Bush Scandals Are Roiling: Turn Up the Heat!
By Bernard Weiner, Co-Editor,
The Crisis Papers
April 6, 2004
In the face of imminent scandal-eruptions, it's surprising
to see Bush&Co. moving so forcefully in so many domestic-policy areas,
rather than pulling back and trying to ease their way through the November 2
This aggressive attitude suggests a firm belief on their part that they'll
still be residing in the White House after January inauguration day. What do
they know that we don't? Rigged computer-voting machines with no way to
double-check manipulated vote tallies? Osama bin Laden already in the can?
Photos of John Kerry in flagrante delicto with a parakeet?
Something strange is going on sub-rosa beneath the subtext. How else to
explain the following list? Carried out to solidify their rightwing,
militarist, fundamentalist base? Exhibiting lotsa muscle to indicate
confidence and lack of fear? Grabbing for what they can get now because
they're not really that confident about victory in November? What?
So, let's try to examine the actions on this list -- all engineered or
encouraged by the Bush Administration -- and see what they indicate, taken
as a package, and what kind of sense we can make of them.
During a recent congressional recess, Bush appointed two Southern
appeals-court judges, Pickering and Pryor, so far to the right that there
was no way they were ever going to gain the required Senate approval. Now
these two rightwing activists are hearing major federal appeals.
The Republicans got caught with their hands -- and eyes and ears -- in a
Watergate-like bugging, but this time in a high-tech kind of way: For
months, as a result of computer hacking, a key GOP Judiciary Committee
staffer was reading top Democratic Senators' emails about strategy and
tactics, and passing them on to his superiors; selected newspapers then
reported these private communications. No wonder many in the GOP constantly
seemed to be one step ahead of their Democratic opposition.
SHUT. The Republican National Committee is pressing the
Federal Election Commission to issue new rules that would hamstring
non-profit groups that try to communicate with the public in any way
critical of Bush Administration policy. As MoveOn notes: "Any kind of
non-profit -- conservative, progressive, labor, religious, secular, social
service, charitable, educational, civic participation, issue-oriented,
large, and small -- could be affected by these rules." In other words, shut
yo' mouth, "watch what you say."
WHAT CAN BE TAUGHT. The Bush Administration is moving to
control curriculum and expression on college campuses, especially in the
teaching faculty. HR 3077, the so-called "International Studies in Higher
Education Act of 2003" -- which has passed the House overwhelmingly and now
is in the Senate -- would monitor the curriculum in colleges and
universities of, among other things, professors deemed critical of the Bush
Administration's neo-imperialist and Middle Eastern policies. In other
words, you pointy-headed liberalcommiepinko perfessors better alter your
ways or face the consequences.
UNDER THE MEDIA-RADAR. On the same day that Saddam Hussein was
captured, with the media focused on the events in Tikrit, Bush signed an
order giving the FBI widesweeping new powers to examine any business'
financial records -- and, if you've dealt with businesses (and who hasn't?),
your records as well -- without having to seek any sort of court approval.
The new rules also forbid the affected businesses discussing the matter with
any of their clients involved. In other words, you'll never know what hit
you, or that you even got hit. (Sort of like the Patriot Act, which permits
sneak-and-peek explorations of your computer and email, without you even
knowing the government is violating your privacy.)
FLORIDA AGAIN! There's a Republican bill making its way
through that state's Senate that would outlaw any manual recounts of
undervotes from touch-screen computer machines. One wonders why the GOP in
Florida would not want there to be a manual recount -- which, conceivably,
could benefit their candidate -- unless they're pretty confident about the
computer-voting outcome long before the election even will be held.
YOUR HOME IS YOUR CASTLE -- NOT. According to
a 5th Circuit Appeals Court decision, police officers in Louisiana no longer
need a warrant to conduct a brief search of your home or business. A
reminder, if more are needed, about the power to influence policy for
decades through the judicial appointments to the Appeals Courts; see
Pickering/Pryor item above.
BACK TO THE FRONT.
To meet the demand for troops in Iraq, the military has been deploying some
National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers who aren't fit for combat. More
than a dozen members of the Guard and reserves told Knight Ridder they were
shipped off to battle with little attention paid to their medical histories
-- including imminent heart-attacks because of badly clogged arteries. Those
histories included other ailments such as asthma, diabetes, recent surgery
and hearing loss. Once in Iraq, the soldiers faced severe conditions that
aggravated their medical problems (the soldier with clogged arteries died),
and the medical care available to them was limited.
HERE, HAVE A SUBPOENA. Ashcroft's Justice
Department has been targeting peaceful anti-war and anti-Administration
groups -- religious, political, civic -- issuing subpoenas left and right,
trying in the public mind to equate dissent with aid to terrorists.
FEEL A DRAFT IN HERE? The Bush
Administration is moving to re-institute the military draft, probably by
June of 2005. Initially, they will be doing selective drafting -- that is,
picking those with certain skills deemed essential by the Pentagon planners.
After that, further drafting will depend on how many countries are selected
for the honor of having themselves invaded.
"WORSE THAN WATERGATE"
Well, one could go on and on with this list. There is no lack of frightening
actions in Bush&Co.'s world. But you get the picture. A little slice of your
freedom here, another slice there, another there, and, before you realize
it, the militarized state has amassed more power into the hands of
government and police agencies.
As John W. Dean, President Nixon's counsel, titles his new book, it's "Worse
Than Watergate." Far, far worse; most of the Nixon crimes involved trying to
cover-up a scandal, but the Bush Administration has turned its extremism
into permanent national policy, with horrifying consequences.
Now, what Bush&Co. haven't been able to fully control are events on the
ground here in this country, and, especially in Iraq.
Domestically, they still have to maneuver their way through the
political/judicial minefields of their most egregious scandals: doing
nothing with their pre-9/11 knowledge, their outing of a covert CIA agent,
and their gross lies and manipulations that took the country to war in Iraq.
Abroad, the Bush Administration has to hope and pray that things go their
way in the roiling Iraq snakepit.
Let's take them one at a time:
THE 9/11 HEARINGS
Unless she blows it bigtime -- in which case she can conveniently take the
fall for the decision-makers -- Condoleezza Rice might be able to wiggle her
way through her hearing before the so-called "independent" 9/11 Commission.
(The quote marks are used because not only is that word laughable in terms
of who Bush appointed and who's in charge, but because White House counsel
Alberto Gonzales contacted at least two of the GOP members of the panel
right before Richard Clarke's testimony and apparently supplied them talking
points for questioning the White House's former counter-terrorism chief.
In addition, even though the commission held the best cards, the panel
permitted itself to get snookered by Karl Rove. In order to get Rice under
oath and in public, the commission too quickly agreed to the sneaky White
House deal that: ensured that Rice will testify only for a few hours -- if
the GOP panelists ask long questions and she gives long answers, she's
basically home free; guaranteed that Rice can't be called back and that
nobody else on the NSC staff (such as key Rice deputy Stephen Hadley) can be
made to testify; and caved by agreeing that Cheney and his sock-puppet can
testify together and NOT UNDER OATH!
In short, this commission -- which, in any case, has concentrated on
lower-level intelligence failures all along, rather than on what exactly the
executive decision-makers knew, when they knew it, and what they did or
didn't do about their knowledge -- is designed to be an ineffective
truth-seeker and probably will decide nothing all that important with regard
to Bush Administration crimes and misdemeanors. I would be overjoyed to be
THE PLAME OUTING
The Plame case -- where two "senior Administration officials" revealed that
Valerie Plame, the wife of Bush critic Ambassador Joseph Wilson, was a
covert CIA operative -- is a bit more potentially explosive. For one thing,
revealing the identity of CIA agents is against the law; former President
George H.W. Bush called such outing of secret operatives "treasonous." The
issue is too hot and too public to hide. Somebody is going to have to be
The only question is whether Bush&Co. can minimize the damage by having a
couple of lower-level aides take the fall (supposedly "rogue elements"
acting on their own), or whether the grand jury investigating the case won't
be content with that B.S. but will go after the Big Guys, maybe Karl Rove
and I. Lewis Libby or maybe even Cheney Hisself.
The Bush Administration may not be able to postpone the investigation past
Election Day, so the thinking here is to get the indictments out soon and
the cases into the judicial system, so as to diffuse the potential electoral
damage as much as possible and make the Plame issue "old news" by the time
November rolls around. My guess is: limited indictments of lower-level
aides, dragged-out court cases beyond November 2, pardons later if anyone is
convicted. But, again, I would be happy to be proven wrong.
THE IRAQI TIME-BOMB
If 9/11 and the Plame case are explosive and potentially hurtful to Bush's
election hopes, what's happening in Iraq is positively catastrophic to those
chances. There are so many things that can continue to go wrong, and unlike
the Plame and 9/11 Commission cases, the U.S. has far less control over the
unfolding events. (And I'm not even talking here about the egregious lies of
Cheney, Rumsfeld, Bush, Rice, Wolfowitz, Powell, et al. that were used to
manipulate the country into approving a war that was one of choice, not
self-defense. Those deceits could come back and bite them with the
electorate -- at the least, removing the cloak of "trustworthiness" from
Bush -- but far more likely is that the military situation in Iraq will
continue to spiral out of control.
The whole Bush&Co. object here is to try to rig events from now until
Election Day so that the worst aspects of the ongoing war in Iraq disappear
from the political radar screen in the U.S. To this end, the U.S.
desperately wants to hand over a limited kind of "sovereignty" to its own
appointed Iraqi Governing Council, which presumably then will exercise (or
seem to be exercising) total control over domestic matters. If Paul Bremer,
with U.N. help, can somehow can get to that point -- the whole of Iraq may
explode into outright rebellion and/or a civil war before the handover --
the military will pull back to bases outside the flash points, with Iraqi
army and police forces in charge of security operations.
The Bush&Co. hope is that once that happens, the Iraqi insurgency either
will ease off its violent campaign since "sovereignty" has been transferred
to the Iraqis -- or, if not, that mainly Iraqi soldiers and police will take
the brunt of the bombings and shootings rather than American forces. In
short, the theory goes, there won't be the daily stories (and graphic
images) on America's TV networks about the rising rate of U.S. dead; the
Bush hope is that the U.S. population will be content that it's Iraqis being
slaughtered rather than our own young men and women, and the issue of a
continually rising military death toll will disappear as a volatile one for
the election campaign.
After November, assuming Bush wins, the Administration figures it can do
whatever it wants to do in Iraq (it's already set up 14 military bases in
that country), since it'll have four years to make things right there, with
only limited and ineffective opposition anticipated from the defeated
Democrats and others. In addition, the compliant corporate media will remain
faithfully in the Bush&Co. camp, the so-called "peace/anti-war" movement can
be marginalized or frightened by the use of police force against them or
indicted for "impeding the war effort," and the internet political websites
can be effectively dealt with and neutralized.
THE KERRY FACTOR
Another unknown for the Bushistas is how strong a candidate Kerry will turn
out to be. So far, the GOP has been able to keep the Massachusetts senator
from roaring ahead in the polls -- even during the past several weeks, when
Bush&Co. suffered a lot of political damage -- by trying to define him as a
typical Dem tax-raiser, a flip-flopper on issues, and weak on national
The whole object here is to keep Kerry locked solely into his base voters --
union workers, liberal Democrats, minorities, etc. -- but not let him break
out where he could attract enough moderate Republicans, Independents,
Libertarians and so on to make an electoral difference.
The GOP strategy appears to be: to solidify the 40% Bush base, keep Kerry
boxed in to his 40% Dem base, and lure or frighten enough swing voters and
swing states to pick up the requisite electoral votes for victory. And
they're not forgetting either the Nader factor -- they're covertly
supporting his run in hopes that he can pull 3-6% of votes away from Kerry
in key states -- or that many millions of voters will be using touch-screen
voting machines that provide no paper or other means of double-checking the
If Kerry were to fire himself up as a campaigner, and distinguish himself
more from Bush on key issues -- for example, on the Iraq war and Sharon's
policies in the Middle East -- the electorate would be able to see two very
different candidates and candidacies, and Kerry might begin to rise more in
the polls. But, on foreign policy, as Noam Chomsky has observed, Kerry is
"Bush-lite" -- representing the concerns of the corporate power-wielders --
though he's much better on domestic issues such as health care, prescription
drugs, judicial appointments, the economy, the environment, Medicare,
veterans' rights, etc.
If only because of his domestic policies on most issues, he deserves our
enthusiastic support. A Kerry administration would not be as arrogant,
mean-spirited, greedy, or corrupting. Potentially, he could bring the
country back more toward the liberal-moderate center, and away from the
extremist, reckless domestic direction Bush&Co. have taken us, and (though
he needs to re-examine some of his foreign positions) international policies
that have created such havoc here and around the globe.
But Kerry does need to grow as a campaigner, and as a human being. He said
he admires the late Robert Kennedy; now is the time for him to grow, as RFK
did, into a compassionate, thoughtful, determined, dynamic campaigner --
and, as Kerry sometimes exhibits, into even more of a scrapper against
Bush's dirty tricks and as a fighter for justice and peace.
BUSH CAN BE BEATEN
The scandals are bubbling away in Washington's political pressure-cookers,
and the opposition to Bush is building up steam and momentum. Critical mass
could occur at any time. In short, Bush CAN be denied a second term -- if
all of us pitch in to make it happen, concentrating a good share of our
energies on the computer-voting dangers -- and the country CAN, after the
January inauguration in 2005, start to reverse the immense damage caused by
the Bush neo-cons.
Not only will a GOP defeat rob Bush&Co. of their absolute hold on power and
their control of billions to hand out to friends and supporters, but it
could leave some of the higher-ups in danger of criminal prosecutions. This
helps explain the ferocity of their attacks, and why the anti-Bush fight to
dislodge them is not going to be easy. But the battle must be joined.
But if we and Kerry blow it, it's clear where the country will be headed:
down the dark road of a kind of police-state neo-fascism domestically, and
more imperial war-mongering abroad. We simply cannot allow that to happen.
Regardless of what we may think of some of Kerry's positions, the
alternative of four more years of unchecked power in the hands of Bush&Co.
is too horrific to contemplate.
It's time now, even eight months before Election Day, to head toward the
electoral ramparts and make our power and determination felt. To do
otherwise is to abandon our country to the shadow forces currently obscuring
the sun that is our beloved country; grab a light and let's make a stellar
difference in our collective future.