Correction to This Article
After the publication of this column, Victorville Daily Press reporter Tatiana Prophet said in an interview that she was wrong when she described New York Times reporter Jim Rutenberg as "kneeling in the desert dust" at a Bush photo opportunity. It was therefore incorrect to describe Rutenberg's behavior as constituting physical abasement.

A Poke in the Eye at Recess

By Dan Froomkin
Special to
Thursday, April 5, 2007; 3:58 PM

When the White House suddenly and unexpectedly withdrew Sam Fox's nomination to be ambassador to Belgium last week -- just minutes before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was set to vote against him -- it was seen as a sign that President Bush might be reconciling himself to the realities of sharing power with a Democratic-controlled Congress.

Democrats, who had denounced Fox for his 2004 donation to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, applauded the White House for its graceful concession.

But it turns out that conceding gracefully was the last thing President Bush had in mind. He was just sick of going through the motions.

Yesterday, with the Senate on a one-week Easter break, the White House bypassed those balky Democrats and granted Fox a "recess appointment." While depriving the multi-millionaire St. Louis businessman of a government salary, the appointment nevertheless lets him hold office for the rest of Bush's term.

The Coverage

The Fox appointment was one of three controversial recess appointments quietly announced by the White House yesterday.

Jim Rutenberg writes in the New York Times: "President Bush used the Congressional recess on Wednesday to push through his choice to be ambassador to Belgium and to fill two domestic policy positions, provoking Democratic ire with all three appointments. . . .

"Mr. Fox donated $50,000 to the group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth that opposed Senator John Kerry during his 2004 presidential campaign. The group attacked Mr. Kerry's record in the Vietnam War with advertising that included unsubstantiated accusations that he had not earned his war medals.

"'It's sad but not surprising that this White House would abuse the power of the presidency to reward a donor over the objections of the Senate,' Mr. Kerry said Wednesday in a statement. 'Unfortunately, when this White House can't win the game, they just change the rules, and America loses.'"

Tabassum Zakaria writes for Reuters: "The appointment of Fox during the Senate's week-long spring break infuriated Democrats and threw the gauntlet down in yet another arena of discord."

Susan Page and David Jackson write in USA Today: "Bush spokesman Tony Fratto said the president wasn't trying to provoke Democrats with the appointment and called some senators 'very supportive, even Democrats.' He declined to name them.

"Louis Fisher, a constitutional-law specialist at the Library of Congress, says Bush's move 'is to show he still has some unilateral power' despite second-term travails. However, he adds, 'There's always a price for this' in souring relations with Congress."

Al Kamen writes in The Washington Post: "Since the nomination was not before the Senate, the White House said Fox, who is a wealthy developer in St. Louis, will serve without pay in his post, although some Democrats had suggested that may not be permissible.

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