President Bush just appointed former Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman to serve a five-year term on the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council.
Mehlman wins a few points in my book for trying to expand the reach of the Republican Party and perform genuine outreach to minority communities. His apology to the NAACP on behalf of the Party for its role in exploiting racial divisions was extremely classy and brave.
But let’s be honest: Mehlman is best known for managing President Bush’s re-election campaign in 2004. Specifically, he is responsible for organizing the disastrous Bush/Cheney foreign policy into a series of succinct talking points that framed thoughtful critics as spineless wimps.
Mehlman will be lonely among his peers on the Council as a partisan political operative, though some former officeholders and fundraisers do occupy the post as well.
On its face, there’s nothing directly wrong or immoral about Mehlman’s appointment. Plum, honorary posts are doled out all the time as a form of political patronage – much too often, in my opinion.
And as appointments go, given Mehlman’s efforts to outreach to minorities, there is some logic to this one.
Still, this deeply offends my sensibilities. To re-elect President Bush, Mehlman played on the fears of a nation in its most vulnerable hour.
Mehlman exploited a great human tragedy – the 9/11 attacks – for purely political purposes. That he will be the public face for the commemoration of an even more ghastly human tragedy seems sadly ironic.
— Scott Paul