Congress has been out on recess for little more than a week, and already, Bush has been sneaking in and pushing his agenda through on the sly. This time, the leader of our democracy is sidestepping Congress to put a friend of his with a reputation as an anti-Muslim and an extremist, Daniel Pipes, into the US Institute of Peace — a federally funded think tank dedicated to promoting peace.
Christopher Hitchens, writing for Slate, slams Pipes as “dangerous and unreliable.” Hitchens points out Pipes’ blatantly racist comments towards Palestinians, and cites Commentary magazine’s February 2003 issue in which Pipes attacked road map proposals and used the words “the so-called Palestinian refugees” and what Hitchens calls other “crude tricks of language” to imply there had been no Palestinian disposession.
Mother Jones’ Michael Scherer notes that Pipes sees no need for diplomacy, compromise, or even negotation:
“Like many other Middle East scholars, Daniel Pipes sees a way to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But unlike most of his peers, Pipes sees no room for negotiation, no hope for compromise and no use for diplomacy. ‘What war had achieved for Israel,’ Pipes explained at a recent Zionist conference in Washington DC, ‘diplomacy has undone.’
His solution is simple: The Israeli military must force what Pipes describes as a ‘change of heart’ by the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza — a sapping of the Palestinian will to fight which will lead to a complete surrender. ‘How is a change of heart achieved? It is achieved by an Israeli victory and a Palestinian defeat,’ Pipes continued. ‘The Palestinians need to be defeated even more than Israel needs to defeat them.'”
Scherer notes that Pipes’ extreme views put him at odds with the Bush administration and its stated policies towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — i.e. the “road mad” for peace. As a result, Bush’s nomination of Pipes to a peace-promoting thinktank took many by surprise.
Lawmakers, however, weren’t going to let Pipes slide quietly into his seat. After Bush nominated Pipes to the board of directors in April, several senators managed to stall the vote at the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor, and Pension Committee in late July.
But their triumph was short lived. According to Reuters, Bush is expected to bypass Pipes’ Senate confirmation through a technique called a recess appointment. The technique, though questionable, is constitutional and has long been used by Presidents to appoint nominees sans Senate confirmation. According to Slate’s Michael Brus, Clinton used a recess appointment to designate James Hormel, an openly homosexual man who was none too popular with the conservative right, as ambassador to Luxembourg. Even President John F. Kennedy used it to appoint Thurgood Marshall to the bench during a Congressional recess because he thought that Southern senators might block Marshall’s nomination. Presidents have also been known to use recess appointments to delay a congressional vote until after elections when the nominee faces a friendlier Congress.
So what does this mean for Pipes? It means that Pipes’ recess appointment will be valid until the next Congress is sworn in — which could be as late as 2005.
Lawmakers along with Muslim, Arab, and liberal Jewish groups are lambasting Bush’s scheme and his nominee. According to the AP Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts thinks the Bush administration can do better:
“‘I continue to believe that Dr. Pipes is not the right person for this position,’ said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., in a statement issued Tuesday. ‘His record and experience do not reflect a commitment to bridging differences and preventing conflict. Surely the administration can find someone better to serve on the Board of the United States Institute of Peace.'”
In a press release by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, one expert argues that Bush’s move is offensive to advocates of peace and undermines democracy:
“‘This back-door move by the president is a defeat for democracy and an affront to all those who seek peace,’ said CAIR Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper. ‘Pipes’ appointment calls into question all of President Bush’s previous statements claiming that the war on terrorism is not an attack on Islam and shows total distain for the democratic process.'”