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TUESDAY, OCTOBER 25, 2005
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EDITORIAL

With friends like these, Bush needs no enemies

As director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Mike Brown stood by and watched the looting of New Orleans as thousands of people displaced by Hurricane Katrina struggled to find food and drinking water.

President Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, faces possible indictment in an investigation into who, solely for political retribution, leaked the name of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame to the media.

As undersecretary of state for public diplomacy — a job that has as its sole function changing foreigners' perceptions about America — former presidential speechwriter Karen Hughes last week agitated a group of university students in Indonesia by misspeaking about the number of Iraqis gassed to death by Saddam Hussein.

"Your policies are creating hostilities among Muslims," female student Lailatul Qadar told Ms. Hughes. "It's Bush in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and maybe it's going to be in Indonesia, I don't know.

"Who's the terrorist? Bush or us Muslims?"

With that kind of track record, it is not surprising that a majority of Mr. Bush's political base of conservatives is skeptical at his nomination of Harriet Miers, yet another personal friend, to the U.S. Supreme Court.

There is a school of political thought that believes good government is good politics. In other words, as long as those appointed to positions of power do their jobs adequately — no matter who they are — the political support will follow.

Conversely, however, if those who fail to deliver are perceived to have gotten their jobs not through merit and qualifications but through friendship and cronyism, the political fallout can be especially staggering.

Certainly, some of President Bush's appointees have filled their roles admirably, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta. It is too early to judge the competency of Chief Justice John Roberts, but he appears to be another impressive official appointed by Mr. Bush.

But Ms. Rice, Mr. Mineta and Judge Roberts all had solid careers and credentials before Mr. Bush put them in their current positions.

The primary qualifications of Mr. Brown, Mr. Rove and Ms. Hughes, on the other hand, were their personal relationships with the president.

So it is with Ms. Miers. Is it any wonder the president's own biggest supporters are skeptical about her?

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