White House Stands By Swift Boat Nominee, Blames Withdrawal On ‘Partisan Politics’

This morning, the White House withdrew the nomination of Swift Boat Vets funder Sam Fox to be ambassador to Belgium. If there was any question whether the White House’s move was a gesture of good will towards Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), that has been put to rest.

During today’s press briefing, White House spokesperson Dana Perino stood by Sam Fox, calling him a qualified candidate and saying that President Bush was “disappointed” that senators had rejected him “based on partisan politics instead of his leadership abilities.” (Explaining Fox’s qualifications, Perino twice mentioned the fact that Fox was named “St. Louis Citizen Of The Year” in 2003.) Asked whether the White House thought Fox’s contributions to a group that smeared veterans should have been an issue, Perino said, “No, I don’t think it is.”

Also, while only Sens. Kerry and Chris Dodd (D-CT) had formally announced their opposition to Fox’s nomination, Perino revealed that Fox was pulled because “his nomination would not have passed” the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Watch it:

[flv http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/03/foxwithd.320.240.flv]

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Q: What happened to the Sam Fox nomination?

PERINO: Sam Fox nomination, let me — I did take a couple notes on that. As you saw, we sent up a withdrawal for Sam Fox’s nomination. The President believes that Mr. Fox is qualified to serve as Ambassador to Belgium. He has a proven record of leadership and a strong willingness to serve our country. He has a long list of accomplishments including one of them being named the St. Louis Citizen of the year. Unfortunately we received word that because of politics, some members of the Senate would have voted against his nomination, which would have prevented him from serving in this important position. So we are disappointed that they made their decision based on partisan politics instead of his leadership abilities, and that’s why we withdrew the nomination.

The votes weren’t there because of his $50,000 contribution to the Swift Boat group?

PERINO: I don’t know what all the reasons were, in terms of individual members making that decision, but we do think that he was qualified to serve but we have withdrawn his nomination.

Do you think his involvement with the Swiftboat group should be an issue, or should have been an issue?

PERINO: You know, I think you look at his — no, I don’t think it is, but of course members of Congress can make their own decisions. Senators can look at any nominee and weigh that decision. I think that if you weighed — if you look, he was chairman and CEO of the Harbor Group Ltd., serving key leadership roles in cultural, education, and charitable institutions in St. Louis, on and on, and again, St. Louis Citizen of the Year, so I think that Senators have to make their own decisions, but obviously this is a person who’s qualified to serve as ambassador.


Did the White House know about his contribution before they nominated him?

PERINO: Uh, there’s no, I don’t believe so, but I know that the President did not when he nominated him. So…

Would that have had an effect?

PERINO: I don’t know.

Did senators threaten to put holds on him…

PERINO: I don’t know. I do know that they were — his nomination would not have passed today if the vote had been called up.

And why not let the vote go ahead?

PERINO: We just decided to withdraw his name.