Better Buckle Up! -- CheneyBush's Final 10 Months
By Bernard Weiner
Co-Editor, The Crisis Papers
March 4, 2008
If anyone still harbors any illusions that the
lame-duck CheneyBush Administration will taxi relatively harmlessly to
its departure gate in January 2009, recent events suggest otherwise.
It's been made abundantly clear that in the next ten months, these guys
are going to behave even more brutishly in amassing and misusing their
power, and in screwing things up, than they've already done in the past
In essence, the message emanating from the White House to the country
can be summed up this way: "You want us? You come and get us. Otherwise,
get out of our way! We've got a whole lot of unfinished business to
In foreign policy, we should expect CheneyBush to continue locking-in
agreements with the Iraq government that will permit permanent
stationing of troops and aircraft and missiles on that country's soil,
which in effect means a continuation of the war perhaps for decades --
or, in the approving estimate of John McCain, for 50 or 100 years or
more. (But you can bet that CheneyBush will withdraw some troops from
Iraq, for partisan reasons, just prior to the election.) Then there's
the prospect they will bomb Iran's military/scientific installations
from the air, something Cheney and Bush and the other neo-cons, in and
out of government, are salivating about.
In domestic policy, one can expect even more bad policy: placing a whole
lot more incompetent ideologues into positions of administrative power
and onto the courts, selling off more of America's public lands for
energy exploitation, giving more sweetheart deals to their contributors
(such as the one the EPA just cut with big agriculture so they don't
have to report their factory-farm
toxic-gas emissions,), cutting more vital social and infrastructure
programs as the economy continues to tank -- thanks to Bush policies of
spending upwards of three trillion dollars on the wars and associated costs, etc. etc.
Consider just four examples from last week:
1. ENJOY YOUR "DOWNER" BURGERS
Americans were justifiably horrified when they saw recent hidden-camera
footage on the nightly news of emaciated, scabrous cows being dumped
into the food supply that winds up as hamburger meat in schools and
prisons and who knows where else. According to Department of Agriculture
regulations, those so-called "downer" cattle (those too sick or weak to
stand) are not permitted to be placed into the public food-supply chain,
for fear of passing on "mad cow" or other horrific diseases.
Nearly 145,000 million pounds of such potentially tainted meat from the
slaughterhouse in question had to be recalled, 37 million pounds of
which already had been consumed in school lunches and other nutrition
Good, the meat-processors in question were shamed and embarrassed. The
government's regulatory system was in place and all was well in the
Wrong. CheneyBush and their GOP enablers in Congress are in hock up to
their eyeballs to their corporate benefactors, and ideologically opposed
in any case to the concept of regulating a free market. So, how did the
Administration handle this black-eye episode?
Were the fines increased for meat-processors that skirt the rules? Their
corporate owners shunned and contracts canceled? Nope.
Instead, last week, the CheneyBush Administration
officially authorized the use of "downer" meat as fit for human
consumption. A few more random inspections were ordered at
meat-processing plants, but no systemic overhaul of the limited
inspection protocols were devised to increase protection for the public.
"So you caught us red-handed bowing to the meat-processing industry,"
Bush&Co. seemed to be saying. "What are you going to do about it? Bugger
off and get out of our face."
2. WHO WATCHES THE WATCHERS?
The CheneyBush Administration is probably the most secretive in U.S.
history. It doesn't like anybody looking over its shoulder and knowing
what it's up to, mainly because so much of what it's up to is either
immoral, illegal or the result of massive corruption, often all three at
the same time.
CheneyBush have been especially secretive about the many and various
ways they've mangled and decimated the Constitution, especially in how
the massive intelligence-gathering techniques available to it have been
marshaled to data-mine and spy on American citizens. New technologies
have enabled federal agents to secretly enter citizens' computers, read
their personal email, tap their telephones, etc., without those
victimized ever knowing. Such privacy violations are done, of course, in
the name of "fighting the war on terrorism."
Just like authoritarian governments all over the globe, the CheneyBush
regime keeps its illegal operations top-secret, and fights like the
devil to keep them that way. One way they do this is to make sure nobody
-- no court, no congressional committee, and certainly not the public --
is privy to their shadowy operations. To have total control of the
inflow of information, they had to figure a way to avoid the post-Nixon
law establishing the FISA Court as the one legal entity for oversight of
all Executive requests for wiretapping and the like.
Even though the FISA court has been a virtual rubber-stamp for whatever
Bush&Co. choose to do, CheneyBush don't want to be compelled to seek
official "permission" to listen in on phone calls of American citizens.
But they especially don't want to admit that the President can be reined
in by any other institution. And so, shortly after CheneyBush
took office, but before 9/11, on their own order they had the NSA begin
massive wiretapping and eavesdropping. After 9/11, they asserted an even
greater desire to have all intelligence in their hands, always using the
"national security" excuse, and, in effect, maneuvered the FISA court
out of any meaningful say in their intel-mining programs.
But one final institutional outlet needed to be made toothless. It's
called the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB),
established in 1993, which had the power to question the legal authority
of intel decisions made by the Administration. By executive order last
week, it has been renamed (taking the word "foreign" out of its title)
and its most important committee, the Intelligence Oversight Board (IOB),
was effectively stripped of its oversight responsibilities. Most notably
removed was the requirement that abuses of executive power "shall be
reported" to the Attorney General and that investigations can be carried
out by the IOB to determine how bad the situation is. The IOB now merely
reports to the Director of National Intelligence.
Here's the sum-up, as explained by
Daily Kos' Sminthius: "The Bush administration is engaged in an epic
struggle with Congress to keep its illegal domestic intelligence
activities secret. That is what the battle over the FISA bill is all
about. The last thing Bush, Cheney, and Addington would wish to do would
be to leave the IOB in a position to start investigating or exposing
that illegality -- now, or in a future administration."
What are CheneyBush hiding in their all-encompassing intel-mining of
U.S. citizens? It could involve listening in on their political enemies,
or it could be something huge in the works (an attack on Iran?) that
they feel would require a nationwide clampdown on intel collection and
dissemination. Stay tuned.
3. TRUE CONTEMPT OF CONGRESS
Another way of avoiding scrutiny and oversight is to ignore and neuter
the other branches of government. Given how many HardRight judges
they've appointed, CheneyBush more or less can count on getting their
questionable actions approved by the appellate courts and even by the
Supreme Court. In addition, they control the Department of Justice
through the ideological toadies they appointed as Attorney General, most
notably Alberto Gonzales and now Michael Mukasey.
Recently, the House voted to hold two key Administration figures (White
House Chief of Staff Josh Bolton and former White House Counsel Harriet
Miers) in contempt of Congress for their failure to honor a subpoena by
the House Judiciary Committee requiring their testimony and relevant
documents relating to the matter of the fired U.S. Attorneys. They were
informed by the committee that they could assert a claim of "executive
privilege" as a justification for not answering questions and not
providing the documents, but they had to do that by appearing and making
that claim in front of the committee. They were not simply free to
ignore a lawful subpoena to appear. In short, nobody was above the law.
The committee gave the Administration all sorts of extended deadlines
and opportunities to comply, but all they got back was silence from the
White House. CheneyBush didn't want their aides to appear and so they
didn't; for them to appear, in this twisted theory of governance, would
be to acknowledge the validity of Congressional oversight and the
separation of powers under which the U.S. has operated for more than 225
Congress can not challenge the authority of the President, this White
House reasoning essentially is: "We will not submit to your requests or
demands or subpoenas, so go stuff yourself." (Of course, it's easier to
strike this tough-guy 'tude when you know that the Democrats in charge
of Congress have taken impeachment "off the table.")
Eventually, the House leadership had had enough and Miers and Bolton
were cited for contempt, which could earn them jail time. But the
citation is meaningless unless it can be enforced and guess who is in
charge of referring those contempt citations to a grand jury for
possible indictments? Right, Michael Mukasey, CheneyBush's handpicked
lackey as Attorney General. And, sure enough, Mukasey refused to refer.
Democratic Senators Dianne Feinstein and Charles Schumer voted to
confirm Mukasey because, they said, he promised to be an objective
independent AG. It didn't take long, as was demonstrated last week, to
figure out that Mukasey, like Gonzales, is little more than a trained
poodle willingly and energetically doing the White House bidding
whenever called upon to protect Cheney and Bush from possible legal
And, even if Muksasey had sent the contempt citations to the criminal
court, the U.S. Attorney for the D.C. District, Jeffrey Taylor, would
have to sign the request in order for criminal indictments to be
delivered. Taylor is another made man, one of Bush&Co.'s handpicked U.S.
Attorneys, and he's made clear that he would not enforce Congress'
contempt citations against Administration officials.
4. YOU'VE GOT (NO) MAIL
Another way Bush&Co. hide what they're really up to is to make sure
there's no evidence lying around. Rove and his minions, to keep their
less savory projects secret, used both White House email addresses and
Republican National Committee email addresses. The White House claims
that several million of its requested emails have gone "missing. When
Congress subpoenaed the tens of thousands of RNC emails to the White
House, they were told that, glory be, those emails likewise had somehow
"disappeared" and couldn't be found. Angry Democratic chairmen said look
again. The Republicans said they would try to restore computer backup
Many months have now gone by and last week, the RNC told Congress that
it has no intention of trying to restore the missing White House
e-mails. No explanation. That's it. "Up yours. Whatya goin' to do about
Unless somehow the Democrats can bring more power to bear, the RNC move,
writes Lambert at the
Corrente blog, "increases the likelihood that an untold number of
RNC e-mails dealing with official White House business during the first
term of the Bush administration - including many sent or received by
former presidential adviser Karl Rove - will never be recovered..."
Maybe the Democrats should ask Attorney General Mukasey to look into the
likely destruction of email evidence pointing to illegal activity in the
White House. That should take care of the matter.
FOLLOW THE POLITICS
The secrets of how and why CheneyBush fired those U.S. Attorneys and
replaced them with their own loyalists will remain hidden away from
public view, even though it's clear to all what was going on. CheneyBush
needed to get rid of independent-minded U.S. Attorneys and replace them
with those who would do what they're told, especially harassing and
indicting Democrats on trumped-up "vote fraud" and other phony charges
prior to the November election, and protecting corrupt officials and GOP
dirty-tricks operatives working to suppress hundreds of thousands of
minority voters from exercising their franchise in the November
So shutting down Congress' contempt citations is par for the course for
this administration that makes sure that it is never held accountable
for its reprehensible and often illegal actions. That's the way
House Speaker Pelosi said she's now entertaining taking those contempt
citations into civil court, thus bypassing the U.S. Attorney. We shall
Or, given the CheneyBush penchant for secrecy -- aided and abetted by
their enablers in Congress, the corporate mass-media, and the courts --
maybe we won't see.
Copyright 2008, by Bernard Weiner
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D., has taught
government & international relations at universities in California and
Washington, worked as a writer/editor at the San Francisco Chronicle for two
decades, and currently serves as co-editor of The Crisis Papers (www.crisispapers.org).