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Government by Pique

Bush responds to the resignation of a women's health official by appointing a veterinarian.

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So here are all the liberals going into a giant snit just because President Bush appointed a veterinarian to head the women's health section of the Food and Drug Administration. For Pete's sake, you whiners, the only reason he chose the vet is because Michael Brown wasn't available.

Now the veterinarian doesn't get the job -- just because those professional feminists raised such a stink. What's wrong with a vet? If the mother is having trouble giving birth, you grab the baby by the legs and pull it out -- it's not brain surgery. Then you worm 'em, you tag 'em, and you spray for fleas. Why the fuss?

The only reason Bush even needed a new head of the Office of Women's Health is because the last one, Susan Wood, quit. She was upset because the political hacks who run the agency refused to allow over-the-counter sale of the emergency contraceptive pill Plan B.

True, that decision was made against the advice of the FDA's own scientific advisory panel and will unquestionably result in more abortions and almost certainly damage to some women's health. But why would anyone expect the Bush hacks to pay attention to scientific and clinical evidence, fully evaluated and recommended by the professional staff?

There's a doctoral dissertation to be written about Bush appointees named during the administration's frequent fits of pique. These appointments are made in the immortal childhood spirit of "nanny-nanny boo-boo, I'll show you." Susan Wood resigns in protest over the politicization of women's health care? Ha! We'll show her -- we'll put a vet in charge!

These pique-ish appointments are less for reasons of ideology or even rewarding the politically faithful than just in the old nyah-nyah spirit. You could, for example, put any number of people at the Department of Labor who are wholly unsympathetic to the labor movement, but there is a certain flippant malice to making Edwin Foulke assistant secretary in charge of the health and safety of workers.

Republican appointees who oppose the agencies to which they are assigned are a dime a dozen, but Foulke is a partner of the most notorious union-busting law firm in the country. What he does for a living is destroy the only organizations that care about workers' health and safety.

Here's another one: Put a timber-industry lobbyist in as head of the Forest Service. How about a mining-industry lobbyist, who believes public lands are unconstitutional, in charge of the public lands? Nice shot. A utility lobbyist who represented the worst air polluters in the country as head of the clean-air division at the EPA? A laff riot. As head of the Superfund, a woman whose last job was teaching corporate polluters how to evade Superfund regulations? Cute, cute, cute. A lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute at the Council on Environmental Quality. And so on. And so forth.

The Federal Trade Commission was finally embarrassed enough by demands from Democratic governors to start an investigation into recent price gouging by oil companies. But the investigation will be headed by a former lawyer for ChevronTexaco. Is this fun or what?

The lesson of Katrina is that public policy is not a political gotcha game. The public interest is not well-served by appointing incompetents or anti-competents to positions of responsibility. Public policy is about our lives.

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