As bears den at the approach of winter, Bush appointees are burrowing into the federal bureaucracy as the transition nears, assuming the protective coloration of real public servants. The outgoing president’s political appointees are converting over to the “career” side of executive agencies and going to ground.
Washington’s keen-eyed naturalists have observed this after previous elections, but there is a great difference today. In prior administrations, many political appointees were actually capable of doing the work they were paid for, so absorption into the merit system civil service made sense. The prime (and often sole) qualification of Bush bureaucrats was ideological purity; Job One was destruction of the agencies in which they were posted, so the actual work could be farmed out to the corporations of plutocrat pals.
We normally subscribe to the adage “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.” While stupidity is certainly an inexhaustible resource, eight years of data indicate the outrageous inefficiency and departmental destruction inflicted by Bush “Schedule C” appointees has been purposive behavior. “Burrowing” is an attempt to extend this losing legacy into the Obama years.
Who has observed burrowing by Bushie bush-leaguers? Only the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Harvard’s Dr. James McCarthy, president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and any journalists who are paying attention.
The Associate Director of the Office of Personnel Management, an appointee himself, takes umbrage. “OPM will enforce merit system principals [sic] — regardless of a candidate’s political affiliation,” says Kevin E. Mahoney, in a written statement that does not inspire confidence in OPM competence. Prior to the Bush administration, Mr. Mahoney worked for a Michigan headhunting firm, Borders, Fidelity Investments, Wang Laboratories, Bloomingdales and Macys.
NotionsCapital has this tip for Bushie burrow-watchers: Look for The OPM Delegation Ploy, in which “Schedule C” (politically-appointed) employees apply for positions and OPM delegates examining authority back to the appointee-led originating agency. Expect that agency’s Inspector General to blow the whistle? Not if the IG is a crony, too.
Burrow-watchers: There’s no bag limit on varmints. Happy hunting.
Image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com.