Topic A: The Obama administration's staffing problems

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


White House deputy chief of staff and senior adviser to George W. Bush; Fox News contributor and columnist for Newsweek and the Wall Street Journal

The Obama administration is off to a strong start filling its ranks, having named 75 of the nearly 470 people who need Senate confirmation. But the pace of formally nominating them is moving much slower, with only 45 names sent to the Senate and just 28 confirmed. The administration is unlikely to reach its goal of 100 officials being confirmed and in place by April 1.

Yes, the Obama administration is ahead of the confirmation pace of previous administrations, but it should be. Changes in law and the energetic cooperation of the Bush White House made it easier for Team Obama to get its people in place quicker than any administration in history. There have, however, been many more fumbles than there should have been, generating bad headlines and a slower-than-promised pace in filling the government. For that, the Obama White House has only itself to blame.

The vetting process has been poorly executed and consistently sloppy. Were potential nominees asked the catch-all question all recent administrations have asked about anything in their background that could embarrass the president-elect? Or did this administration simply have an overabundance of office seekers with unpaid taxes or ongoing federal investigations? The White House that hired the Democratic Party's best opposition researcher to work in the counsel's office apparently didn't subject its own nominees to the same level of scrutiny it intends to provide its adversaries.

The Post asked experienced vetters and others to weigh in on the slowing momentum of the Obama White House's political appointments. On Stephen Hess, Norman Ornstein, Larry Sabato, Melanie Sloan and James A. Thurber.

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