One would think that the problems surrounding Michael Brown — the Arabian-horse promoter who was made director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency — would have tempered President Bush’s appetite for giving important government jobs to people whose chief qualifications are being good buddies, political supporters or just relatives of the president’s. But cronyism and nepotism seem to be thriving in Washington.
Consider Ellen Sauerbrey, whom the administration has nominated to head the U.S. State Department Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration. The bureau coordinates the American response to migration problems caused by war and natural disasters. It also works with international groups on population and reproductive-health issues. Its annual budget exceeds $700 million.
What on Sauerbrey’s resume qualifies her for this assignment? Well, she ran Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign in Maryland, and twice ran for governor of that state. She is eminently qualified to manage Republican campaigns in Maryland, but where do those skills translate into making policy on refugees?
Sauerbrey’s supporters note that she serves as U.S. envoy on women’s issues at the United Nations. That means that she pushes Bush-administration abortion politics on the world, frustrating international efforts in family planning. If anyone needs reproductive-health services, it is refugee women.
Not surprisingly, Sauerbrey has alienated many human-rights groups.
In citing her qualifications to head the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, Sauerbrey told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that she has a big heart: “I think most important you need to have the compassion and caring for helping to protect vulnerable people.”
The last three people to hold this post, which is an assistant-secretary-of-state position, came with considerable experience in refugee affairs. Two of them, former Clinton administration officials Julia Taft and Phyllis Oakley, are urging the Foreign Relations Committee to reject Sauerbrey’s nomination.
We do, too. One of the committee members is Rhode Island’s Lincoln Chafee. A staunch supporter of reproductive rights, Chafee should have few qualms about opposing this nomination, for which Sauerbrey clearly lacks the appropriate experience.