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Even After Bush Scandals, GOP Still Politicizing Civil Service

April 22, 2012

This was a very bad week indeed for employees of the federal government. The shameful Secret Service prostitution scandal, the GSA's Vegas boondoggle and the grisly pictures from Afghanistan rightly brought bipartisan condemnation from Democrats and Republicans alike.
But you'd never know it reading the headlines from the AP, The Hill, the Washington Post and other media outlets. In them, Republican charges that the President's "elaborate vacations" (Mitt Romney), "poor management skills" (Sarah Palin) and lack of "managerial leadership" (Jeff Sessions) put the blame at Barack Obama's feet for the misdeeds of civil servants. And as it turns out, many of the same GOP voices smearing Obama now are the same ones who defended George W. Bush's relentless effort to turn the federal bureaucracy into an appendage of the Republican Party.

Take, for example, Rep. John Mica (R-Florida). On Tuesday, Mica acknowledged to Stuart Varney of Fox News that Republicans were using the GSA controversy to "score political points" and label Obama "as a big spender."

"Are you scoring political points?" Stuart Varney, host of "Fox News Your World," asked Mica about the GSA hearings. "Are you trying to link President Obama as a big government spending guy and his big government spending that got us this scandal in Las Vegas? Are you doing that?"
Mica, chair of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, responded simply, "Yes."

Of course, when George W. Bush sat in the Oval Office and his choice to run the GSA Lurita Doan was in the hot seat, Congressman Mica had a different attitude:

"This was a fishing expedition to get you," he told Doan. "What they tried to do to you is what they'll try to do to other appointees," Mica said. "She's been there eight months and they've made this eight months hell for her."

As you may recall, Bush's GSA chief Lurita Doan came under scrutiny in early 2007 for cronyism and impermissible electioneering on behalf of the Republican Party. As the Washington Post recalled on the day of her resignation a year later in 2008:

Waxman's [House Oversight and Government Reform] committee began investigating Doan after articles in The Post revealed that she had approved a $20,000, no-bid procurement order last July with a firm run by a friend who had served as Doan's public relations consultant when she was in private business. Doan said she terminated the order after she became aware that it did not comply with contracting rules.
The committee investigation also turned up evidence that Doan may have violated the Hatch Act in January 2007 by allegedly asking political appointees how they could "help our candidates" at an agency briefing conducted by a White House official, according to several of the appointees present for the briefing.

After inquiries by the Office of Special Counsel Scott Bloch and the GSA's own Inspector General Brian Miller (the same Brian Miller who headed up the probe of Obama's appointee, Martha Johnson), Republican Senator Chuck Grassley led the criticism of Doan. "In my oversight of the GSA, including the Sun Microsystems contract," Grassley said, "it appeared that the taxpayer was not the Agency's top concern."
But he was virtually alone among Republicans and their water carriers. For months, the Post noted, the Bush White House "said it was considering Bloch's recommendation but made no further comment." Former Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) lamented that "the administrator appears to have fallen victim to a bureaucratic culture that fears, rather than rewards, entrepreneurial spirit, innovation and bold leadership." And no one came to her defense more forcefully than one Darrell Issa.

As Political Correction documented at length in June 2011, time and again Issa came to Doan's defense, even going so far as to list her charitable contributions as proof of her virtue. That was hard to do with a straight face, given Doan's pathetic performance in front of his committee. As NPR detailed in March 2007:

In her testimony, Doan preferred to emphasize her entrepreneurial efforts. But Democrats were interested in other things: a contract that she tried to award to an old friend; negotiations with Sun Microsystems, in which she became involved; and, more especially, the briefing. In January, Scott Jennings -- the top aide to White House political adviser Karl Rove -- talked to GSA political appointees about the 2006 election results and the Republican goals for 2008.
In one exchange, the lead-off questioner for committee Democrats, Iowa freshman Rep. Bruce Braley, a former trial lawyer, asked Doan, "Would you characterize his presentation as a purely factual presentation about the results of the 2006 election?"
Doan replied, "I'm a little bit embarrassed to admit this, but I can say I honestly don't have a recollection of the presentation at all."

(You may have a recollection of that presentation. After all, slides showing the GOP's top 20 target seats for the 2008 election were made public.)
Nevertheless, Darrell Issa, the same man who accused Valerie Plame of perjury, attacked the families of murdered Blackwater employees and accused Joe Sestak of Hatch Act violations, defended Doan as a victim. During a March 2007 Oversight Committee hearing, Issa defended Doan. As NPR reported:

Republicans stuck up for Doan. Darrell Issa of California noted that she has been running GSA for just eight months: "In your eight months, I think you've probably found what I found in my nearly seven years now: That this is a bureaucracy that will resist you at every point, isn't it?"
Doan's reply: "You're absolutely right."

For her part, the loyal Bushie Lurita Doan repaid the favor. In October 2008, Doan attacked the man Issa would eventually replace. "Most Americans have grown familiar with your lack of candor, misleading statements, and bitter partisan machinations, and certainly, your report serves as yet another example of the same ol' same ol' from Henry Waxman." And In January 2011, Doan reemerged on the pages of Townhall to praise "Issa's Early Effect".
And despite having resigned in disgrace, Lurita Doan has been resurrected by Fox News to serve as an expert of the GSA scandal. Criticizing the Obama administration for fostering a "culture of excess," Doan accused the White House of trying to "pin it all" on "Jeff Neely, who's a career SES, senior executive service employee."
As for Darryl Issa, he's doing what Darrell Issa does. Issa, who in 2010 called Barack Obama "one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times," is leading the GOP effort to use the combined GSA, Secret Service and Solyndra imbroglios to paint Obama as incompetent and dishonest. The Darrell Issa demanding White House Solyndra documents now is the same man who led the successful House GOP effort to block Democratic demands to subpoena Dick Cheney's secret energy task force. And Issa was not only a central figure in the Bush administration's U.S. attorneys scandal, but defended confessed Hatch Act violator Monica Goodling by laughably proclaiming, "you chose to be non-partisan very often."
Of course, for President Obama's Republican inquisitors, the operation of the federal civil service is never a non-partisan issue.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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