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Less Responsibility

March 28, 2010
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So the President made a bunch of recess appointments.  Everyone saw this coming a few months ago, rendering the decision about as surprising as a loss on a 5-team teaser, so I’m having trouble getting worked up about it.  Is it good government?  No, but everybody’s pretty much swallowing this loss because our last President did the same thing about five years ago for the exact same reason.  If it was bad government then, then it’s bad government now, so let’s just go ahead and get past any hypocrisy talking points and talk about something interesting. (Yet another example of the pointless nature of the he-did-it-she-did-it debate.  Those things are piling up—I should start a category for them!)  Here’s an interesting question: why are there so many bloody people that the President has to appoint in the first place?  Richard Shelby placed a hold on 70 nominees last month.  If you’re not a math major, that’s kind of a lot.  This process shouldn’t involve that many people in the first place.  Yglesias:

The number of political appointees in the executive branch should be reduced, the proportion of political appointees requiring congressional confirmation should be lowered, and some kind of express track to an up-or-down vote for nominees should be established. Confirming judges—lifetime members of a coequal branch of government—is one thing, but a president needs to be able to staff his administration.

Drum has a follow-up:

Actually, I’d extend this argument to district court judges too. Just in general, it’s absurd for the Senate to spend time vetting such a vast number of appointees. They should stick to cabinet level positions, heads of a few of the major agencies (Fed, SEC, EPA, etc.), ambassadors, and circuit court judges.

For what it’s worth, it might also be a good idea to have set terms for judges. Say, ten years or so. Long enough to keep them independent, but not so long that every appointment has to be a pitched battle. I’m not quite sure whether this would take a constitutional amendment, though.

That doesn’t sound like long enough a’tall, but I think we’re missing the point here.  We need to do this so we can get rid of the battles?  What about when an irresponsible President appoints a judicial activist and then that judge is on the court for thirty years?  That’s not part of the problem?  Also, I think the odds are pretty bad (like 1 to 7, and that’s bad odds in the sense that you’d have to bet more money to win less money) that the President probably doesn’t do a whole lot of research on most of his many appointees’ backgrounds in the first place.  Does he really have the time, when he’s not playing basketball or drinking O’Doul’s with Joe-Gaine (not that that whole thing wasn’t ridiculous, but why the hell was he there?), that is, to just put in a serious session looking at Alan Bersin’s record?  He probably should, but it seems like he’s got more serious things to deal with.

If the President so busy that he’s putting off trips to Asia so he can try to sell legislation, then he’s probably too busy to do whatever he should have been doing in the first place.  The number of people that office appoints needs to decrease.  Seriously.

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