Every so often, government does exactly the right thing. The decision to make former Texas Congressman Pete Geren the acting secretary of the Army is just such an example.
Geren, the under secretary of the Army since February 2006, was elevated to acting Army secretary on March 9 following the resignation of Francis J. Harvey — who left in the wake of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center scandal.
The Bush administration has a sad history of putting unqualified political cronies in key positions. Geren may be a Texas friend of the president, but he is also eminently qualified to be secretary of the Army at this particular point in history.
In fact, the White House may not be entirely happy with Pete Geren when the dust settles.
You see, Geren will not lie for this White House and he will not shade the truth either. He is a straight shooter who has the respect of both Democrats and Republicans in Congress. When called to testify on the Hill, he will answer questions truthfully and, if doesn’t know an answer, he will ask for the time necessary to provide a complete response. And Congress will get an answer.
Geren was elected to Congress from Ft. Worth, Texas, in 1989 following the resignation of former Speaker of the House Jim Wright. He served until 1997, when he returned to Texas to spend time with his wife and three young children.
A conservative Blue Dog Democrat, Geren has friends on both sides of the aisle. During his tenure in Congress, he served on the House Armed Services Committee and played a significant role in base-closing and weapons-procurement decisions.
Geren’s political history is interesting. He is very close to our current ambassador to Japan, Tom Schieffer (brother of Bob Schieffer from CBS News). Tom Schieffer, a former Democratic state legislator from Texas, is the person who actually ran the day-to-day operations of the Texas Rangers Baseball team while George W. Bush served as a figurehead for the ball club. Schieffer also served as treasurer of Geren’s successful special-election victory in 1989. Geren worked on the staff of former Texas Democratic Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, and Schieffer was a longtime Bentsen activist.
Following Bush’s election as president in 2000, Schieffer was named U.S. ambassador to Australia, and Geren returned to Washington in 2001 as a special assistant to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. He served as acting secretary of the Air Force for four months in 2005.
Many key Democrats in the House and Senate know Geren personally from his seven years in Congress. And while they may not have agreed with him philosophically on some issues, no one questions his integrity or his knowledge about military matters.
The Bush Administration would be well served to remove the “acting” in front of Geren’s title and make him secretary of the Army. He would be confirmed by the Senate, whereas just about anyone else Bush nominated would face very tough grilling about their experience and integrity.
I have known Pete Geren for at least 20 years and have complete confidence that he will get to the bottom of the problems at Walter Reed and other military health care facilities.
Geren, 55, is independently wealthy with no apparent future political ambitions. He is exactly the kind of public servant that this administration rarely taps for duty. We could use a few more Pete Gerens in the executive branch these days. And don’t be surprised if Geren gives George W. Bush and Karl Rove a few gray hairs over the next 18 months.
Don’t hold back, Pete. The country needs a few more good, honest men (and women).
Martin Frost served in Congress from 1979 to 2005, representing a diverse district in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. He served two terms as chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, the third-ranking leadership position for House Democrats, and two terms as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Frost serves as a regular contributor to FOX News Channel and is a partner at the law firm of Polsinelli, Shalton, Flanigan and Suelthaus. He holds a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Missouri and a law degree from the Georgetown Law Center.