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Sen. Sarbanes has been a vehement critic of the practice of president's appointing unqualified political cronies to important diplomatic missions
Sen. Sarbanes has been a vehement critic of the practice of president's appointing unqualified political cronies to important diplomatic missions
A TIME FOR A PROFILE IN COURAGE: WILL SARBANES OPPOSE UNQUALIFIED DEMOCRATIC AMBASSADORIAL NOMINEES?
(Washington, D.C.): On Wednesday, 4 May, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to vote on two controversial Clinton nominations to sensitive ambassadorial posts. Sam Brown, to become U.S. representative to the Conference on Cooperation and Security in Europe, and Derek Shearer, to serve as the American Ambassador to Finland. The former was a leading opponent of the Vietnam war who subsequently served as the director of the Carter Administration's ACTION; the latter a long-time "movement" radical who is Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott's brother-in-law and a close friend of President Clinton.
What makes this meeting particularly interesting is the possibility that the fate of these two nominations may rest in the hands of a single Senator -- Paul Sarbanes, Democrat of Maryland. When Brown's nomination was first considered by the Committee on 22 March, it was narrowly approved, 11 to 9, with Sen. Sarbanes' support. Thanks to a procedural misstep, however, the Senator and his colleagues have been given an opportunity to reconsider their initial votes for Sam Brown at the same meeting where they will be asked to act on the appointment of his comrade, Derek Shearer. If anything, the latter may be in more difficulty than the former.
The Sarbanes Standard
Sen. Sarbanes is particularly pivotal because he has, in the past, been a vehement critic of the practice of president's appointing unqualified political cronies to important diplomatic missions. For example, on the MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour on 29 September l989, Sen. Sarbanes denounced President Bush for nominating a number of major political contributors who lacked other qualifications to be U.S. ambassadors:
"I don't mind people's political involvements, in fact, I encourage it. But they ought to have other dimensions to them that warrant being picked as an ambassador. This is serious business and there are important American interests at stake in terms of what our representatives can do in the countries to which they are sent."
On 8 November 1989, Sen. Sarbanes announced to his Committee colleagues that he was "out to put an end to this ... ambassadorial spoils system," leading efforts to defeat nomination she deemed to be unqualified. He and eight other Democrats decried one such Bush appointee -- Joseph Zappala to be ambassador to Spain -- writing in minority views:
"It is now proposed to send an ambassador to Spain who possesses no prior experience or educational background in foreign policy, no particular interest in or knowledge about Spain and no Spanish language ability .... [Given the growing record of] nominees lacking serious qualifications, we ought not let this process deteriorate any further."
In so doing, the senior Senator from Maryland asserted that he was seeking nothing more than compliance with the 1980 Foreign Service Act which stipulates that U.S. ambassadorial nominees, should have a "'useful knowledge' of the language and of the history, culture, economics, politics and interests of the host country." (1) Clearly, neither Sam Brown nor Derek Shearer meet these tests.
The Foreign Service View
Not surprisingly, this is typically the view as well of career diplomats. Tex Harris, president of the American Foreign Service Association, for example, told the Associated Press on 5 November 1993 that:
"In an age of shrinking governmental resources, we can no longer afford the former luxury of bringing aboard generous political contributors to an 18- to 20 month training session on how to be an American ambassador. We have got to choose Americans who have experience and a track record in international affairs. We cannot afford to send amateurs. The age of amateurs is over."
One of Mr. Harris' predecessors Theodore Wilkinson noted that:
"The requirement for Senate confirmation of ambassadors was designed by the founding fathers ... to preclude [just] this kind of misuse of ambassadorships. Explaining [this] requirement, Alexander Hamilton wrote: 'It would be an excellent check upon a spirit of favoritism in the president, and would tend greatly to prevent the appointment of unfit characters.'"
In connection with the nomination of several unqualified republican political appointees, Sen. Sarbanes and his allies in the career diplomatic service have resorted to ridicule: Citing documents prepared to satisfy the State Department's statutory obligation to certify the "competence" of ambassador postings, the Senator from Maryland took to reading identical statements of two hapless Bush appointees each of whom claimed: "I have been known as a coalition builder, able to organize my colleagues and peers to action in support of worthy civic, charitable and political causes."
Sounds Like Messrs. Brown and Shearer
The truth of the matter, however, is that such a statement is about the best that can be said about Sam Brown and Derek Shearer's "qualifications" for their respective nominations. There is, of course, a big difference between the sorts of "coalitions" and "organiz[ing of their] colleagues and peers" that Messrs. Brown and Shearer have been involved in and that with which President Bush's dubious appointees -- and for that matter President Clinton's big donor/ambassadors -- have been associated: Brown and Shearer have worked for the radical overhaul of the American political and economic system. By contrast, the other nominees have used their success in the latter financially to lubricate -- and promote themselves in -- the former.
The following are among the radical ideas, organizational activities and agitation that have apparently earned Sam Brown and Derek Shearer the kind of presidential gratitude usually reserved for major campaign contributors:
* Sam Brown was a prime-mover in the Vietnam Moratorium Committee, and through it, in the New Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam ("New Mobe"). These organizations were instrumental in catalyzing American public opinion against the conflict in Southeast Asia. The latter determined by the House Committee on Internal Security in 1970 to have been under "communist domination.' (2)
* Brown subsequently became -- together with Derek Shearer -- a key activist in the National Conference on Alterative State and Local Public Policy (NCASLPP). According to its own literature, this organization was a "new network...established to strengthen the programmatic work of the Left" and to "end the sense of isolation felt by elected and appointed officials, organizers and planners who share a populist or radical outlook.' (3)
The purposes of NCASLPP were perhaps best expressed by its radical National Conference Coordinator, Barbara Bick:
"There are two categories: revolutionaries, and those who make revolutions work .... You have to have people who know how to run things and develop programs. In a way this is what we are doing .... [NCASLPP assumed the responsibility [for creating through its network] of populist, progressive, socialist [leaders, the beginnings] of a real domestic program that is more than just reform. It is talking about structural change, given the fact that this is a capitalist country. [It is intended to achieve goals beyond reform politics ... a politics of how to change to a democratic, decentralized socialism from a corporate, monopolistic state." (4)
* Brown at one point publicly stated that "I take second place to no one in my hatred of the [U.S.] Intelligence agencies." (5)
* According to a published report in Newsday, while at ACTION, Sam Brown let it be known that he believed "anyone who had stayed in the government while Richard Nixon was president had no moral character whatsoever." (6)
* Like Derek Shearer, Sam Brown has enthused over concepts of "economic democracy" (a term Shearer has, on occasion, acknowledged was a euphemism for socialism) and "workplace democracy." While at ACTION, Brown reportedly told a meeting in the U.S. State Department of the "Secretary's Open Forum "that this is a "concept ill-developed in American society. It is another of the places where we stand to learn from Jamaica, from Tanzania, from Cuba, from Yugoslavia..." (7)
* While director of ACTION, Brown participated in a 25 September l977 rally in New York City sponsored by communist Vietnam upon the occasion of its admission to the U.N. The spectacle prompted respected newsman Eric Sevareid to observe:
"One newspaper describes the gathering as the anti-war movement come together again. It was, rather, that part of the antiwar movement which was not anti-war at all.- it was anti the American role in the war and pro-Hanoi .... Most of those in the New York theater were not celebrating peace. They were celebrating the triumph of communist totalitarianism, which is what they had always been working for in the guise of a peace movement." (8)
* In addition to his own active involvement in NCASLPP, Derek Shearer was a driving force behind myriad other, hard-left organizations including:
The California Public Policy Center (CPPC) -- an institution that was described in the January 1980 issue of Libertarian Review as the "superstructure" for a number of associated radical entities. At various times over several years, Shearer was CPPC's vice president, secretary-treasurer and a member of the board of directors.
The Economy Project of the CPPC -- a project directed by Shearer to promote his theories of"economic democracy." In a November l977 article entitled, "Economic Alternatives -- Fundamental Political Alternatives," Shearer asserted: "My premise is that it is impossible for a Left political movement with ostensible humane values to accomplish its goals without a parallel alternative economic movement."
The Campaign for Economic Democracy (CED)-- a radical movement led by Tom Hayden and utilized to bring Shearer, his hard-left wife -- Ruth Yannatta Goldberg -- and sympathizers to power in the city of Santa Monica in the early 1980s. The campaign's rallying cause was the institution of one of the country's most draconian rent control laws. Shearer served on the board of the CED and is widely credited with having been the strategist behind its insidious platform and activities. (9)
The Foundation for National Progress (FNP) -- an organization that sponsored hard-left research, seminars, conferences and published the radical magazine, Mother Jones.
The New School for Democratic Management -- what Shearer once called"our alternative business school" and"an ideological challenge to the rest of society." Shearer used courses conducted under this rubric and funded by the FNP to promote his "economic democracy" agenda: to provide "the beginnings of a movement aimed at building a more fully human economy."(10)
These organizations have one important thing in addition to having benefitted from Derek Shearer's considerable energies and cunning over the years: They are all associated, in one way or another, with the notorious Institute for Policy Studies (IPS).
The IPS Connection
While the Institute for Policy Studies has gone to considerable lengths over its thirty years of radical agitation to "spin-off' and otherwise disguise its relationships to what it has called "sister organizations," there is ample evidence of continuing associations between them if one cares to look for it. For example:
* the IPS started the National Conference on State and Local Public Policies and its headquarters were for a number of years located in the Institute's offices;
* according to its own internal documents, the California Public Policy Center's Economy Project was funded by a "one-time-only grant from the Institute for Policy Studies."(11)
* the Foundation for National Progress was, according to its internal financial report for 1976, "formed in 1975 to carry out on the West Coast the charitable and educational activities of the Institute for Policy Studies.(12)
* as noted above, the New School was a project of IPS' Foundation for National Progress.
The Bottom Line
What makes these facts so significant is that both Brown and Shearer have, to varying degrees misrepresented their past records and associations to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. For instance, Brown implausibly claimed that he had simply stumbled upon the Vietnamese victory celebration that so inflamed Eric Sevareid and many other Americans while walking the streets of New York.
Derek Shearer was even more brazen in denying any significant involvement with the IPS. the CPPC, the CED, and the NCASLPP when the record clearly shows otherwise. No less astounding are his assertions that he was unaware of the Institute's intimate connections with many of these organizations.
As a result, Democratic members of the Foreign Relations Committee should have ample grounds for rejecting these nominations tomorrow. Not only are they manifestly unqualified for the positions to which they have been nominated, they have dissembled -- if not lied outright -- about their actual credentials.
At the very least, it is hard to imagine that Senator Sarbanes will be able to bring himself to vote for such individuals. Should he nonetheless do so, his past, righteous indignation over deplorable republican ambassadorial appointments nominations will be shown to be but the crassest of partisan posturing. Who knows, it may even cost him some votes, come November.
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1. See Theodore Wilkinson "Let's Take the 'For Sale' Signs Off Our Embassies," Newsday, 5 August 1990, p. 5.
2. House of Representatives Committee on Internal Security Annual Report for 1970, as recounted in Heritage Foundation Backgrounder entitled, "The New Left in Government: From Protest to Policy-Making," November 1973, p. 10.
3. From a July 1975 press release issued under the letterhead of the Institute for Policy Studies.
4. See an interview with Barbara Bick which appeared in the left-wing magazine Communities in its January-February 1977 edition.
5. From an interview with Sam Brown which appeared in the December 1977 issue of Penthouse Magazine.
6. Elaine Gulla Kamarck, Newsday, December 1988.
7. Reported in a column by Patrick Buchanan according to a Heritage Foundation Backgrounder entitled, "The New Left in Government: From Protest to Policy-Making.' November 1978. In response to questioning by Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC) about this statement, Brown did not deny ranking it. Instead, he referred admiringly to a concept of worker participation that it number of American companies arc experimenting with that bears little resemblance to the "workplace democracy" of Cuba or the former Yugoslavia.
8. Congressional Record, 27 September 1977, p. 31215.
9. An op.ed. in the 17 March 1994 edition of the Wall Street Journal entitled, "Aftershocks Jar Santa Monica's Rent Controllers," suggested that the legacy of Shearer's machinations in Santa Monica may have contributed to the widespread destruction of property in that community during the latest earthquake -- property that had not, due to rent control, been improved as it should have been.
10. From an undated New School document entitled, 'Announcing a Business School for Economic Democracy - circulated in early 1977.
11. See the CPPCs '1975 Operations and Litigation Report,' approved on 7 April 1976 at a meeting of its board of directors sa reported in the Heritage Backgrounder "Campaign for Economic Democracy: Part II -- The Institute for Policy Studies Network," April 1981.