President Bush has nominated a number of contentious newcomers to join his Cabinet for the upcoming presidential term. Unfortunately, the diverse range of ideological perspectives present in his last Cabinet is notably absent from his new roster of appointees. The nominations for the new cabinet indicate instead that loyalty drove Bush to make his selections. Ranging from White House General Counsel Alberto Gonzales’s ascendancy to the position of attorney general to the shift of Condoleezza Rice from national security advisor to secretary of state, Bush’s new cabinet is comprised almost entirely of loyalists who have gained the president’s respect merely by telling him what he wants to hear.
In promoting Gonzalez, who crafted the legal means to escape the supposedly “antiquated” Geneva Conventions, Bush has signaled that he would prefer to take advice from people he already agrees with over those who might criticize his approach. Considering that the attorney general is supposed to represent the United States, nominating an individual who flaunts international law and condones barbaric practices could further damage the international credibility of this country.
At the State Department, the rational, independent advice offered by Colin Powell will be replaced by that of a Bush loyalist who was a key architect of the flawed invasion of Iraq. Rice, who is widely considered one of Bush’s closest advisors as well as a personal friend, will probably be much less likely to dissent against ideologically driven neoconservative policies. Furthermore, given her strong background in national security affairs and relative lack of diplomatic experience, there is the danger that Rice will operate more as a national security counselor than chief diplomat.
Bush’s new Cabinet reflects a lack of understanding as to what constitutes a sound panel of advisors to guide his governmental policy. Instead of choosing candidates based on merit or experience, the president has employed the spoils system — rewarding those who have previously shown the most loyalty to his administration. Such a system is a clearly divisive adulteration of the bipartisanship Bush promised shortly after his re-election. Reinforcement of the ideological uniformity that drove the major policy decisions during Bush’s first term is a warning shot; the administration does not intend to accommodate opposing views.
Rather than promoting a sound domestic and foreign policy, the new Cabinet furthers the shroud of secrecy within which the White House has already been conducting its affairs. This does not bode well for the upcoming term, as the errors of the current administration during its first term have divided the country, mobilized global sentiment against us and created an inexorable trend towards foreign policy brinkmanship. By rewarding loyalty over competence, even low-level advisors and White House staffers will be inclined to suppress sound advice in favor of the company line.
The heads of the critically important State and Justice departments require a clear understanding of the modern world and the role America is to play — not an unflinching devotion to the political ideology dictated by a select few at the top. This is a lesson Bush seems to have forsaken. In a rush to reward loyal servants, Bush has silenced dissenting opinions within the highest echelons of government.