Philip Mudd, a senior CIA official in the Bush administration, has withdrawn his nomination for intelligence chief at Homeland Security for fear of questions about his role in the CIA's harsh interrogations of suspected terrorists.
Vice President Joe Biden and other top Obama administration officials have withdrawn from attending a national mayors conference in Rhode Island for fear of crossing a picket line from local firefighters.
In one case a highly qualified intelligence official would expose himself to possible criminal activity for following orders determined legal under a previous president. In the other, politicians indebted to labor unions consider that more important than working to help the nation's mayors address their economic ills in which many cities are facing bankruptcy.
These examples of intimidation must stop if our nation is ever going to pull out of the foreign and domestic mess the Bush administration left us with.
Mudd was scheduled to appear before Senators next week but pulled out, saying his nomination would create too much of a distraction over what he knew about torture tactics and other harsh interrogation methods.
Mudd served as deputy director of the Office of Terrorism Analysis at the CIA. The Democratic-run Senate would have had to decide whether indirect involvement or knowledge of the interrogation program was enough to disqualify someone praised by current and former intelligence officials. His testimony before the Senate could be used against him if Congress or the Justice Department pursued a formal inquiry into violations of the U.S. Constitution or anti-torture treaties by the Bush administration.
The left wing of the Democratic Party is seeking a truth commission and perhaps a special prosecutor into the Bush interrogation policies. President Obama says he wants to move forward, passing the buck to either Congress or Attorney General Eric Holder. On the right, former White House political advisor Karl Rove said the Democrats are trying to punish a previous administration for policies of which it disagrees. The result at this stage is competent, qualified people are prevented from doing due diligence for their country.
Administration officials not crossing a picket line is a gutless gesture even though Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the mayors are invited to the White House to discuss their issues of grave financial consequences. At issue is a years-long conflict between the Providence mayor, David Cicilline, and local firefighters over contract matters. Cicilline is the host of the conference, and the firefighters, backed by the International Association of Fire Fighters which endorsed Obama and financially contributed to his presidential campaign, plan to stage a picket line at the event. The major's website earlier reported confirmed guests of Biden, senior Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett, Attorney General Holder, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and other administration officials.
"While this administration is taking no position on the circumstances of the dispute itself, we have always respected picket lines, and administration officials will not cross this one," Gibbs said.
In his own statement, Cicilline said the tactics of the firefighters have dampened Providence's chances of shining on a national stage. Still, he said, he would not "cave" into meeting contract demands even if means a no-show by all the Obama dignitaries. He called the effort "political extortion."
I see it as pettiness and principle standing in the way of solving the greatest problems facing our cities.