Originally created 01/02/01

Lame-duck abuse



Imagine this scenario: The vilification campaign being mounted by leftist Democrats and their media chatter-boxes against Attorney General-designate John Ashcroft is successful and he fails U.S. Senate confirmation. Then when Congress leaves town, President Bush makes Ashcroft the A.G. via a recess appointment.

You'd never hear the end of it - a gross, outrageous abuse of the president's recess power. A fulminating Jesse Jackson and his Rainbow followers would march on the Justice Department every day.

Yet the issue here would not really be about the abuse of the recess appointment. It would be about what president abused that power and for what purpose. President Bush's abuse of it to make Ashcroft attorney general would be terribly wrong, but President Clinton has used several recess appointments that his friends on the Left have wildly applauded.

The most prominent one was naming quota-obsessed Bill Lann Lee to Justice's top civil rights post in 1997 when the Senate wouldn't confirm him. Recess appointments are supposed to be temporary, but Lee is still there enforcing his racial spoils system. (Many constitutional scholars, including the Democrats' esteemed "dean of the Senate," Robert Byrd of West Virginia, say Lee's extended tenure is a blatant violation of the law.)

The latest example of recess abuse is Clinton's just-announced naming of Virginian Roger Gregory to the 4th U.S. Circuit of Appeals. Gregory may make a fine judge, but that's not the point.

Gregory was named because he's black and because a lame-duck president seeks to score a partisan hit on the incoming GOP administration. The appointment will immediately put the Bush team on the defensive regarding the sensitive issue of race.

To blazes with the Senate. To blazes with the Constitution. To blazes with calming racial tensions. When the race card serves its interest, the Left is never loath to play it.

What an awful precedent Clinton's abuse of recess appointments sets. Let's hope it's not followed by future presidents, whatever their ideology or party. If a President Bush can't get a Cabinet or judgeship nominee confirmed, he should find someone else who can be. Don't game the system or, more importantly, make a travesty of the Constitution.