By Michael A. Fletcher
Monday, August 6, 2007
D avid Palmer, whose nomination to chair the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission had languished for nearly a year, withdrew his name over the weekend, bitterly complaining that partisanship in the confirmation process has gotten out of control.
President Bush nominated the 19-year Justice Department employee last September to head the EEOC, tasked with policing employment discrimination. But Palmer's confirmation stalled amid allegations that he has been ineffective in his current job, as chief of the Employee Litigation Section of the department's Civil Rights Division.
That agency enforces federal discrimination laws in state and local government jobs. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) said in a letter that under Palmer, the litigation section has filed almost as many cases alleging discrimination against whites as it has against blacks and Latinos combined, even while Palmer acknowledges that minorities tend to be the targets of more discrimination.
The charge echoes others leveled at the Bush administration's broader civil rights enforcement efforts, which have been criticized as deemphasizing enforcement of bias charges made by racial minorities and focusing more on other matters, including religious discrimination.
Beyond Obama's complaint, a group of Palmer's Justice Department colleagues alleged in a letter that he treats co-workers with "disdain and contempt" and was "at least once" the subject of a discrimination complaint.
All of this struck Palmer as nuts. "I have received what can only be called a crash course in how bitterly partisan the nomination process has become," he wrote in his withdrawal letter to Bush.
Palmer complained that congressional staffers probed all parts of his background during two days of questioning but rarely asked him about the EEOC.
"Many of the questions I was asked were troubling," he wrote. "Most disturbingly, one question explicitly suggested that I chose to ignore discrimination against Latinos, a question I found particularly offensive in light of the fact that I myself am the son of Latino immigrants."
Palmer told senators that he has never been reprimanded on his job, and the White House said he has not "violated the employment discrimination laws he himself is charged with enforcing."
Meanwhile, the White House circulated letters in praise of Palmer from current and former Justice Department employees, including onetime civil rights chief Ralph F. Boyd Jr., who called objections to the confirmation "either misplaced or without merit."
The Bush administration was able to keep a lid on the confirmation tussle in part because it paired Palmer's selection with the renomination of Stuart Ishimaru, an EEOC commissioner held in high regard by many Democratic senators and civil rights groups. Senate supporters said the administration had hinted that it would not see Ishimaru's renomination through if Palmer were not also confirmed. The five members of the EEOC serve staggered five-year terms, and no more than three commissioners can be from the same political party.
Emily Lawrimore, a White House spokeswoman, said she could not comment on what Palmer's withdrawal means for Ishimaru's nomination. "We never comment on personnel matters," she said.Snow Says Cancer Strengthened His Faith
White House press secretary Tony Snow, who discovered in March that his cancer had recurred, says the life-threatening setback is also life-affirming. Snow writes movingly about his experience in the July issue of Christianity Today ( http://www.ctlibrary.com/47315).
"Blessings arrive in unexpected packages -- in my case, cancer," the article begins. Snow, 51, thought he had beaten colon cancer two years ago, only to find out it has returned and spread to his liver. But rather than causing him to wallow in self-pity, Snow says, the illness has deepened his religious faith and made him more purposeful about life.
"We don't know how the narrative of our lives will end, but we get to choose how to use the interval between now and the moment we meet our Creator face-to-face," Snow writes.
Snow, who is married and has three children, has undergone aggressive chemotherapy to fight the newly found cancer. And he has said early tests show that the treatments have been effective. The battle has left his hair thinner and whiter, and at times appears to have sapped his strength. Still, Snow continues to vigorously articulate the president's positions.
"We want lives of simple, predictable ease -- smooth, even trails as far as the eye can see -- but God likes to go off-road," Snow writes. "He provokes us with twists and turns. He places us in predicaments that seem to defy our endurance and comprehension -- and yet don't. By his love and grace, we persevere."President Parties -- for a Few Minutes
President Bush made a quick visit last week to the farewell reception for White House Office of Management and Budget Director Rob Portman at Blair House. "Just out for a stroll," he told the reporters in the press pool when he arrived. Proving that his days as a party animal are long gone, he stayed at the bash for 17 minutes -- long enough to determine that the party was "rockin'." He then headed back across Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House.