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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Nov. 30, 2001

Another unacceptable Bush nominee — Toledo Blade
President Bush’s first nominee to head the Consumer Product Safety Commission, Mary Sheila Gall, was shot down in a party-line vote earlier this year after Democrats suggested she would favor businesses in enforcing safety regulations. Now, in what the Toledo Blade calls a spiteful “knee-jerk reaction,” Bush has nominated another pro-business candidate, former New Mexico attorney general Hal Stratton. According to the Blade, Stratton is “just as bad as Ms. Gall and probably worse. He inhabits a world in which government has no right to tell business what to do, a world where consumer choices are the best marketplace regulators, a world in which product-liability lawsuits stifle innovation. This would be the same world in which consumer products never are unsafe, only used incorrectly by careless people. In other words, a fantasy world.”

Administration sued over Carlyle documents — Judicial Watch
Judicial Watch, a public interest law firm and government watchdog group, has announced it will file a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the State and Defense Departments to gain access to more documents concerning the Carlyle Group, an international consulting and investment firm which retains former President George H.W. Bush. The firm reportedly also has ties to the Saudi royal family and to the bin Laden family. Critics have said the shadowy organization has too much influence with the federal government. Judicial Watch has posted some documents it successfully obtained in recent FOIA requests, including a recent letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld from former Defense Secretaries Frank Carlucci and William Perry, both now with Carlyle Group. The documents also include Secretary Rumsfeld’s April 3 response to Messrs. Carlucci and Perry. The letters appear to concern a restructuring of the Defense Department. The Carlyle Group is listed in the documents as Defense Department contractor.

Nov. 29, 2001

Norton may face contempt charges — Los Angeles Times
A US district judge has threatened to begin contempt of court proceedings next week against Interior Secretary Gale Norton for allegedly filing misleading and inaccurate reports on her agency’s efforts to clean up a troubled trust fund system for Native Americans, reports Robert L. Jackson. The judge said Norton and an undersecretary could stand trial Monday, following a preliminary hearing Friday, for “committing a fraud on the court by misleading” the judge. Norton could face up to six months in jail and a fine.

Give “evil” a rest — Baltimore Sun
President Bush refers to terrorists as “evildoers,” to Osama bin Laden as “the evil one,” to Saddam Hussein as “an evil man,” and to various enemies of the United States as just plain “evil”, writes David Greene. When challenged on his decision to close the White House to public tours for the holidays, Bush’s response was, “Evil knows no holiday.” The word, at least, ought to be given one, writes Greene. “One day last week, Bush registered five ‘evils,’ using the word in two speeches and in an exchange with reporters,” Greene says. “Even that was restrained. His personal high, achieved in an Oct. 11 news conference, is 12.”

Nov. 28, 2001

Bush sued over presidential records — Public Citizen
Public Citizen, on behalf of several civil liberties and historic organizations, has filed a lawsuit against the Bush administration, charging that the president’s executive order severely restricting public access to presidential records violates federal law. “We will not stand by while the administration tramples on the people’s right to find out about their own government,” said Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook. “The president should not have the ability to arbitrarily withhold public information to hide wrongdoing or avoid embarrassment.” Bush’s order would also allow former presidents to block access to their administrations’ records, according to a Public Citizen press release. Prior to Bush’s order, the Presidential Records Act provided that all but the most sensitive presidential records be made accessible to the public 12 years after the president leaves office. Public Citizen won a similar suit against the Reagan administration in 1988, overturning a Justice Department directive requiring the National Archives to refuse any requests if a former president invoked privilege for any reason.

DOJ out of the loop on tribunals — United Press International
President Bush’s plan to try suspected terrorists in military tribunals rather than federal courts has inflamed civil libertarians on both sides of the political divide, in part because such a tribunal sidesteps the US justice system. As it turns out, the order does so in more ways than one. According to testimony from Assistant Attorney General Michael Chertoff before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Bush has ordered the Defense Deparment — not the Justice Department — to draft the rules on how the tribunals will be conducted, including standards for picking lawyers, establishing the grounds for justice, and selecting the venue. Chertoff said his agency had not been consulted on any of the new rules.

Nov. 27, 2001

Administration OK’s human pesticide testing — Los Angeles Times
The Bush administration has reportedly informed the pesticide industry that it plans to lift a Clinton-era ban on using data from safety tests in which humans ingest “small amounts” of insect-killing chemicals. The Environmental Protection Agency, which sets allowable limits on toxic chemicals in food, has not publicly announced the decision. The policy change would fly in the face of recommendations made in 1998 by a panel of scientists and bioethicists who said human testing should be banned altogether or severely limited and regulated. “The new policy could have a significant impact because it comes as the government is beginning to reassess about 9,000 pesticide safety levels to reflect their impact on children,” according to the Los Angeles Times. Unsurprisingly, the Times adds, leading pesticide makers “welcome the shift.” Industry officials say the alternative — animal testing — is inaccurate and results in overly strict limits on pesticide use.

Congress demanding to be consulted — The Christian Science Monitor
While support for the war on terrorism remains high in Congress, lawmakers are increasingly frustrated by what they see as president George W. Bush’s eagerness to make unilateral decisions about that war, Gail Russell Chaddock reports. Ongoing Senate hearings are illustrating a backlash “over steps the Bush team has taken since then to expand its powers to conduct the war,” Chaddock says. ” What bothers some lawmakers isn’t just the substance of these changes, which they say infringe on constitutional protections that Americans and many noncitizens living in this country have come to expect. It’s the way they were simply announced: no consultation.”

Nov. 26, 2001

Feminism of convenience? — San Francisco Chronicle
The Bush administration’s newfound concern for the women of Afghanistan may be motivated as much by domestic politics as global equity, Carolyn Lochhead argues. “The White House push for Afghan women’s rights is a calculated move aimed at the propaganda front,” says Lochhead. “The rights of Afghan women provide moral ground for the U.S. military campaign that can unify domestic political support and combat anti-American sentiment abroad. It also offers Bush a chance to lift his image with American women.” Women’s rights activists are understandably puzzled by the White House’s sudden concern for women abroad — one of the president’s first acts was to cut off US funding of foreign family planning groups that support abortion. Still, Lochhead says skeptics should give Bush a chance to prove his feminist mettle. After all, she says, Bush did appoint National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and White House Communications Director Karen Hughes, who are at the center of the administration’s campaign to support Afghan women.

Creeping theocracy — FindLaw
The Bush administration has shown a frightening willingness to use its power to enforce its religious ideals, arguably in violation of the US Constitution, writes legal analyst Sherry Colb. President Bush’s position on stem-cell research was a flagrantly religious one, argues Colb, while Attorney General John Ashcroft has failed to make good on his promise to enforce US law independent of his own beliefs, especially when it comes to abortion. Colb says Ashcroft’s tendencies have been most clearly evident since the Sept. 11 attacks, in his refusal to meet with abortion-rights activists and abortion clinic operators who have repeatedly received threatening letters mimicking the anthrax-laced letters sent to officials in Washington. “If anti-abortion terrorism is to enjoy the only exception from our full-scale war on terror, it will be because Attorney General Ashcroft has improperly allowed his personal religious beliefs (and those of his supporters) to prevent him from evenhandedly applying the law to protect all citizens’ constitutional rights,” writes Colb. “The government’s continuing willingness to press a religious agenda should worry us greatly at a time like this, when our very lives are threatened by extremists who would impose their will in the name of God.”


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