Politics and Journalism in Washington: Celebrating the Departure of a Political Appointee

For those who make a career of living and working within the federal establishment, the view of people and their accomplishments can become one-dimensional with clear delineations between what is good and what is bad. Special Counsel Scott Bloch is departing. Many in the government community are applauding and the media is happily joining in.

Special Counsel Scott Bloch has sent a letter to President Bush resigning from his position as the end of his five-year term on January 5, 2009.

Politics is brutal. Interest groups have little regard for personalities, personal feelings or for those with different views.

This is an example. The news of Scott Bloch’s resignation has been greeted with expressions of glee from some in the federal community and those that share this view. For example, a headline in today’s Washington Post reads Workers Applaud Special Counsel’s Return to Private Sector and says “Good riddance” with quotes from union officials and others disparaging the departing Special Counsel.

Mr. Bloch was not part of the Washington establishment and did not share the same goals as many of the interest groups that exist within the Beltway. That, apparently, is unforgivable and he is someone to be shoved aside, derided and ignored and any reference to his accomplishments are not worth mentioning as we celebrate the departure of this person who must be terrible, incompetent and guilty of having had different ideas.

As noted in the article we published more than three years ago, Out for Blood in the Executive Branch, Scott Bloch has been the target of critics who did not like his approach in handling the responsibilities of the Office of Special Counsel. Since arriving in Washington, his term has been marked by a constant litany of complaints.

That is not surprising for the reason noted in the FedSmith article cited above: “Scott Bloch has taken on strong interest groups in the bureaucracy and the political environment of Washington, DC. While, in theory, the civil service exists to help an administration implement its policies and programs, the reality is that the bureaucracy is a power unto itself. Mess with the bureaucracy and an outsider trying to run a federal agency will find out where much of the real power resides.”

Mr. Bloch has a different perspective of his time in office. In his letter to the President, he wrote: “…OSC has made unprecedented progress in eliminating case backlogs left by previous administrations severe enough to have warranted a critical report from the General Accountability Office. Not only have we effectively processed these backlogs, but we have increased our caseload capacity, resulting in a 400 percent increase in substantiated whistleblower disclosures and stepped-up enforcement of job rights for military service members.”

He also cites the accomplishments of the office in finding problems with aviation safety as a result of investigations of practices within the Federal Aviation Administration, investigations into defective pumps installed in the New Orleans levee system and also investigations into Hatch Act violations.

I don’t know Scott Bloch and have not had contact with the office. Like most of us, he has certainly had ups and downs. But, working as a political appointee in the federal government in a visible position, and as he had the temerity to have different goals and values of the entrenched political interests in our nation’s capitol, it is predictable that his departure would be celebrated by the interest groups and the media who serve them.

Readers can decide for themselves if his tenure has been generally positive or negative. But, rather than just kicking him out the door with a shout of joy and an article of congratulations to those celebrating his departure, we should give a modicum of respect to those who take the time to serve in public positions in our federal government–even if they have not made their entire career out of living and working as part of the self-serving entrenched interests that quickly move to kill off anyone who dares to share a different view.

You can read the celebration of his departure by some in the federal community in the Federal Diary. To have the benefit of a more balanced perspective, read his resignation letter to understand his perspective of his time in office.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47