THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION'S INORDINATE FONDNESS FOR BUSH-ERA APOSTATES
You've probably heard that James Comey, the Bush-era Justice Department official who's been chosen to head the FBI by President Obama, was under serious consideration for the FBI post in 2011, before Robert Mueller was given a two-year extension. But did you know that some officials in the Obama White House were recommending Comey for the Supreme Court in 2009? So this has been a long courtship.
I understand why Comey has some appeal -- he interceded to prevent Alberto Gonzales and Andy Card from bypassing a hospitalized John Ashcroft to reauthorize warrantless wiretapping. But I'm reminded of Obama's appointment of Eric Shinseki as secretary of veterans affairs, a choice that seems to have been made largely because Shinseki publicly disputed Donald Rumsfeld's assertion that he could handle the consequences of the Iraq invasion with well under 200,000 troops. I'm also reminded of the decision to appoint Republican war critic Chuck Hagel as defense secretary. Defying the Bush administration and GOP from within counts for a lot in the Obama White House.
The Shinseki appointment has been a disappointment, of course -- his response to the backlog in processing veterans' benefit claims has been woefully inadequate. It's too soon to judge Hagel, of course.
On the surface, this has been a very bipartisan administration -- Obama's worked with Robert Gates and John Brennan and Jon Huntsman and David Petraeus and Ray LaHood. It hasn't helped Obama much -- Republicans hate "RINOs" almost as much as they hate Democrats. Appointing a Republican may make the approval process marginally easier for Obama, but it doesn't diminish the suspicions of angrier Republican officeholders or the GOP rank-and-file.
But the Obama administration clealy thinks this is a good approach. The New York Times notes that other candidates who were considered for the FBI post in 2011 were Ray Kelly (Mike Bloomberg's police commissioner), Patrick Fitzgerald (another GOP hero to liberals when he was prosecuting Plamegate), and Kenneth Wainstein (George W. Bush's last homeland security advisor).
I guess Comey will have a relatively smooth approval process (although I wonder if e'll hear about the moment when he was sent out by the Bush administration to criticize a proposed reporter shield law). But it all makes me wonder: who's going to be Obama's next Supreme Court pick? Chris Christie?