Fail­ure to fill key po­si­tions alarm­ing

The Republican Herald - - COMMENTARY - The SeaT­Tle TimeS

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump ap­pears to make de­ci­sions by not mak­ing de­ci­sions.

Last week, Trump an­nounced to the U.N. Gen­eral As­sem­bly that the United States was pre­pared to “de­stroy” North Korea if nec­es­sary, a provo­ca­tion all the more jar­ring given Amer­ica’s nu­clear arse­nal.

If only we had an ac­tual U.S. am­bas­sador to South Korea to nav­i­gate the cri­sis — we don’t.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion’s dis­re­gard for fill­ing am­bas­sador­ships and crit­i­cal State De­part­ment posts is in­creas­ingly dis­turb­ing.

The Part­ner­ship for Pub­lic Ser­vice spon­sors a “po­lit­i­cal ap­pointee tracker,” which shows that out of 601 ex­ec­u­tive po­si­tions re­quir­ing U.S. Se­nate con­fir­ma­tion, more than half have no nom­i­nee.

The list goes on, from the lo­cal Small Busi­ness Ad­min­is­tra­tion to the U.S. Mar­shal’s of­fice, the lat­ter slot still un­filled from former Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s time. In­sid­ers re­port progress on the ap­point­ment of a U.S. At­tor­ney for West­ern Wash­ing­ton, although one chal­lenge is com­pre­hend­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s de­ci­sion tree. A U.S. at­tor­ney ap­point­ment is usu­ally the baili­wick of the At­tor­ney Gen­eral. Se­nate staffers say that the process is com­pli­cated by pow­er­ful voices within the White House, a co­terie of ide­o­logues who of­ten cre­ate a log­jam.

The lack of ap­point­ments is not a worst-case sce­nario. Ca­reerists fill most of the po­si­tions in an act­ing ca­pac­ity, which means that busi­ness moves for­ward and an agency’s mis­sion isn’t freighted with pol­i­tics du jour. The Na­tional Oceanic and At­mo­spheric Ad­min­is­tra­tion, for ex­am­ple, is more of a ca­reer-path­way ap­point­ment, as it should be. It also would be pru­dent for fu­ture EPA ap­pointees to be apo­lit­i­cal, with science trump­ing quid pro quo pol­i­tics.

For now, po­lit­i­cal norms dic­tate the need for ex­ec­u­tive lead­er­ship.

Whether this is strate­gic inat­ten­tion or just gar­den­va­ri­ety inat­ten­tion, it doesn’t mat­ter. The pres­i­dent needs to get mov­ing on his ap­point­ments.

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