Consolidating control of the Titanic

By - Mar 1st, 2007 02:52 pm
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By Donald Kaul

Admit it, you were fooled. You listened to that wimpy State of the Union address and you thought President Bush was in full retreat before an angry electorate.

Yet again you misunderestimated the man. The retreat was merely tactical.

Less than a week after the speech, he returned to the fray, guns blazing. He signed a Presidential directive that, in effect, grants him control over all federal rules and policies developed to protect public health, safety, the environment, civil rights and privacy.

The directive, which does not need Congressional approval, requires regulatory agencies to have a policy office run by a political appointee who makes sure proposed regulations don’t cost the regulated industries too much. (And by “too much,” I would imagine, they mean “anything.” )

In the past, such regulations have been the responsibility of career civil servants and scientists. From now on, political hacks will be running the show, preferably ones who don’t believe in abortion, stem cell research or evolution. If you liked Katrina, you’re going to love the next two years.

As Rep. Henry Waxman (D-California) said: “The executive order allows the political staff at the White House to dictate decisions on health and safety issues, even if the government’s own impartial experts disagree. This is a terrible way to govern, but great news for special interests.”

It occurs to me that what President Bush is doing, in his way, is resurrecting the administration of Richard Nixon. Like Bush, Nixon tried to put his political operatives at key positions in virtually every department of the government, to better exercise power. Like Bush, he wire-tapped his enemies, opened their mail and spied on them. He also had a burglary team working for him and we don’t know whether President Bush has one of those – yet.

The genius of Bush, however, is that while Nixon had to resign his Presidency and nearly went to jail for his crimes, Bush commits them openly and no one lays a glove on him.

It’s the War on Terror, don’t you know. Everything he does is legal because he’s a war president and he says it’s legal.

It’s a terrific hustle and you have to give him credit for pulling it off. So he’s down in the polls a little, so what? The people he’s taking care of now will take care of him down the road.

I do worry about our vice president, however. He seems to have gone a little…I don’t know…soft in the head, I guess you’d call it.

A couple of weeks ago Mr. Cheney sat down with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and answered critics of the war in Iraq. “Hogwash.” That’s what he called the criticisms. The war, far from being a failure, has been a string of “enormous successes,” he said. We got rid of Saddam, we got rid of his sons, we established a democracy in the Middle East, we gave the Iraqis a constitution.

“The world is much safer today because of it,” he said.

I don’t know what else he said because I had to go lie down and put a cold cloth on my forehead.

He reminds me of Saddam’s Minister of Information, Muhammad Said al-Sahhaf. All through the invasion he scoffed at reports of American successes. He rejected the validity of telecasts showing American tanks on Baghdad streets. His last press conference featured American tanks advancing on him in the background, even as he denied their existence. That’s our boy Dick.
People worry about Iran getting the atom bomb. Not me. I worry about Cheney getting it. VS

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