|By Admin1 (admin) on Friday, August 24, 2001 - 9:04 am: Edit Post|
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An Uninspiring Peace Corps Nominee
President Bush's intention to nominate Gaddi H. Vasquez as director of the Peace Corps amounts to a missed opportunity. The altruistic agency is a unique diplomatic and humanitarian asset in need of forceful and imaginative leadership. Any number of prominent figures from the foreign policy community, the business world or the nonprofit sector would be thrilled at the opportunity to lead it.
In selecting Mr. Vasquez, someone with a questionable record of accomplishment and a great deal less stature than the agency deserves, Mr. Bush shows a lack of appreciation for the mission and symbolic importance of the Peace Corps. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee should take a close look at this appointment. Upon initial examination, Mr. Vasquez does not look qualified or suited for the job.
Mr. Vasquez, once considered a promising young Republican Hispanic politician, has been a public relations executive at a major California utility in recent years. This was not a chosen career, but a form of exile after he resigned in disgrace in 1995 from the Orange County Board of Supervisors, soon after the county went spectacularly bankrupt as a result of the improper investment of public funds. Unlike the county treasurer, Robert L. Citron, Mr. Vasquez was not charged with any crimes. But a 1996 Securities and Exchange Commission report was highly critical of him and the other supervisors.
Last year Mr. Vasquez transferred $100,000 in leftover campaign funds to the Republican Party, a transaction that undoubtedly helped his chances for political rehabilitation. Certainly this is not the first administration to reward a donor with a plum position. But it is distressing that Mr. Bush views the Peace Corps directorship as a place to park generous donors with mediocre résumés.
The White House may also believe that the dearth of rising Republican stars in California made Mr. Vasquez's rehabilitation particularly desirable. This is a president who is avidly courting the Hispanic vote.
Whatever the White House's motive, Mr. Vasquez is an uninspiring nominee for an agency that needs a visionary leader of unquestioned integrity. Mr. Vasquez has not devoted himself to humanitarian work in the past and has no experience running a large organization. Nor does he have any particular international expertise.
The Peace Corps, established by President John F. Kennedy, is an American presence that is welcomed around the world. Now 40 years old, the agency remains a tribute to a strain of American idealism, a statement about the value of public service and about the obligation of a wealthy nation to help less privileged peoples around the world. Currently 7,300 Peace Corps volunteers are serving in 75 countries, often under harsh conditions.
In the last decade the Peace Corps has expanded its traditional mission of working on development projects in remote third-world areas to encompass such activities as teaching English and management skills in former Socialist countries. The next director will be called upon to formulate a coherent role for the Peace Corps for the new century, and to sell it energetically to the rest of the world, to Congress and to a new generation of recruits. Mr. Vasquez does not appear to be the man to meet this important challenge.