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"An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last."
Sir Winston Churchill

10.12.2005

Cronyism

Jonah Goldberg:

Thus it's something of a departure for liberals to become particularly vexed over cronyism, given that cronyism is central to traditional Democratic machine politics. Recall Bill Clinton appointed his childhood friend Thomas "Mack" McLarty as his chief of staff and Bruce Lindsey as his counsel, and he criminally attacked the White House travel office so he could get his cronies in there.

My recently departed father always told me that the biggest corrupter in business was friendship. He didn't mean criminal corruption, necessarily, but the milder sort of corruption that causes us to bend rules, look the other way, or to promote or hire above a person's qualifications. Most businessmen, most journalists, and most politicians who would never dream of taking a cash bribe would almost immediately agree to do a favor for an old friend. How many members of the Greatest Generation got their first job through an "old war buddy"?

Friendship corrupts, or at least distorts, our judgment. We tend to think our friends are more qualified than they really are for all sorts of reasons. Egotism is surely one ("Of course my friends are all geniuses!"). A hopefulness about our friends' prospects is surely another. We want good things for those we care about, and we tend to have an exaggerated view of their abilities because we are inclined to think the best of them. This is why cronyism isn't always about deliberately giving jobs to the unqualified. Often, people hire longtime friends because they trust that their old friends are up to the task.

This seems to be the core of the argument on Miers's behalf. Bush knows her. He trusts her. He would consider it a betrayal of some kind if she "grew" on the bench. Clearly, for many, Bush's judgment isn't enough.


It certainly has been amusing to watch the same people who somehow imagined that the best and brightest government types were born and raised in Arkansas during the Clinton years now take umbrage at Bush administration patronage. I think Bush's picks have fared much better than the gang of indicted hacks Slick Willie brought to the White House, but that's no excuse for Bush to rely on the "trust me" card for advancing a SCOTUS nominee.

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