Another one of Mattis’ personnel choices has fallen through:
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has withdrawn retired senior diplomat Anne W. Patterson as his choice for undersecretary for policy after the White House indicated unwillingness to fight what it said would be a battle for Senate confirmation.
U.S. officials said that two members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), were strongly opposed to Patterson’s nomination because she served as U.S. ambassador to Egypt from 2011 to 2013, a time when the Obama administration supported an elected government with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood that was ultimately overthrown by the Egyptian military.
Senators are obviously within their rights to oppose potential nominees for confirmable positions, but this seems like an exceptionally petty and stupid reason for Cruz and Cotton to reject someone that Mattis wants working for him. Their problem with Patterson is that she dealt with the elected Egyptian government in a manner consistent with administration policy while she was ambassador to Egypt. That policy and that administration are now finished, as is the Egyptian government in question, so what we have here is a display of extremely petty score-settling by the senators. It is a worrying sign that the administration will simply cave to the most hawkish members in the party over anything, and it underscores how much more difficulty they will have in filling these positions if they aren’t willing to fight for their potential nominees.
As a general rule, it makes sense for Cabinet members to be able to select the subordinates they want to run the department they have been appointed to lead. If they aren’t allowed to have the people they want working for them, they aren’t going to be as effective as they could be. There may be special cases where a nominee is clearly unqualified, marred by scandal, or discredited in some other way and so shouldn’t be confirmed, but that should be relatively rare. In the meantime, both the State and Defense Departments continue to operate without even having anyone nominated for positions below Cabinet rank.