@StateDept Needs a Better Defense Than This Nominee’s Management of a “Large State Govt Agency”

Posted: 4:25 am ET
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Foreign Policy recently did a piece on the Stephen Akard appointment as DGHR, calling him a “Pence pal”:

A State Department spokesman pushed back on the criticisms, saying his nomination is “an indication of how committed the Trump administration is to improving how the federal government operates and delivers on its mission.” […] Akard “has a unique background in both foreign affairs as well as a successful track record managing a large state government agency,” the State Department spokesman told FP. “If confirmed, we believe his experience will benefit the men and women of the State Department,” the spokesman added. Akard left the foreign service in 2005 to work for the Indiana Economic Development Corporation.

The State Department spox told FP that Akard’s “unique background” and “successful track record managing a large state government agency” will “benefit” the State Department.

So hey, that got us curious about just how big is the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) where Mr. Akard previously worked as ” chief of staff, vice president and general counsel, and director of international development” from 2005 -2017. We asked IEDC how may employees support the state corporation but we have not received a response as of this writing.

However, based on the State of Indiana Employee Directory (PDF here, pages not numbered, so use the “find” function), there are some 15 offices within IEDC.  These offices include Account Management with seven employees; Communications with  three staffers; Policy with five employees, and the largest office in IEDC, Business Development has 16 staffers. About 80 state employees are listed as working in the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC). How many of these employees did Mr. Akard actually managed? And even if he did manage the entire IEDC and its over 80 employees — c’mon spoxes –the DGHR manages over 75,000 Foreign Service, Civil Service and locally employed staff. Good grief!

The spox needs a better argument on why they think this nominee is the best individual to lead DGHR; the defense they currently have — citing the management of “a large state government agency” with less than a hundred employees is  just plain pen-pineapple-apple-pen-silly.

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Founding Member of Mar-a-Lago Club Robin Bernstein to be U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic

Posted: 4:23 am ET
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On October 31, President Trump announced his intent to nominate Robin Bernstein, a founding member of The Mar-a-Lago Club  to be the next U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic. The WH released the following brief bio:

Robin Bernstein to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Dominican Republic.  Ms. Bernstein has served as President and Director of Richard S. Bernstein and Associates, Inc. since 2004, and Vice President and Director of Rizbur, Inc. since 2002, both of West Palm Beach, Florida.  For four decades, she has provided leadership and management to the business, government, and the non-profit communities of Florida.  Currently, she is co-founder of Palm Beach Country Cares, a Florida relief effort for victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  Ms. Bernstein earned a B.A. from American University School of International Service and an M.B.A. from George Washington University.  She speaks French and basic Spanish.

This nomination has the potential to be the more contentious of the Trump ambassador nominations due to her association with Mar-a-Lago, but also because she was one of Trump’s 2016 Presidential Electors.

But hey, it’s the U.S. Senate where its “advice and consent” role often constitutes a light touch — just a few public questions, and whether or not the nominee has previously visited the country. In some of these public hearings, they have four-five nominees for an hour or so, most of that taken up by the prepared testimonies of the nominees, the senators listening to themselves talk, and then a few questions for the nominees. If a nominee is in a panel with a controversial individual, the nominee might get just a question or two. If the nominee is the controversial one, or in the crosshairs of one or two of the senators, then the nominee might get most of the questions. Sometimes though, when a nominee comes unprepared, it blows up the house, and a normally inattentive public reacts in unexpected ways. But that does not happen often.

We must admit, however, that we suffer from low expectations when it comes to these confirmations. Since singing in a church choir, and being spouse of an ex-politician are deemed relevant qualifications for an ambassador, the bar for the Senate is low. Other than making a real spectacle of yourself in front of the cameras, like trampling through the salad bowl with no dressing, most political nominees get handed the keys to embassies after their quick confirmation hearings. Not unique to this administration, we should add, but USA Today, notes that “never in modern history has a president awarded government posts to people who pay money to his own companies.” So we’ll have to watch what happens with Corker and Flake who sits in the SFRC, and if McCain shows up for the hearing.

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Video of the Day: POTUS on @StateDept Vacancies: “I’m the only one that matters.”

Posted: 2:53 am ET
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Moderation may be the most challenging and rewarding virtue

By Aurelian Craiutu

He is a professor of political science and adjunct professor of American studies at Indiana University, Bloomington. His most recent book is Faces of Moderation: The Art of Balance in an Age of Extremes (2016). He lives in Bloomington.

Three centuries ago, the French political philosopher Montesquieu claimed that human beings accommodate themselves better to the middle than to the extremes. Only a few decades later, George Washington begged to differ. In his Farewell Address (1796), the first president of the United States sounded a warning signal against the pernicious effects of the spirit of party and faction. The latter, he argued, has its roots in the strongest passions of the human mind and can be seen in ‘its greatest rankness’ in popular government where the competition and rivalry between factions are ‘sharpened by the spirit of revenge’ and immoderation.

If one looks at our world today, we might be tempted to side with Washington over Montesquieu. Our political scene offers a clear sign of the little faith we seem to have in this virtue without which, as John Adams memorably put it in 1776, ‘every man in power becomes a ravenous beast of prey’. Although our democratic institutions depend on political actors exercising common sense, self-restraint and moderation, we live in a world dominated by hyperbole and ideological intransigence in which moderates have become a sort of endangered species in dire need of protection. Can we do something about that to save them from extinction? To answer this question, we should take a new look at moderation, which Edmund Burke regarded as a difficult virtue, proper only to noble and courageous minds. What does it mean to be a moderate voice in political and public life? What are the principles underlying moderation? What do moderates seek to achieve in society, and how do they differ from more radical or extremist minds?

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