While Congress is out of session, President Bush flexed his executive power muscle, appointing businessman Sam Fox as U.S. ambassador to Belgium less than a week after his nomination was pulled when Senate Democrats hammered away at him for donating money to a conservative group that helped sink Sen. John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign.
Kerry and Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., led Senate Democrats' opposition to Fox, who in 2004 contributed $50,000 to the slanderous Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which used a series of television ads to undermine Kerry's combat record.
Despite his grilling by Democrats, Fox, the national chairman of the Jewish Republican Coalition, refused to apologize for his donation.
Bush was forced to withdraw Fox's nomination last week after 11 of Kerry's Vietnam crewmates sent a letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee urging members to oppose Fox's nomination.
"In our judgment, those who finance smears and lies of combat veterans don't deserve to represent America on the world stage," Kerry's former comrades wrote.
In a statement released Wednesday, Kerry accused the Bush administration of abusing the president's power of appointment.
"It's sad but not surprising that this White House would abuse the power of the presidency to reward a donor over the objections of the Senate," Kerry said.
The 2004 Democratic contender continued, "This nomination was withdrawn because the administration realized it would lose in the Foreign Relations Committee. Unfortunately, when this White House can't win the game, they just change the rules, and America loses."
Dodd, who is seeking the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, was just as angry.
"It is outrageous that the president has sought to stealthily appoint Sam Fox to the position of ambassador to Belgium when the president formally requested that the Fox nomination be withdrawn from the Senate because it was facing certain defeat in the Foreign Relations Committee last week," he said.
Dodd said he intends to question the legality of the appointment.
The Associated Press reported that in addition to earning the distinction of being a George Bush "ranger" for helping to raise at least $200,000 for the president's campaign, Fox has donated at least $200,000 on behalf of Republicans for more than a decade.
In a Feb. 27 Senate Foreign Relations hearing, Kerry questioned Fox about his contribution to the Swift Boat group.
"When I'm asked, I just generally give," Fox told the senator directly. "I did it because politically it's necessary if the other side's doing it."