The Moon Jae-in administration is having a tough time going through the National Assembly’s confirmation hearings. Still, it is faring a bit better than the Trump administration when it comes to the preliminary “vetting,” at least for now.
The Trump administration is a result of angry public opinion toward illegal immigrants. One of its main platforms was the promise of a "great wall of America" at the Mexican border. Ironically, Andrew Puzder, a labor secretary nominee, who should have stood against the illegal employment of the immigrants had Congress confirmed him, withdrew his nomination because it was revealed on June 2 that he had hired an illegal immigrant as a nanny. That was a failure in the vetting process.
Such incidents are by no means new – they even coined the term “Nannygate” for situations like this. It has happened before with nominations during the Clinton, G. W. Bush and Obama presidencies. Yet, the Trump administration repeated the same mistake. Even worse, Puzder’s case was not even on the U.S. government's radar; The Huffington Post was the first to report it.
Monica Crowly, a candidate previously considered for senior director of strategic communications, withdrew from consideration when the allegation of plagiarism was raised back in January. Vincent Viola – a nominee for secretary of the army – withdrew from consideration due to possible conflicts of interest back in February. Then, Mark Green – after being embroiled in a scandal where he was accused of discriminating against sexual minorities, Muslims and Hispanics – followed in Viola’s footsteps and also withdrew from consideration for secretary of the army.
Even the candidates who made it through the confirmation hearings created tension between the parties. Jeff Sessions – then-nominee for attorney general – had a tough time with the hearings when Democrats declined to vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee back in late January. On Jan. 31, the committee, which was fighting over Sessions’ confirmation, suddenly switched gears and started to fight over Obama. They argued over the former and incumbent presidencies, using remarks such as “After eight long years of a lawless Obama Department of Justice …” (Sen. Ted Cruz, R-TX) and, “It took the courage of Elliot Richardson and William Ruckelshaus, who stood up to President Nixon. That is what an attorney general must be willing and able to do.” (Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-CA)
In the same month, Democrats on the Senate Financial Committee also refused to vote for Steve Mnuchin and Tom Price for the positions of treasury secretary and secretary of health and human services respectively, citing falsified property reports and conflicts of interest as the reasons. Sen. Orin Hatch, infuriated, called his Democratic colleagues “idiots” on national television. Yeouido (home of the Korean National Assembly) has its own share of conflicts and tension, but they still do not openly call somebody an idiot.
Above all else, however, the Trump administration’s biggest failure in vetting was Michael Flynn. Without seriously considering Flynn’s past interactions with Russia, they nominated him as a key member of the National Security Council. Now that one bad move has resulted in “Russiagate.” Moon might need to worry over a few of his nominations, but Trump is way beyond that. This is a lesson on the importance of vetting.