Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Heckuva job, Claudie

The case of Claude Allen, the former Bush domestic policy advisor who has been arrested and charged with committing fraud at least 25 times at a Target store, is basically a personal tragedy with no political resonance. Just because a guy who helped craft the State of the Union speech allegedly spent his spare time conning money out of a retail chain, that shouldn't be held against President Bush, or cited as fresh evidence of administration incompetence.
But hang on a second. The Claude Allen affair has thrown a fresh spotlight on the personnel decisions of the administration, particularly the documented ways that it frequently tries to insert its people into critical jobs for which they are not qualified.
Katrina, of course, exposed the fact that Michael Brown's qualifications to helm FEMA consisted of his previous tenure at the International Arabian Horse Association. Last month, we also had the case of George Deutsch, the NASA official who was preventing the agency's top scientists from publicly discussing global warming; it turned out that 24-year-old Deutsch's qualifications consisted of working hard on Bush's 2004 reelection campaign, and graduating from Texas A & M (wait, no, it turns out that he never graduated, despite what his resume said).
This brings us to Claude Allen.
Tracing the arc of success that brought him to the West Wing, we find this little nugget: Bush in 2003 tried to make Allen a federal judge on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Guess how many times Allen, as an attorney, had acted as lead counsel in a case? The answer: One time. And guess how many years he had practiced as an attorney? Seven and a half -- not even close to what the American Bar Association considers to be the minimum number of years (12) for a qualified judicial nominee. On the other hand, Allen was a born-again Christian who favored a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, and who had worked as a press secretary to Senator Jesse Helms and, in that capacity, had once charged a Helms opponent as being aligned with "the queers."
The Democrats ultimately scuttled the appeals court nomination, on the grounds that he wasn't qualified.