|The folloring appeared in The Hill The newspaper for and about the U.S. Congress on on December 5, 2001
A flawed choice to head the Peace Corps
NEW on the nomination:
The Case against Gaddi Vasquez
Statement before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by Jack Hood Vaughn
Statement for the record from Barbara Ferris
Statement for the record from Hugh Pickens
Letter to Sen. Dodd as follow-up to hearing
Coyne OpEd in The Hill
READ Judy Mann in the Post on the nomination
MORE on the nomination:
Some talking points on the nomination
A letter from Richard Lipez
Contact members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
The Peace Corps is about to be sacrificed for the first time in 41 years on the altar of ethnic politics. For an organization whose mission should raise it above the political commonplace, what we have here is a process rich in grim irony.
This sadly bipartisan spectacle, reflecting the ugly underside of how political appointments are made by the executive branch and confirmed by the Senate, centers on President Bushs nomination of Gaddi Vasquez of Orange County, Calif., to serve as Peace Corps director. He is unqualified, and worse.
Normally, the appointment to head this small, independent federal agency, with a budget of $275 million and a staff of about 2,000 in the United States and overseas, is not the subject of great debate. Since President Kennedy chose Sargent Shriver to head the Peace Corps in 1961, every nominee has brought some record of either distinction or discernible promise to the post, and all were easily confirmed by the Senate. No nominee has been tainted by scandal, until Vasquez was plucked out of nowhere by the Bush administration.
In an embarrassing confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the nominee had to answer questions as to how, as an Orange County supervisor in the mid-1990s, he allowed the county to go bankrupt, costing taxpayers $1.7 billion.
Severely chastised by the Securities and Exchange Commission, Vasquez resigned his public post just ahead of a recall campaign and went on to serve as a public affairs official at a California public utility that is also facing bankruptcy. Abandoning his last public office left him in a position to dump $100,000 of leftover campaign funds into the Bush presidential campaign.
Not surprisingly, during the hearing Vasquez displayed a remarkable lack of understanding of the Peace Corps, its mission, its history, and how he would lead it. It was clear to me, as a former Peace Corps recruiting official, that Vasquez would not even make the first cut to serve as a volunteer.
The only possible explanation for such a disgraceful nomination has to be Vasquezs membership in a powerful ethnic voting bloc in the countrys most populous state. To be sure, George W. Bush is not the first president to make an ethnically based appointment. But to inflict an unfit candidate on the Peace Corps simply because he is a conservative Hispanic-American political activist insults the 7,000 volunteers living and working in 70 developing countries.
Perhaps the cruelest slap at the Peace Corps comes not from President Bush, but from his Senate Democratic allies in the struggle for the Vasquez nomination, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer of California and, incredibly, Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, the only former Peace Corps volunteer in the Senate and chairman of the subcommittee that oversees Peace Corps affairs.
John Coyne is the editor of www.peacecorpswriters.org and until recently was manager of the New York Peace Corps Office. He served as a Peace Corps volunteer and associate Peace Corps director in Ethiopia during the 1960s.