The New York Times, October 11, 2005
The list of Bush appointees who seem to be rising on political connections rather than expertise continues to grow. A recent example is President Bush's choice to head a key office at the State Department that coordinates the delivery of life-sustaining emergency aid to refugees of foreign wars, persecution and natural disasters. The nominee is Ellen Sauerbrey, the former Maryland state legislator and twice-defeated Republican candidate for governor who was state chairman of Mr. Bush's 2000 campaign.
In 2002, Mr. Bush nominated her for another patronage job, to serve as the American representative to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. There she has relentlessly pressed an antiabortion and anti-family-planning agenda at international conferences meant to focus on urgent problems like sexual trafficking and the spread of AIDS.
Ms. Sauerbrey has no experience responding to major crises calling for international relief. As assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration, she would oversee a vital $700 million a year bureau that coordinates with private relief groups and other international players like the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees to set up refugee camps and arrange for adequate food, protection and other crucial assistance. She also would oversee the admissions of refugees for permanent resettlement in the United States. This is a post for an established expert in the field.
Concerned leaders of international relief groups have largely held their fire for fear of jeopardizing the government grants that support their work. But the Senate Foreign Relations Committee should give her careful scrutiny when it gets around to holding a confirmation hearing, perhaps by the end of this month. Before then, Mr. Bush ought to spike Ms. Sauerbrey's elevation, thereby voiding the need for responsible senators to do it for him.
Originally published in the New York Times, October 11, 2005. Reprinted with permission.