Monica Potts has been following food safety, and is dismayed that the nominee for USDA undersecretary in that area remains unconfirmed. Here's the timeline: Barack Obama took office on January 20, 2009. He appointed Elisabeth Hagen in late January...2010. She was approved by the Senate Ag Committee on June 30. She still awaits confirmation by the full Senate.
Whose fault is this? Well, yes, Republicans are trying to obstruct a variety of executive branch nominees, and Blanche Lincoln, chair of the Ag Committee, probably could have acted more quickly. But the truth is the administration has signaled again and again that these nominees are just not a very high priority, and it's hardly surprising that Senate Democrats have responded by allowing GOP holds and other stalling methods to succeed. If Barack Obama wants a fully staffed government, then he should be nominating candidates for all openings promptly, and raising the cost to Senators for stalling by fighting for his nominees publicly and by threatening (and using, if necessary) recess appointments. It's really that simple. I'm not sure whether Obama has been mistakenly deferring to supposedly fragile Senate egos, or if he really doesn't understand that these nominations are collectively very important, or if it's bad staff work, or what, but it continues to be a serious failing of the administration.
I'll add another thing. Everyone was jabbering yesterday Robert Gibbs took a shot at the "professional left." As you can probably guess, I don't think any of it matters very much to anything, really. But I do think that one of the ways that presidents keep their core constituencies happy at relatively low cost is by using the administrative machinery of the bureaucracy to produce benefits for supporters. In fact, even without specific benefits, supporters are apt to be happy with the administration if the record on appointments is good. Not just because it hints at future good results, but because in relatively small issue communities personal connections count, and if someone from the community is gets a good administration job, she and her friends are likely to be personally very pleased by it. Would elite-level liberals be always thrilled with Obama if there were a couple hundred extra smooth, rapid appointments over the last eighteen months? Of course not, but I'm just saying: it couldn't hurt.