The recent confrontation over the appointment of the director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency once again brings up the value and appropriateness of the "advice and consent" role of the Senate.
As one who served as chairman of the General Advisory Committee to ACDA under President Nixon and as a committee member under President Carter, I appreciate the present confrontation. My appointment, which needed the "advice and consent" of the Senate, was opposed by then chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, J. William Fulbright. At the same time, I was strongly supported by Sen. Strom Thurmond. An interesting fact is that I have to this day never met or spoken with Fulbright and only met Thurmond at a reception two years ago.
The confrontation over my appointment was resolved by compromise. Carl Marcy, Fulbright's staff assistant, was added to the membership of the General Advisory Committee and my nomination and that of the other nominees was approved by the full Senate with no interference or further debate. I might add that Marcy served with distinction with the rest of the members of the committee. And when President Carter was elected, we all resigned. President Carter chose to renominate several of us to serve during his presidency.
In my opinion, the "advice and consent" procedure of presidential nominee should be required only for those appointments whose terms may exceed that of the president and for those who do not serve solely at the pleasure of the president. Obviously, appointments of those officials in the judiciary, the military, and members of boards and agencies whose terms are of indefinite length, such as justice of the Supreme Court, should be reviewed by the Senate and receive close scrutiny.
However, the president should have complete freedom to select those officials who will be part of his term and serve solely at his pleasure. The success and tenure of his presidency will be determined by the caliber and effectiveness of his appointees. An appointee who survives but is badly mauled by the Senate process will never be as effective a public servant as would that same individual have been had he simply been appointed.
In addition, the Senate can better serve the nation by spending its time on more substantive issues than reviewing the qualifications of an individual whom they would know of only through their staffers' sometimes prejudiced political analysis.
Another advantage that would accrue to the nation by allowing the president to choose his own team without prolonged debate would be that the agencies and departments would have their leadership in being soon after the president assumes his responsibilities. Even today, with more than two years of this administration over, some agencies do not have their key personnel in place. As we have witnessed in all administrations, a prolonged deliberation on the part of the Senate in no way ensures that the appointee will remain in that position for the duration of the presidency. They may subsequently resign for personal or political reasons. In addition, many capable individuals who might serve may be reluctant to take the risk of being rejected or defamed by nonrelevant or false accusations.
The time is long overdue to reexamine the advice and consent role of the senators and to have them concentrate their time and wisdom on those potential appointees who do not serve at the pleasure of the president but whose terms, because of their statutory nature, may extend into succeeding presidential eras. They could then concentrate their endeavors on those issues that are of real concern to the citizens of the United States and even to those in the rest of the world. Today, the time spent on reviewing presidential nominees is ridiculous in comparison with their importance to real legislative issues facing this nation.
A reasonable analysis of past presidential appointees who survived the Senate's scrutiny would indicate that less than a third fulfilled one's expectations for excellence, a third filled what otherwise would have been a vacuum, and the remainder had never been heard of before their confirmation--or since. So much for advice and consent.