It pays to know the president

From a Bush White House that has been plagued by charges of cronyism since its inception in 2000, comes the president’s next Supreme Court nomination – Harriet Miers, trial attorney, former deputy chief of staff, current White House counsel, and a close confidant to President Bush.

With no experience serving on the bench and a drought of available material that could hint at her legal and ideological predilections, the safe assumption is: the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

In the Bush White House, it rarely does.

Most obviously, there is the case of Michael Brown, a former lobbyist, who went from running Arabian horse shows to turning the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) into a dog-and-pony show. Brown was a college friend of Bush campaign manager Joe Allbaugh, who himself was FEMA director during the president’s first term.

Clay Johnson III, the deputy director of the White House office of Management and Budget, oversaw presidential appointments when Brown was nominated to the post in 2003.

Johnson was Bush’s old roommate at Yale. And in an interview with Time magazine this month, he said the White House doesn’t plan on reviewing the way it fills jobs.

Apparently not, as, even in the wake of Brown’s fall from grace, Bush has nominated Julie Myers to head the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, which falls under the auspices of the Department of Homeland Security (much like the embattled FEMA). Myers, niece of retiring chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers, has little experience in the field – she worked under Michael Chertoff in the Justice Department before he became the Homeland Security Chief and she is married to his current chief of staff.

According to the 2004 edition of the “Plum Book,” a report published by Congress after presidential elections to list available government positions, since Bush came to office the number of federal jobs available to political appointees has grown 15 percent to almost 4,500. In the category of appointments that do not require Senate appointments, the number of jobs has grown by 25 percent between 2000 and 2004.

In his Time interview, Johnson went on to say that the White House doesn’t see its cronyism as a problem, but rather as an organized means of more easily carrying out the president’s agenda.

Which brings us back to Harriet Miers. Coming straight off the White House roster, it shouldn’t be hard, despite the “blank slate” that much of the news media have talked about when considering her record, to know where she will fall on a lot of issues.

We do know that she was among the staff that helped the president select John Roberts as his first replacement for Sandra Day O’Connor (a flashback to when the president selected Dick Cheney as his running mate in 2000 after originally commissioning him to help select a veep).

We do know that she has been a long time at the side of George W. Bush; he first appointed her commissioner of the Texas Lottery Commission in 1995. As James Ridgeway, a columnist for the Village Voice wrote on Monday, “Above all, Miers is loyal to President Bush. It’s hard to imagine her putting faithfulness to the Supreme Court above faithfulness to the Bush family.”

And lastly, we know the president isn’t afraid to let the world know: it pays to have friends in high places.