Saturday, November 25, 2006

Bush unchastened: business as usual at the White House

By Nancy Jane Moore

Apparently Bush thinks that all he needs to do to co-opt the new Democratic majority in Congress is toss around the word bipartisan and fire Rumsfeld.

The smart thing to do when Bush starts acting like Mr. Nice Guy is to ignore what he says and watch what he does. In the last week, he's done two things that tell me he wasn't really listening to the electorate on Nov. 7:
  • He's renominated four right wingers to serve as judges on the federal courts of appeal. Even The Washington Post says this hits a "discordant note."
  • He's allowed his Secretary of Health and Human Services to appoint a man who objects to birth control as head of the family planning office.
The appointment of extremists as judges should make it clear to the Democrats that Bush has no intention of compromising. He's going to continue to pretend he has a mandate, which, given that he didn't even get the popular vote in 2000 and barely squeaked by (assuming you believe the votes were counted properly) in 2004, is an insult to the people of this country. He's never had a mandate; he's just had a lapdog Congress. Now he doesn't even have that.

The appointment of Eric Keroack to head family planning is scarier, though, because the Senate doesn't get to confirm him. According to Slate, Keroack has served as medical director for an organization that not only opposes abortion, but asserts birth control is degrading to women.

By the way, claiming that birth control and other family planning is bad for women is the latest strategy from the anti-birth-control forces: They're claiming to protect women from the unscrupulous people who want to force them to have sex and abortions -- as if women can't make these decisions for themselves. Stephanie McMillan nailed them in her cartoon on the South Dakota extreme abortion law. We need to watch out for movements such as this that claim to be pro-women while actually working to limit women's rights and options.

Slate says Keroack has distorted scientific research to allege that premarital sex causes women chronic emotional pain, affects their oxytocin levels, and will keep them from bonding with their babies -- a theory that has been exposed as pseudoscientific balderdash. This is the man who is going to develop guidelines for family planning clinics and decide how federal dollars will be spent.

As The New York Times says, "It sounds like a late-night parody of President Bush's bad habit of filling key posts with extreme ideologues and incompetents." The Times goes on to observe:
Americans who were expecting a more moderate administration in the wake of this month's elections may find all this shocking. But to the unchastened Bush White House, apparent opposition to contraceptives, abortion and science was the opposite of disqualifying. It was a winning trifecta.
What worries me the most, though, is how many other Keroacks the Bush administration has appointed to significant policy posts that don't require Senate confirmation. There are likely hundreds, maybe thousands, of ideologues and hacks currently ruining government programs.
And if you figure the Democrats will block the right wing judges and your response to appointments like that of Keroack is "Oh, well, it's only two more years," I have one more scary example for you: War with Iran.

In the Nov. 29 issue of the New Yorker, Seymour Hersh writes:
A month before the November elections, Vice-President Dick Cheney was sitting in on a national-security discussion at the Executive Office Building. The talk took a political turn: what if the Democrats won both the Senate and the House? How would that affect policy toward Iran, which is believed to be on the verge of becoming a nuclear power? At that point, according to someone familiar with the discussion, Cheney began reminiscing about his job as a lineman, in the early nineteen-sixties, for a power company in Wyoming. Copper wire was expensive, and the linemen were instructed to return all unused pieces three feet or longer. No one wanted to deal with the paperwork that resulted, Cheney said, so he and his colleagues found a solution: putting "shorteners" on the wire -- that is, cutting it into short pieces and tossing the leftovers at the end of the workday. If the Democrats won on November 7th, the Vice-President said, that victory would not stop the Administration from pursuing a military option with Iran. The White House would put "shorteners" on any legislative restrictions, Cheney said, and thus stop Congress from getting in its way.
Remember signing statements? Have you noticed how Bush ignores even the Supreme Court, no bastion of liberalism? He isn't listening. The election improved our odds of reining in this imperial and incompetent administration, but we can't just sit back and rely on the slim Democratic majority. We have to keep up the fight.

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