Bush Lays More Landmines for Obama

Yesterday I mentioned all the internal challenges that President-elect Obama will be facing. Today's Washington Post reveals how Bush is trying to institutionalize those challenges.

Just weeks before leaving office, the Interior Department's top lawyer has shifted half a dozen key deputies -- including two former political appointees who have been involved in controversial environmental decisions -- into senior civil service posts.

The transfer of political appointees into permanent federal positions, called "burrowing" by career officials, creates security for those employees, and at least initially will deprive the incoming Obama administration of the chance to install its preferred appointees in some key jobs.

I hope nobody thinks that this is about stopping Obama appointments. This is about getting civil service protections for hardcore conservative loyalists. In past transitions, this has been done to protect new rules or regulations that the outgoing President would like to see maintained, and that's true here as well. Recent rule changes in the Bureau of Land Management and the Fish and Wildlife Service will be harder to reverse with a champion inside the agency. But I hardly think it ends there. The same with all those career Justice Department officials whose political ideology was a factor in their hiring. And burrowing all of these officials at once will ultimately make it harder to root out the partisan career personnel who were hired into the civil service in the first place.

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