What an odd thing to say at this moment in history

The fuss over her tweets seems rather silly.

The fuss over her tweets seems rather silly.

The headline attracted me: “Why should Neera Tanden have to be confirmed by the Senate, anyway?

I’m not particularly interested in the case of Ms. Tanden, or the job she has been nominated to fill (it has to do with money, right?). But I was interested to see what sort of argument would be presented, and whether it had any merit.

After all, a case can be made that this or that office shouldn’t require the Senate’s advice and consent. As this author points out, the president’s chief of staff doesn’t have to be confirmed, so why should a functionary such as this one? And of course, it’s absurd how long it takes a new president to get his team in place. If there are legitimate ways to accelerate the process, let’s discuss them. As this author says, “Posts can go unfilled for months or even years. This keeps a president from doing what he was elected to do.”

(“This author,” by the way, is one Henry Olsen, with whom I was not familiar — even though he is apparently something of a regular in the Post. I guess his past headlines haven’t awakened my curiosity.)

Anyway, he was cooking along fairly well, even though he was edging close to problematic territory in the fourth graf, which begins, “These concerns were justified in 1789.” He’s talking about the reasons why the Framers included advice and consent in the Constitution, and apparently he is attracted to the seductive, modernist (excuse me for using such a harsh, condemnatory term) idea that what was a good idea then isn’t necessary now. But while I harrumphed a bit, I kept going to let the gentleman make his case.

Then I got to this:

It’s ludicrous to think this could happen today. Presidents arise from an extensive democratic process that makes them directly responsible to the people. They build political coalitions from diverse groups that seek to use public power to advance their agendas. These factors constrain the president far more than Senate confirmation. These considerations, along with the 22nd Amendment, which limits presidents to no more than two full terms, means there is little reason to fear that a president can turn the office into a personal fief wielding power without constraint.

Yikes! Trump has only been out of office, what, five minutes? Where has this guy been the last four years? We just lived through a period during which the nightmare foreseen by Hamilton, et al., came to life, to an extent he and the others probably couldn’t imagine in 1789. And everyone knows this! If there is any upside to Trump’s time in office, it’s that he got so many people to go back and read the Federalist Papers, because they realized we had before us such a lurid example of what those guys were on about.

What an extremely odd time to say such a thing!

Look, I don’t care whether this woman becomes head of the OMB or not. Personally, if Joe wants her, I’m inclined to give her the job, and the fuss over her past tweets seems pretty silly, but it’s not an important issue the way, say, Merrick Garland’s nomination as attorney general is.

But dang, if you’re going to argue that people nominated for this position shouldn’t have to undergo confirmation, then do it in a way that doesn’t make us think you spent the last four years in a cave!

I’ve got to go back and read that bit again: “Presidents arise from an extensive democratic process that makes them directly responsible to the people.”

Oh, let’s take a look at what those “people” — 74 million of whom voted for the guy again — are up to now… Have you seen this video from the CPAC gathering? Oh yeah, these people are gonna keep this guy accountable…

6 thoughts on “What an odd thing to say at this moment in history

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    In fairness to Mr. Olsen, he makes more legitimate remarks about the differences between 1789 and now, such as the fact that our government is larger and more sclerotic now than it was then, so there’s more reason to try to move things along more efficiently: “Depriving a president of the personnel needed to run these agencies means old policies that may have been explicitly rejected by voters during the election remain in place. That’s not good for democracy.”

    And he ends fairly well:

    Senate confirmation of judges, who serve for a lifetime and interpret our laws and Constitution, ensures that judicial power is wielded only with broad public consensus. For everything else, the president should get to pick his staff and let the people judge whether they like the result.

    But that bit that inspired this post kind of blew my mind…

  2. James Edward Cross

    It seems reasonable that the permanent members of the cabinet–the Secretaries of State, Treasury, Defense, et al.–should go through the confirmation process since they are in the line of succession. Cabinet-level officials, such as the Director of OMB or the Ambassador to the U.N. should not have to be confirmed since they are not in the line of succession and the President determines these additional positions unless the law establishing the position requires confirmation.

  3. bud

    I would eliminate the confirmation hearings. Send the nominees directly to the senate then have a brief debate and vote. The hearings are just a gigantic waste of time.

  4. Mark Stewart

    Mick Mulvaney held this position. Nothing more need be said.

    I agree, the confirmation process for hundreds of executive positions is just a way for the Senate to put more politics on its plate. It is a waste of time, even if a few stinkers slip through without a confirmation process; that happens now anyway with one.

    Anyone in the line of succession or serving as the head of a major cabinet department ought to be vetted; the rest are functionaries doing the President’s bidding.


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