Washington is a town where the best and the brightest usually coexist with well-connected political hacks. However, the Bush administration has taken promotion of the latter to embarrassing extremes, selecting unqualified people for posts because of their political loyalty and ideological persuasion. The most recent example of this was the appointment of Paul Bonicelli to be deputy director of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which is in charge of all programs to promote democracy and good governance overseas.
One would have thought the administration had learned its lesson. In the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Michael Brown, was forced to resign because of his incompetence in dealing with the consequences of the storm. Soon afterward, President George W. Bush named While House counsel Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. Her lack of qualifications, and a Republican revolt against the nomination, forced her to withdraw.
Like Brown and Miers, Bonicelli has little experience in the field he has been tapped to supervise. The closest he comes to democracy-promotion or good governance is having worked as a staffer for the Republican Party in the International Relations Committee of the House of Representatives.
More significant to the administration, perhaps, is the fact that Bonicelli is dean of academic affairs at tiny Patrick Henry College in rural Virginia. The fundamentalist institution's motto is "For Christ and Liberty." It requires that all of its 300 students sign a 10-part "statement of faith" declaring, among other things, that they believe "Jesus Christ, born of a virgin, is God come in the flesh;" that "Jesus Christ literally rose bodily from the dead"; and that hell is a place where "all who die outside of Christ shall be confined in conscious torment for eternity."
I commented on an article about Patrick Henry College a few months ago. Patrick Henry can be accurately described as a Christianist madrassa turning out fundamentalist apparat, and its founders and faculty are very clear about their goal of seeing the U.S. turned into a religious state.
In other cronyism news, last week Molly Ivins reported on some more egregious Bush appointments, such as putting nine campaign contributors, three of them longtime fundraisers, on the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. One of the appointees was none other than Bush's personal friend and financial savior, William DeWitt, former co-owner with Bush of the Texas Rangers and current owner of the St. Louis Cardinals. It's funny, because I was just thinking the other day that what's wrong with our intelligence analysis is that we're simply not getting enough input from multimillionaire baseball team owners.