CQPolitics Compares Obama Staffing Levels to Bush’s, But Spots Obama 34 Days

Pretty much everybody over a certain age remembers the Bush-Gore 2000 presidential election wasn’t settled on election night, right?

You might think so, but one of the nation’s best-known political journals, Congressional Quarterly, seem to have forgotten it.

A March 27 CQPolitics article by Bart Jansen, “Despite Significant Vacancies, Obama Outpaces Bush in Nominations,” begins:

President Obama’s pace in making nominations — rather than occasional Republican opposition — is responsible for vacancies in key administration posts at a critical time, senators from both parties say. But Obama is still sending the Senate more names and winning confirmations faster than his predecessor…

and continues:

…But the problem may be one of perception. Obama has sent more nominees to the Senate and had more confirmed than George W. Bush had by the same point in his first term as president, according to the White House Transition Project, a nonpartisan effort by scholars, universities and think tanks to smooth transitions.

Of the 385 posts at Cabinet-level agencies that a president must appoint, Obama had sent 100 names to the Senate as of March 24, of which 38 were confirmed. In contrast, Bush had sent 40 and gotten 30 confirmed by the same point in 2001…

The article makes an allowance for the playing field not being quite equal, saying:

…Part of Obama’s advantage over Bush in submitting nominations stems from a 2004 intelligence overhaul (PL 108-458) that allowed him to name deputy secretaries and undersecretaries who could be confirmed on the first day of a new administration, in order to hasten the transition…

But no mention is made of the historic nature of the 2000 presidential election, which had no winner until after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Bush v. Gore — a decision not handed down until December 12. Bush was not able to open his transition office until after December 12, while Obama was able to do so immediately after November 8.

The only fair comparison (and even then, only loosely) would be to compare Obama’s staffing levels to similar periods in the administrations of other first term presidents who succeeded an incumbent of the opposite party (i.e., Bill Clinton in 1993 and Ronald Reagan in 1981). Even going back as far as Reagan isn’t quite fair, because the size and processes of government and the mores of the capital have changed quite a bit since then.

One thing’s certain: By March 24 of his first term, George W. Bush had had 34 less days as a president-elect/president than Barack Obama had at the same point in his, making any comparison between them useless.

CQPolitics should have asked its source, the White House Transitition Project, for a more fair comparison: one between Obama’s staffing levels and Bill Clinton’s at the same point in 1993. The fun of a partisan comparison would have been lost, but at the gain of a more accurate one.

Cross-posted at Newsbusters.

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