|By Admin1 (admin) on Saturday, July 14, 2001 - 9:46 pm: Edit Post|
Dissatisfaction with ACTION Head Sam Brown erupted into public view when he fired the Peace Corps Director, Dr. Payton.
BROWN NOMINATION/CSCE Ambassador, Cloture (1st Attempt)
Nomination of Sam W. Brown, Jr., for the rank of Ambassador during his tenure of service as Head of Delegation to the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. Ford motion to close debate.
CLOTURE MOTION REJECTED, 54-44
A pertinent vote on this legislation includes No. 132.
Sam W. Brown, Jr., of California, was born July 27, 1943, in Council Bluffs, Iowa. He received a B.A. from the University of Redlands in 1965, an M.A. from Rutgers University in 1966, pursued graduate studies at Harvard University Divinity School from 1966-1968, and was a Fellow at the John F. Kennedy Institute of Politics, Harvard University, in 1969. His work history is as follows: volunteer coordinator, McCarthy for President, 1967-1968; consultant, U.S. Peace Corps, 1968; Director, Vietnam Moratorium Committee, 1969-1970; author, Random House, 1970-1971; consultant, FUND for Neighborhood Development, 1972-1973; Vice President, Brown's Better Shoes, 1970-1974; Treasurer, State of Colorado, 1975-1977; Director, ACTION Agency, 1977-1981; General Partner, Centennial Partners, Limited (Colorado and California), 1981-present.
On May 19, Senator Ford sent to the desk, for himself and others, a motion to close debate on the Brown nomination. By unanimous consent, the vote on the motion to invoke cloture was scheduled for Tuesday, May 24.
NOTE: The motion to invoke cloture requires a three-fifths majority (60) vote of the Senate to succeed.
Those favoring the motion to invoke cloture contended:
The Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) is an outgrowth of the Helsinki Final Act. This European organization's missions include promoting human rights, advancing democracy and free markets, protecting the environment, and, in a recent expansion of its roles, enhancing continental military security. Mr. Brown has been nominated to serve as America's ambassador to the CSCE, and we believe that he is uniquely qualified to serve in the post.
In fact, he has already been appointed by President Clinton to be the U.S. representative at the CSCE. That appointment does not require Senate confirmation. All we are doing with this nomination is making his official title "ambassador." In the past, the United States has given its CSCE representative this title to demonstrate the importance that the United States attaches to the CSCE, and to ensure that it is adequately represented in this organization. Virtually every other nation's representative at the CSCE has ambassador status. Denying Mr. Brown this status will result in second-class representation for the United States in this vital organization. Thus, whether we confirm Sam Brown or not, he is going to represent the United States at the CSCE; all we are deciding is whether we will lessen United States' influence by denying him the title "ambassador."
Sam Brown has had a distinguished career in both public and private service. As a young man, he was very active in politics, and in organizing opposition to the Vietnam war. His anti-war activities were within the political process, and cannot be construed as being either pro-communist or anti-American. His attendance at a communist Vietnamese celebration upon that country's admittance into the United Nations in the 1970s is not indicative of his loyalties. He attended that conference out of curiosity, and left when its anti-American tenor became apparent. In the mid-1970s, he served as the Director of the ACTION Agency, which oversees both VISTA and the Peace Corps. This position required him to meet regularly with heads of state of foreign nations, to negotiate the role of the Peace Corps in various countries, and to prepare budgets for and assure accountability of the several Federal volunteer agencies under the ACTION Agency's umbrella. Criticisms of Mr. Brown's performance at this agency are unfounded. In the 1970s, Senator Simon (who was then Representative Simon), held extensive hearings on the operation of the ACTION Agency. A few problems were uncovered, but they were long-standing problems that were eventually corrected by Mr. Brown, and the hearings produced no direct criticism of his performance. The final result of those hearings was that Congress decided he was doing an exemplary job, and it increased the agency's budget by 20 percent. For the past 12 years, Sam Brown has been in private enterprise, where he has built a thriving business. He has also remained active in many civic organizations, most notably environmental groups. It is true that Sam Brown has not had military experience, but that lack of experience is not a disqualifying factor. Other holders of this post have not had military experience, and it has not harmed their performance. In fact, in America, the principle of civilian rule over military matters is codified in the Constitution by making the President Commander-in-Chief.
The qualifications that matter for this ambassadorship are a commitment to human rights, democracy, and free markets, and proven leadership and managerial capabilities. Sam Brown has these qualifications, so we are pleased to support his confirmation.
Those opposing the motion to invoke cloture contended:
Sam Brown's gross mismanagement and politicization of the ACTION Agency when he directed that agency, his total lack of experience in security issues, and his questionable loyalty to basic American principles all make him a poor choice for any position in the Federal Government. Poor choice or not, though, we will willingly confirm him for nearly any Federal position at the President's request. We respect a President's right to choose people for Administration positions with whom he feels comfortable, no matter how foolish or offensive his choices may be. However, we cannot confirm Mr. Brown as CSCE Ambassador. That position, especially given the unstable situation that currently prevails in much of Europe, requires a person of unquestionable diplomatic and managerial skills, plus it requires someone with extensive experience in issues of international security. If mistakes are made, millions of people may well die as a result, and tens of millions more may find themselves trapped under communist and other totalitarian regimes. Now is not the time for amateur hour.
We have been delaying this nomination for the past several months as we have quietly tried to convince the President to find another post for Mr. Brown. If President Clinton had been willing to nominate him for an even more prestigious job, as long as it was not as vitally important as this particular post, we would have been able to avoid this public fight. Unfortunately, the President has refused to listen to our concerns, insisting that the only person he will accept as CSCE Ambassador is Sam Brown, which has brought us to this public impasse.
Our first objection to Sam Brown is that we think he is unqualified for any management position. An investigation by the House Appropriations Committee of the Action Agency under Sam Brown's stewardship found that improper procurement practices were the norm, including practices that were in clear violation of the law, such as failing to obtain a Certificate of Current Cost on each contractual action exceeding $100,000. The investigation also found excessive financial mismanagement, including the obligation of $417,000 that had not been approved by Congress. Another problem uncovered was that VISTA grants were being award noncompetitively, with a number of those grants going to friends and former associates of the VISTA Director. The House Appropriations Committee staff also discovered that ACTION regularly violated personnel and salary requirements with improper hiring practices and excessive pay. Given this record of sloppy management, we are not surprised, though we are outraged, that Sam Brown also tried to eliminate ACTION's Inspector General office.
Worse than his inability to manage is his inability to lead. In 1978, Jack Anderson, writing in the Washington Post, said that ACTION employees called him an inept martinet who had destroyed morale at the agency. Dissatisfaction with Brown erupted into public view when he fired the Peace Corps Director, Dr. Payton. Dr. Payton, a black woman who was a former Peace Corps volunteer, was dedicated to improving Peace Corps training procedures and expanding opportunities for black and hispanic volunteers. Mr. Brown, according to the New York Times, had other ideas: "He was eager to use the Peace Corps to reopen contacts with such nations as Vietnam, Mozambique, and Angola * * * He also spoke of a 'reverse Peace Corps' in which third-world nations would send volunteers to the United States to work in the cities. Dr. Payton reportedly was not enthusiastic about either idea." During an $80,000 junket to Casablanca with 30 other high-ranking ACTION bureaucrats, Mr. Brown openly berated Dr. Payton. His attacks culminated with a midnight phone-call demanding her resignation, which she refused to give, after which he went to her hotel room and pounded on her door for a full fifteen minutes, demanding to be let in to continue his harassment. Subsequently, she was forced to resign. Whether one agrees with the ideas espoused by Sam Brown or not, we find it hard to believe that anyone could describe this behavior as "diplomatic." In commenting on this incident, the Washington Post noted that, "The dispute demonstrates a management style heavy on idealism and short on responsibility. A record of mismanagement, inattention, and ineptitude of this magnitude would clearly disqualify an applicant for a position of major responsibility in the private sector."
In our opinion, the "idealism" espoused by Sam Brown is also a disqualifying factor for this particular diplomatic post. His desire to improve relations with radical Marxist regimes, as related in the example above, is consistent with other examples from his past. Perhaps the other best-known incident of Marxist sympathies comes from his heavily publicized attendance at a victory celebration by communist Vietnam upon its admittance into the United Nations. Years after the fact, he now makes the dubious claim that he just happened to be passing by when he saw the celebration, that he attended it on a whim, and that he left when he found that it was little more than a pro-communist rally replete with continued and vitriolic denunciations of American imperialism. However, this description is hardly consistent with the New York Times' contemporaneous account. The Times interviewed him at the event's reception, and quoted him as saying that he "was deeply moved." Frankly, being "deeply moved" by the experience of listening to the spokesman for a Stalinist dictatorship excoriate one's own country is not a quality we look for in American ambassadors.
Sam Brown has made other less publicized statements, and taken some actions, that also make us question his commitment to core American principles. For instance, when he was the head of ACTION, he was quoted as saying that "work-place democracy is a concept ill-conceived in American society. It is another of the places that we stand to learn from Jamaica, from Tanzania, from Cuba, from Yugoslavia." (We imagine that Sam Brown may stand to learn from refugees from these countries exactly how his "work-place democracies" fail to work in practice.) He also urged Congress to delete the requirement that Peace Corps volunteers be instructed in the philosophy, tactics, and menace of communism, which he wrote "was no longer appropriate." Radical, and illegal, activities that were engaged in by VISTA under Sam Brown's stewardship included the training of volunteers to organize "people's organizations" to fight their "real enemies," which were identified as unresponsive politicians, tax assessors, utilities, landlords, government agencies, large corporations, and banks. VISTA volunteers were instructed to give people a "taste of blood." These taxpayer-funded "volunteers" were also used to organize unions, to lobby for leftist causes, and to campaign for suitably liberal candidates for political office, including for President Clinton on one of his bids for the Arkansas governorship. This subversion of a non-partisan Federal agency to advance a blatantly political agenda does not show respect for democratic practices or principles.
With this background in mind, we now urge our colleagues to consider the post for which Mr. Brown has been nominated. The CSCE originally served primarily as a human rights "watch dog" organization. In recent years, that role has been eclipsed in importance by an enormous expansion of its security role in Europe. The CSCE is specifically charged with brokering conflicts, and has been given the authority to commit NATO troops. It has been active in a number of areas in the former Soviet Union and in Bosnia. An even more critical function that it has been given is jurisdiction over the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty and the Open Skies Treaty. Communist and totalitarian forces garnered 45 percent of the vote in the recent Russian elections, Russia has been active in the Baltic Republics and other former republics of the Soviet Union (often without the approval of those republics), and it is actively seeking changes to the CFE Treaty to allow it to increase the stationing of its troops throughout Europe.
Given the volatility of the situation in Europe and the importance of the CSCE in keeping the situation from getting out of hand, one would hope that the President would appoint someone with experience with security issues. However, during his confirmation hearings, Sam Brown admitted that he had no direct experience dealing with Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, the former Yugoslavia, or any other country or region of Europe. The minor diplomatic experience he gained from directing ACTION volunteer agencies did not give him substantive experience in security issues. His one small brush with the type of diplomacy for which he would be responsible for at the CSCE was an instance when he was called upon to assist in negotiating the release of a Peace Corps volunteer who was being held hostage. This experience pales before the enormity of the problems he would likely confront at the CSCE.
Ordinarily, if a President wishes to appoint an incompetent individual, a politically objectionable individual, or an inexperienced individual, we are inclined to honor his wish. To approve a candidate who possesses all three of these qualities, though, for this particular ambassadorship, is more than we can countenance. Many areas of Europe are extremely unstable at present, and we need skillful, experienced hands at the CSCE to help guide them through this turbulent time. This job is beyond Sam Brown's reach. We therefore strongly oppose the motion to invoke cloture.