Where Are Obama’s Nominees?

James Oliphant writes in the LA Times about President Obama’s difficulty getting judges confirmed. Republican obstructionism is part of the problem, but so is Obama himself:

During President Obama’s first year, judicial nominations trickled out of the White House at a far slower pace than in President George W. Bush’s first year. Bush announced 11 nominees for federal appeals courts in the fourth month of his tenure. Obama didn’t nominate his 11th appeals court judge until November, his 10th month in office.

Moreover, Obama nominees are being confirmed at a much slower rate than those of his predecessor, largely because of the gridlocked Senate.

….Other matters have clearly taken priority in the Obama White House, including healthcare and economy. Obama’s top lawyer, Gregory Craig, who departed in November, was consumed with issues such as the Guantanamo Bay prison. The judicial nomination machinery has cranked up under his successor, Robert Bauer, and now the administration is trying to make up for lost time. The White House named two new appeals court judges just last week.

This is something I just don’t get. Sure, the White House has been busy with stimulus and healthcare and climate change and financial reform. But judges get vetted by a whole different group of people. Did Craig, all by himself, really hold up things that much? Aren’t there other staffers and DOJ folks who can keep this sort of thing rolling with only occasional input from the top folks?

What’s more, it’s not just judges. As Jonathan Bernstein pointed out a week ago, “The problem of unfilled executive branch positions is to some extent the Senate’s fault, but to a much larger extent Barack Obama’s fault. It’s hard to blame the Senate for failing to confirm people who haven’t been nominated….In my view, this has been Obama’s biggest failure as a president to date.”

So here’s an assignment desk for our nation’s press corps: stop writing profiles of Rahm Emanuel and instead give us a really good look inside the White House appointment process. Is Obama himself the problem? His staff? Is it really getting hard to find good people willing to serve, as goo-goo types have been warning about forever? What’s really going on there?

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