The Bush Files

A sampling of the day’s best independent news, views, and resources on US politics, keeping an eye on the Bush Administration. Updated each weekday.

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Oct. 5-7, 2001

Hawks chip away at Powell — Observer (UK)
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld presented two proposals to President Bush this week, both drawn up by Rumsfeld’s deputy Paul Wolfowitz, one on the chief architects of the Gulf War under Bush Sr. Both proposals call for an open-ended campaign — which Pentagon hawks have unofficially dubbed “Operation Infinite War” — which would have virtually no geographical or duration limits. According to the Observer, “The proposals have opened up an abyss in the Bush administration, since they run counter to plans carefully laid by Secretary of State Colin Powell, who has had the upper hand against the Pentagon for the first three weeks since the disaster, but is starting to lose his commanding position within the Oval Office.”

Bush’s vulnerable poll numbers — Hotline Scoop
George W. Bush is enjoying record approval ratings, but there is little chance his popularity will last. Pollster John Zogby says that to preserve some of the public good will, Bush will have to “realize what he did not recognize when he took office. He was not elected with any conservative mandate. Indeed, he was barely even elected. … If he tries to use his high numbers to legitimize a right-wing agenda, his support will dissipate.”

That’s reassuring — This Week at the White House
George W. Bush was talkin’ tough on terrorism in a speech at the US Labor Department Sunday, pledging to marshal all necessary resources to defeat those who threaten peace and prosperity in the United States. “And there is no doubt in my mind, not one doubt in my mind, that we will fail.”

Oct. 4, 2001

Bush set himself up for backlash — Guardian (UK)
Recent 90 percent-plus approval ratings for the president may give Bush a false sense of security, writes the Guardian‘s Matthew Engel. Bush whipped the country into a unifying retributive frenzy in the two weeks following the terrorist attacks, driving up his popularity. But he may live to regret it: The administration is now trying to quietly back away from the swift-sword-of-justice rhetoric in light of evidence that a) the enemy may be impossible to find and b) even if US forces find and assassinate Usama bin Ladin, terrorist threats to the US will likely only increase. Americans like instant gratification, Engel notes, and they may lose patience with the slow pace of this “new war.”

Return of the malaprop — Washington Post
It took Bush Files a while to notice, but here, near the end of an article about how President Bush is trying to get back to the normal rhythms of life and office, is evidence that he’s succeeding: His infamous “misunderestimate” shows up three times in three sentences.

White House denies rumors of Cheney illness —
Vice President Dick Cheney has been conspicuously low-profile since shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Cheney, who was defense secretary during the Gulf War and is widely recognized as a driving force behind George W. Bush’s defense strategy, rarely shows up in media reports on the key strategists formulating the administration’s “war on terrorism.” Rumors are flying that Cheney’s heart has been acting up, but White House officials say he’s in fine health.

Oct. 3, 2001

Congress, White House clash on homeland security office — The Hill
Members of Congress were reportedly stunned when George W. Bush announced the establishment of the Office of Homeland Security and his appointment of former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge on Sept 15. Bush apparently did not consult with the congressional leadership about what, if any, congressional oversight the office would have, or whether its director might more appropriately be nominated and confirmed by a congressional panel. A Senate committee headed by Sen. Joseph Lieberman is working on legislation to stop the White House plan.

Rumsfeld rehabilitates his image — Roll Call
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was not a popular guy on Capitol Hill in August after he introduced his controversial plan to restructure the country’s military. But since the Sept. 11 attacks, his actions and the team he has assembled to advise him have met with widespread Congressional approval. According to Roll Call, “Rumsfeld’s political resurrection comes as no surprise to friends such as [former House Speaker] Newt Gingrich, who first met the Defense Secretary while still a senior at Emory University. ‘The more you see Rumsfeld, the more you realize how really smart he is and how really dedicated he is, and this exposure has been really good for him,’ said Gingrich.”

Oct. 2, 2001

Missile shield still a bad idea — The Gully
The Bush administration’s proposed missile defense system could not have prevented the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks; still, the administration appears to be using the current pro-defense climate to curry favor for the proposal overseas. US officials were stumping for the plan in Moscow just days after the attacks, notes Gully commentator Chuck 45, and Democrats in Congress who had opposed the plan are now going along. “While I’m all for hanging together lest we hang alone,” opines 45, “it would have been nice for just one or two voices to admit a bad idea three weeks ago is probably still a bad idea now.”

O’Neill losing stature — New York Times
Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill has “had his leash shortened” by a White House no longer ready to tolerate his loose-cannon style. “The time has come to get on and get along,” according to one administration official. O’Neill has raised eyebrows with volatile off-the-cuff comments and public statements about his own philosophies, some of which don’t jibe with administration positions. According to the Times, O’Neill’s role in domestic economic policymaking also has been severely reduced in recent months.

Oct. 1, 2001

The cabinet matters after all — Christian Science Monitor
Before the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush’s handlers had cultivated a popular perception that all major decisions were coming from the very top, and that big-name cabinet chiefs like Donald Rumsfeld and Colin Powell were merely implementing Bush’s will. “We were at the point of saying the cabinet is not relevant and that Karl Rove [Bush’s political adviser from Texas] was king,” says Paul Light, an expert on government at the Brookings Institution. “That has clearly changed dramatically.” Now Powell, Rumsfeld, and Condoleezza Rice — “Team Bush” as the Monitor calls them — are front and center.

Tough questions no one’s asking —
Martin Lee says the US press corps often behaves “more as a fourth branch of government than a feisty fourth estate.” He offers up some tough questions he wishes the mainstream press would ask Bush & Co. Among them: “By making counter-terrorism the top priority in bilateral relations, aren’t you signaling to abusive governments in Sudan, Indonesia, Turkey, and elsewhere that they need not worry much about their human rights performance as long as they join America’s anti-terrorist crusade?” and: “Terrorists finance their operations by laundering money through offshore banks and other hot money outlets. Yet your administration has undermined international efforts to crack down on tax havens. …Will you reassess this decision?” (For a primer on how wealthy Americans hide their assets overseas, see the Mother Jones cover story “Trillion-Dollar Hideaway.”)


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