This week President Obama announced recess appointments of six individuals to fill key administration posts. The White House press office said these were slots “left vacant for an extended period of time.”
“Left vacant” doesn’t tell a fraction of the story. Two key appointments represent a dangerous shift in U.S. foreign policy.
Appointed: Ambassador to Syria, Robert Stephen Ford
Syria has been supporting terrorist organizations since before 1979. When the prime minster of Lebanon was assassinated in 2005, intelligence sources pointed to Syria as the culprit. The U.S. refused to dignify Syria with continued association and withdrew Ambassador Margaret Scobey shortly after the murder.
The worst band of murderers in the Middle East are among Syria’s friends: Hezbollah, Hamas, and break-off groups from the PLO. Today, Damascus is strengthening its ties with Iran.
President Obama knew this recess period was his best chance to bypass security-minded Republican senators and send an ambassador to a known terror sponsor.
This signals a foolish change in U.S. policy. It should be addressed openly and publicly when Congress reconvenes in January.
Appointed: Deputy Attorney General, Dept. Of Justice, James M. Cole
Taking the number two spot behind Attorney General Eric Holder is a man soft on terrorism, and an attack dog sent after Newt Gingrich in 1996 for ethics violations. Gingrich was forced to pay a $300,000 fine because he taught a college course entitled “Renewing American Civilization” at a tax-exempt college — this is very scary stuff.
A few years later in 2002, Cole compared the 9/11 attacks to the drug trade and other domestic violence:
“Our country has faced many forms of devastating crime including the scourge of the drug trade, the reign of organized crimes, and countless acts of rape, child abuse and murder,” Cole wrote. “The acts of September 11 were horrible, but so are those other things.”
After enraging the country with that dismissal, Cole said the terrorists are really criminals in the general sense, and deserving of constitutional protections — legal representation, trial by jury, right to cross-examine witnesses (if any of them are still alive), and the right to present their own defense.
This appointment of Cole allows President Obama to pound one more wide wedge separating acts of terrorism from acts of war, and calling them instead matters of domestic violence.
Is it constitutional?
Setting aside President Obama’s rabid penchant for weakening America, the Constitution does make room for these kinds of recess appointments.
Article 2.2.3 says the president shall have the power to fill vacancies that occur while the Senate is in recess.
Says W. Cleon Skousen in The Making of America, “This provision gives the President the right to make temporary appointments in order to fill vacancies to important positions while the Senate is not in session and therefore cannot confirm the appointments.
“Of course, when the Senate does convene, the name of the temporary appointee must be presented for confirmation, and if no affirmative action is taken by the end of the session, the temporary appointment is terminated even without a formal rejection of the appointee.”
Obama’s recess appointments will expire in about a year unless the Senate acts.
What did the Founders say?
Alexander Hamilton was supportive of the power. In Federalist Paper No. 67 he said: “As it would have been improper to oblige this body [Senate] to be continually in session for the appointment of officers, and as vacancies might happen in their recess . . . the succeeding clause is evidently intended to authorize the President, singly, to make temporary appointments.”
Archibald MacLaine (a patriot from North Carolina) expressed concern that important national business would be neglected if the president could not continue the work of state after the Senate recessed:
“This power can be vested nowhere but in the executive,” MacLaine wrote, “because he is perpetually acting for the public; for, though the Senate is to advise him in the appointment of officers, etc., yet, during the recess, the President must do this business, or else it will be neglected; and such neglect may occasion public inconveniences.”
Senate approval was meant to prevent the president from subverting the will of the people. Hamilton said “[The Senate] would be an excellent check upon a spirit of favoritism in the President, and would tend greatly to prevent the appointment of unfit characters. . . .”
Presidents have been making recess appointments since the beginning. Unfortunately, the power to sway national policy independent of representation by the people can be significant, dangerous, and foreboding to national security — as demonstrated this week.
Paul B. Skousen is a former analyst for the CIA, an intelligence officer in the Reagan White House, and staffer for Senator Orrin Hatch. He has interviewed on Fox News and was featured by Paul Harvey’s The Rest of the Story about smuggling Oliver North’s shredded secrets from the White House. He is a journalist and published author, and the son of W. Cleon Skousen, author of The Five Thousand Year Leap. He is a national Constitution Coach and senior editor with PowerThink Publishing, LLC. Website: www.powerthink.com. Email: email@example.com.