Ambassadors seek removal of appointee
WASHINGTON – A group of former U.S. ambassadors asked President Bush to remove the U.S. ambassador to Belgium on grounds the recess appointment of Republican donor Sam Fox undermines diplomatic posts worldwide.The White House was forced to withdraw Fox’s nomination in March after Senate Democrats indicated they would block it. A week later, Bush appointed Fox, a Missouri businessman, while Congress was in recess.”Appointing an ambassador after the nomination has been withdrawn, and before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has even considered the nominee, essentially renders the Senate’s confirmation process irrelevant,” seven former diplomats wrote in a letter to Bush dated May 8.”This has the potential to undermine the legitimacy of those who serve in these vital posts all around the world,” the letter said.White House spokesman Alex Conant said Friday he could not immediately confirm receipt of the letter. Conant said Fox “is well qualified and doing a good job representing the president in Belgium.”Democrats have denounced Fox for his donation to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth during the 2004 presidential campaign. The group’s TV ads, which claimed that Sen. John Kerry exaggerated his military record in Vietnam, were viewed as a factor in the Massachusetts Democrat’s election loss.Most of the former diplomats complaining about Fox served under Democratic presidents. The group includes Dan Spiegel, former ambassador to the United Nations in the Clinton administration; Edward Brynn, former ambassador to Mauritania and Gambia under President Reagan; and Edward Peck, former ambassador to Iraq under President Carter.The former ambassadors say this is the first time an ambassador has been appointed during a recess after being withdrawn since at least 1981, according to Congressional Research Service records.Three Democratic senators have already asked the Government Accountability Office, Congress’ auditing agency, to investigate whether Bush acted illegally in making the recess appointment.Because his initial appointment was withdrawn, Fox cannot draw a government salary and is working for free. Democrats have asked the GAO whether that arrangement is legally permissible.