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Published: Tuesday, 4/10/2007

Back-door ambassador

PRESIDENT Bush s recess appointment of an ambassador to Belgium made after it became clear the Senate would not confirm him will further confound the problem of filling important government posts.

American ambassadors are normally nominated by the president and confirmed or not by the Senate. The reason for the two-part process is to forestall any thought on the part of the foreign country that the U.S. envoy does not have the broad support of the United States government.

As with any presidential appointment that requires Senate approval, means exist for the President to short-circuit the system in emergency circumstances. He may make a recess appointment if urgency demands and the Senate is not in session.

Mr. Bush nominated Sam Fox, 77, a St. Louis businessman and major Republican campaign donor. That s not an unusual appointment in that sense, but he is also a man who, in one of the most bitter episodes of the 2004 presidential campaign, donated $50,000 to the notorious Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. When Democrats in the Senate indicated they would not agree to Mr. Fox s appointment, the President withdrew the nomination last month.

On Wednesday, however, Mr. Bush gave Mr. Fox a recess appointment as U.S. ambassador anyway. He can now serve in that post until the congressional term expires, at the end of 2008. To add insult to injury, the Senate recess will end on Tuesday.

Mr. Bush got what he wanted, successfully rewarding the Swift Boaters money man. A problem will ensue, though, if the Senate responds by rejecting the President s future political diplomatic nominations. The result will leave some key posts vacant as administration appointees begin to bail out in the waning days of his term.

America is not at all well served by this action on Mr. Bush s part.

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