Why Does the Bush Administration Keep Nominating Hoagland?

At the beginning of last week, Pres. Bush caught almost everyone by surprise when he re-nominated Richard Hoagland as Ambassador-designate to Armenia. Could the President’s advisors be so incompetent as to suggest a controversial nominee against whom a hold was placed in the Senate or did they have a more devious plan in mind? A couple of days later, it became apparent that these presidential advisors were both incompetent and devious at the same time! Their incompetence could be explained by the following facts: They were submitting Amb. Hoagland’s name once again, even though Sen. Menendez (D-N.J.) had placed a hold against his nomination in the last Congress; Since his re-election last November, Sen. Menendez had given no indication that he had changed his mind about the inappropriateness of Amb. Hoagland’s nomination as an envoy to Armenia; After the Democrats won the majority of the seats in the Senate, Senators Menendez and Harry Reid (D-NV), the incoming Majority Leader, called on Pres. Bush last month to withdraw Hoagland’s nomination and propose a new candidate. By re-submitting Hoagland’s name, the Bush administration was disrespecting not only the wishes of the overwhelming majority of the Armenian-American community, but also that of more than 60 US Representatives, more than half the members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Menendez, and, more importantly, the new Majority Leader who had just said that he would not accept Hoagland. If it is so obvious that Amb. Hoagland would not stand the chance of a snowflake in hell, why would the Bush administration re-submit his name? The President’s advisors had already damaged the prestige of the White House by not withdrawing Hoagland’s name when it became clear that the Senate would not approve his nomination. Even more astounding is the fact that Amb. Hoagland did not withdraw his own name in order to save the President and himself further embarrassment! There are probably four reasons why the Bush administration re-submitted Hoagland’s name to the Senate last week: General Incompetence: This is the same administration that has made a mess of just about every foreign and domestic issue they have touched from the war in Iraq to Hurricane Katrina. It is, therefore, not surprising that they have mismanaged Hoagland’s nomination; Misinformed and Misled: Some of the bureaucrats in the State Department were wrongly told that the majority of the Armenian-American community supported Hoagland’s nomination. This is a clear example of selective perception – hearing what you want to hear! Arrogance: Having heard from several Senators (both Democrats and Republicans alike) that Armenia’should not be deprived of the services of a US Ambassador, State Department officials failed to secure the support of the one Senator who mattered the most – the one that placed the hold last year. They also arrogantly disregarded the letter of the new Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid who had told them, in no uncertain terms, to withdraw Hoagland’s name and propose a new candidate. Maliciousness: Not being able to stomach their defeat, Bush administration officials were hell-bent on dealing a blow to the political clout of the Armenian-American lobby. Had Sen. Menendez not stopped Hoagland’s re-nomination last week by placing a second hold, the neo-cons in Washington would have succeeded in damaging the credibility of the Armenian-American community in the nation’s capital. While holds themselves are rarely used in the Senate, it’s even less common that a Senator exercises such a parliamentary maneuver almost immediately after the submission of a nominee’s name by the President. Holds are usually placed weeks later, after a hearing is scheduled, the appropriate Senate committee approves the nominee, and his or her name is submitted for a final vote by the full Senate. In this case, Sen. Menendez placed a hold on Hoagland with lightning speed, within 48 hours of the submission of his name, likely indicating the Senator’s irritation at the White House’s slight against him. Furthermore, instead of succeeding to undermine the credibility of the Armenian lobby, these officials managed to damage the prestige of the White House for a second time and inadvertently boosted Armenian-Americans’ prestige and clout in Washington. Given the long track record of incompetent and arrogant behavior of Bush administration officials, it would not be surprising if they now talk the President into by-passing the Senate and appointing Hoagland as Ambassador to Armenia, when the Senate goes on recess next month. Such a move would tarnish Hoagland’s diplomatic career for having become an ambassador without Senate approval and negatively impact the administration’s working relationship with the leadership of the Senate. A better option would be for Hoagland to withdraw his name from further consideration, and seek a different assignment for his own good as well as that of the President of the United States, thereby sparing the White House further embarrassment.

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