy director for resource management in the Energy Department’s Office of Science. In that position, he oversees decisions on its grants and budget.”

We’ve just endured 8 years of anti-science, right-wing hacks from Liberty University and Regent University and Messiah College and God only knows where else being made political appointees. They’ve run everything from NASA to FEMA to the EPA. We had kids fresh out of college going from College Republicans at East Jippippee State to running whole ministries of the Iraqi government during our occupation there, with no expertise whatsoever. And it was all “Heckuva job, Brownie.” NASA couldn’t say anything about global warming. The EPA could say anything about carbon emissions. Nobody could say anything about abortion or abstinence education or evolution or the age of the Earth (because, after all, the age of the Earth is a political position, not a fucking FACT). We were forced to tolerate the anti-science, anti-reality, pro-Jesus crowd with the understanding that when we won the election in 2008, they’d be gone. But as it turns out, they won’t be gone after all. They’re being converted from political appointees to civil servants, into positions that are supposed to be reserved for career experts. And the Obama administration is going to have a heckuva time getting rid of them.

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