President Trump’s response? Doubling down on bigotry while showing total contempt for the U.S. Senate.
On Sunday, the Pentagon announced Mr. Tata’s appointment to an acting position that doesn’t require Senate confirmation, with identical duties to the position for which the Senate did not deem him qualified.
Mr. Trump is not the first president to find ways to bypass Senate confirmation for potentially problematic nominees. But for his predecessors it was a rare exception. For Mr. Trump it is the rule: fill influential positions with sycophants who lack even the minimal standing needed to satisfy the generally supine Republican majority in the Senate. There has been a singular and disturbing focus on purging the Pentagon of officials the White House sees as disloyal. Indeed, Mr. Tata’s nomination came after Mr. Trump forced the resignation of John C. Rood, the undersecretary of defense for policy who pushed back on efforts to withhold military aid to Ukraine, an issue that became a key factor in the president’s impeachment. Of the 60 Senate-confirmed roles at the Pentagon, at least 18 are being filled by officials in an acting capacity. Congressional Democrats maintain that this record number of vacancies poses a threat to national security.
Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the ranking Democrat on the armed services committee, rightly called Mr. Tata’s appointment “a flagrant end run around the confirmation process.” In requiring Senate confirmation for significant government positions, the writers of the Constitution sought to put a check on the executive branch and, as Alexander Hamilton wrote in the Federalist Papers, “to prevent the appointment of unfit characters.” Mr. Tata is an exemplar of unfitness: a retired brigadier general who left the Army under a cloud over his extramarital affairs who became a Fox News commentator notable mostly for his inflammatory and divisive comments about Muslims, Black people, President Barack Obama (a “terrorist leader”) and other Americans.
Mr. Tata tried to minimize his comments as a “few misstatements on Twitter,” and Mr. Inhofe attempted to defend him as “not a real tactful person.” But this isn’t a question of a few poorly chosen words. Mr. Tata’s warped worldview and deranged conspiracy theories disqualify him from any position of federal responsibility, as senators understood. Will those senators now allow Mr. Trump to run them over and make a mockery of the Senate’s constitutional role?