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George W. BushBush makes the following perceptive statement on foreign policy: "When I was coming up, it was a dangerous world, and you knew exactly who they were. It was us vs. them, and it was clear who them was. Today, we are not so sure who the they are, but we know they're there." (AllHatNoCattle)
George W. BushPreviously a pig farm, it was purchased in 1999 for considerably less than its market price of $1.2 million. The "ranch house" is actually a single-level mansion that wasn't completed until November 7, 2000, just in time for the election results. Apparently the idea of Bush residing on a ranch in a similar fashion to the Reagan, Kennedy, or Roosevelt homesteads was the idea of Bush's election team. Before the ranch was created, Bush himself preferred to "hang out" at the Rainbo Club, an exclusive hunting club south of Dallas. The previous owner of the property actually owns and maintains the cattle housed at the Crawford ranch. The horses that photogenically roam the property are there strictly for show; Bush is afraid of horses and does not ride. (Democrats.com)
George W. BushDick Cheney administers the oath of office to several dozen White House staff members. The oath is not unlike the oaths Bush and Cheney took on January 20, committing the oath-taker to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic," and "bear true faith and allegiance to the same." After the oath was administered, Bush tells the staff, along with their family members in attendance, "You all are here because you have my full confidence. ...Today, everything is so promising and new. I'm hoping the day will never come when any of us take this place for granted." He says he expects his staff to meet the highest ethical standards, avoiding not only violations of law, but even the appearance of impropriety. "We must remember the high standards that come with high office," he says. "This begins careful adherence with the rules. I expect every member of this administration to stay well within the boundaries [that] define legal and ethical conduct. No one in the White House should be afraid to confront the people they work for over ethical concerns, and no one should hesitate to confront me as well." Bush told his staff that he sees civility as a central part of the required behavior of White House staff. "There is no excuse for arrogance and never a reason for disrespect toward others," he says. "I expect each of you...to be an example of humility and decency and fairness." Interesting admonishments considering what is to come. (UPI/NewsMax)
"Culture Wars"The policy prohibits US government family-planning funds from going to overseas groups that provide abortion services, lobby for abortion rights, or counsel pregnant women that abortion is an option. Bush mendaciously pronounces that "It is my conviction that taxpayer funds should not be used to pay for abortions or advocate or actively promote abortion, either here or abroad." The $425 million in question was not going to pay for, or promote, abortions; a 1973 law made it illegal for any organization to use US funds to pay for abortions overseas. The money went to family-planning groups that did not involve abortion or abortion-rights advocacy. Bush and his press secretary Ari Fleischer insist on saying that they were stopping abortions from being carried out overseas with government money, a flat lie. Fleischer also says that Bush believes the order "will help make abortion more rare," and that Bush intends to send the money to other family-planning groups. David Corn writes, "The truth was that the Mexico City Policy was not about reducing abortions. It was about punishing international family-planning organizations -- some of which also provided gynecological services and engaged in AIDS prevention in poverty-wracked nations -- for promoting or discussing abortion, even though they relied on non-federal funds for that work. Coincidentally, the same day Bush revives the order, thousands of anti-abortion protesters appear in Washington for their annual protest against Roe v. Wade. The order does not go into effect until March 28, 2001; in 2003, Bush will revise the order to provide AIDS prevention money to groups that may perform or promote abortion as long as their anti-AIDS work does not mix with their abortion-related activities. (David Corn)
Election fraudastonishment and dismay at the outcry of anguish and rage from Americans over the Bush v. Gore vote, which halted the Florida election recounts and awarded the presidency to Bush. O'Connor, who voted with the 5-4 majority to give Bush the election, says that the Court has been bombarded with thousands of letters from angry citizens, some of whom have included their voter registration cards. "For shame," one letter opens. Others are sarcastic, angry, and even threatening. O'Connor says that in her two decades on the Court she has never seen such anger over a case. (USA Today/Vincent Bugliosi)
Oil profiteering and the "oiligarchy"with even Republicans calling for price controls to get the situation under control, the Bush administration announces its response: it rescinds the Clinton emergency order issued in December 2000 to force electricity wholesalers like Enron to stop withholding power from California in order to artificially drive prices up. Enron's stock price, after reaching a high of $83 weeks before, was beginning to drop, as stockbuyers feared the return of Clinton-era energy regulation. The decision is a boon to Enron, but a stake through the heart of California energy consumers. In the following months, the White House will kill any attempts to place price caps on energy rates. Instead, Bush announces his opposition to price controls of any kind, and his support of the creation of a national energy grid, which will allow Enron and other companies of its kind to trade in a hugely expanded market and drive national energy prices skyward. Enron's profits soar, as do California's energy prices; only later is it proven that Kenneth Lay, Jeffrey Skilling, and other top-level Enron executives were cynically "gaming" the California energy market, forcing prices to quadruple or more and raking in vast profits, most directly from the pockets of California citizens forced to pay enormous electricity bills. (Joe Conason)
"Culture Wars"and women's reproductive health programs over their refusal to enact a gag rule on all non-governmental agencies (NGOs) that provide information about legal abortion services, counseling, or referrals, even if these NGOs receive no US funding and even though these same referrals are legal in the US. Predictions are that the administration's withdrawal will result in an increase of some 800,000 abortions worldwide as family planning and educational services around the world are deprived of critical funds. (Secretary of State Colin Powell admits he opposes the decision, but has no other choice than to carry it out.) (Eric Alterman and Mark Green)
Lies about "trashed White House"The item is light-hearted, and former Gore spokesman Chris Lehane quips, "I think the missing W's can be explained by the vast left-wing conspiracy now at work." But within days the story will morph into completely false allegations of wholesale vandalism, theft, and destruction that are swallowed virtually whole by the mainstream media.
Oil profiteering and the "oiligarchy"US law forces the companies buying the Iraqi oil -- Chevron, Texaco, Exxon, and Valero, among others -- to buy through middlemen. Accusations are leveled at Bush administration that they are secretly encouraging these illegal oil purchases; many, many connections between these companies and high-ranking administration officials are pointed out. Also, the Bush administration begins attempts to revive discussions with the Taliban about building a pipeline across Afghanistan. The Washington Post's Susan Glasser says, "I reported on Central Asia and the new US military presence there. It presented a whole complicated new presence for US policy makers in an area where human rights are dismal, where economic reforms have not been successful, and where the US now has a huge incentive to woo dictators like Karimov in Uzbekistan. The US desperately needs his assistance. It went back to backing questionable leaders for strategic reasons. Human rights groups estimate there are as many as 7,000 political prisoners in Uzbekistan, many of them religion-oriented who were arrested for doing nothing more than wearing a beard in public or going to the mosque on Fridays for prayers." (US/Iraq Relations Timeline)
Bush's economic policiesalmost 43% of his tax cuts would go to the top 1% of American earners, while less than 13% would go to the lowest 60% of wage earners. He tells the American people that his tax cuts are designed to provide relief to the low end of wage earners, but the math doesn't bear out his statements. Incidentally, Bush himself will reap nearly $267,000 in tax cuts from his own legislation between 2002 and 2006, with much larger governmental largesse coming in if he succeeds in repealing the estate tax. In contrast, many of Bush's strongest supporters, in the reddest of the so-called red states, will get little or no tax relief at all from Bush's proposals, because of their relatively low incomes. Democratic senator Kent Conrad tells Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan that the tax cuts "throw fiscal responsibility out the window," predicated as they are on highly unreliable, "fictional" ten-year economic forecasts of giant surpluses that don't bother to take into account the set-asides for Social Security. Greenspan tells Conrad that he is hedging his bets on the Bush tax cut plans, but is cautiously in favor of them. Conrad responds, "Look, I'm for tac cuts, but the tax cuts being proposed here are much too much over the ten-year period and they're too small on the front end to provide much stimulus. They're the worst of both worlds." Greenspan says that the tax cuts will be fiscally sound, as long as prudent economic spending follows the cuts. Conrad knows that both Bush and Greenspan are treading into the dangerous area of economic fantasy, but they won't listen to him nor to the man he calls immediately after his conversation with Greenspan, outgoing Treasury Secretary Bob Rubin. (The Nation, Joe Conason, Ron Suskind)
Bush's economic policieswriting in a memo to Bush, "I believe there is an opportunity to get quick action on your tax proposal if we move now. You have won the general argument on the desirability of a tax cut and the opposition has been cornered into arguing how large the tax cut should be, and their numbers are moving toward your numbers and scope...." O'Neill tries to weigh the political advantages of bundling a quick tax-cut package, with favors to an entire raft of special interests and campaign donors who feel Bush is beholden to them, with more overarching priorities such as a more broad-based tax rate reduction. Soon after, Bush meets with O'Neill, and, bestowing the impromptu nickname "Pablo" on the nonplussed O'Neill, lets O'Neill discuss the lengthy memo without interruption or input. From his previous experiences with presidents such as Nixon and Clinton, he had come to the meeting prepared for serious discussions, objections, whatever. Bush's stony silence confuses O'Neill. "I wondered from the first, if the president didn't know the questions to ask, or did he know and just not want to know the answers?" O'Neill asks in hindsight. "Or did his strategy somehow involve never showing what he thought? But you can ask questions, gather information, and not necessarily show your hand. It was strange." For an hour, O'Neill carries on what amounts to a monologue, with Bush making a single comment about educational budgets -- "I have that covered" -- and an occasional fractional head-nod. At the end of the session, Bush again catches O'Neill off-guard with a demand that O'Neill takes almost as a non sequiter: "Get me a plan on global warming," he says. "Get me a plan on it." O'Neill agrees, wondering to himself if he should call EPA chief Christie Whitman or not. (Ron Suskind)
Islamist terrorismAfter that bombing, Bush stated on the campaign trail: "I hope that we can gather enough intelligence to figure out who did the act and take the necessary action.... [T]here must be a consequence." According to the Washington Post: "Clarke argued that the camps were can't-miss targets, and they mattered. The facilities amounted to conveyor belts for al-Qaeda's human capital, with raw recruits arriving and trained fighters departing -– either for front lines against the Northern Alliance, the Afghan rebel coalition, or against American interests somewhere else. The US government had whole libraries of images filmed over Tarnak Qila and its sister camp, Garmabat Ghar, 19 miles farther west. Why watch al-Qaeda train several thousand men a year and then chase them around the world when they left?" Clarke also warns that al-Qaeda sleeper cells in the US are a "major threat." Two days later, the US confirms the link between al-Qaeda and the USS Cole bombing. No retaliation is taken on these camps until after 9/11. (CCR)
US involvement in Latin America"That gentleman has arrived there, and hopefully he is not as stupid as he seems, nor as mafia-like as his predecessors were," Castro says on state television. "[S]omeone very strange, with very little promise, has taken charge of the leadership of the great empire that we have as a neighbor." (CBS)
Bush's economic policiesGreenspan says that the government has to be careful to avoid the problems that might be engendered by paying off the national debt too fast. In 2005, political satirist Al Franken writes, "since then, thanks to the leadership of George W. Bush, we have entirely avoided that problem," and notes that as of his writing, the Bush government will have borrowed over $2 trillion. The media is alight with speculation that Greenspan's backing of Bush's enormous tax cuts are apt to change the proposed use of the surpluses, initially designated for reducing the federal deficit, but now likely to be handed back to the American people -- mostly the wealthy -- in the form of tax cuts. Greenspan's call for fiscal restraint is lost in the tumult over the surplus spending; Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill's call for regarding the surpluses as something of a "dividend" for America's "stockholders" is also ignored. As for Greenspan's ideas of economic "triggers" to regulate the cuts being implemented, press secretary Ari Fleischer says those triggers are all but irrelevant: "We need to make [the tax cuts] the permanent law of the land." O'Neill's caution about the tax cuts mark him as a maverick, and a potential problem for the administration; O'Neill begins receiving terse memos from Bush loyalists like Larry Lindsey and Karen Hughes about "message unity." O'Neill finds Lindsey's response to O'Neill, a response O'Neill sees as nothing more than a statement that Lindsey is loyal and O'Neill is not, an outrage, and fires off a memo to Lindsey saying, "This is bureaucratic chickensh*t. You must have something better to do with your time than send me memos such as this one." (Al Franken, Ron Suskind)
Bush's economic policies"I know how hard it is to put food on your family." (AllHatNoCattle)
Bush's energy policiesIt consists of six cabinet officers (Treasury, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Transportation and Energy), plus other government officials he was authorized to include if desired, which includes Bush family fixer Joe Allbaugh of FEMA. The staff is made up of full time government employees. It is apparent that the group is constituted to avoid falling under the aegis of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), a 1972 law that applies if any group of two or more persons utilized by a president for advice includes a non-government employee or official. If this occurs, FACA requires that the group must make all of its proceedings open to the public, keep records of the proceedings, and accommodate a broad spectrum of views. By including only government employees, the group avoids being constrained by FACA. By April 19, it is known in political circles that the group is clandestinely meeting with high-level officials from a number of energy and oil corporations, including numerous meetings with Enron's Kenneth Lay. Requests from Democratic congressmen for information about the group's proceedings and decisions are met with a vague, unsatisfactory response from Cheney's confidante and spokesperson David Addington; Addington politely tells the General Accounting Office (the oversight arm of Congress) that what the group is doing is none of their business. Addington mischaracterizes the GAO's request for information as an attempt "to intrude into the heart of Executive deliberations, including deliberations among the President, the Vice President, members of the President's Cabinet, and the President's immediate assistants, which the law protects to ensure the candor in Executive deliberation necessary to effective government." The GAO insists that it merely wants the facts as to what the group is doing, who is involved, and what decisions are being made. Cheney, claiming that he merely wants to "protect the ability of the president and the vice president to get unvarnished advice from any source we want," flatly denies the GAO any access to any materials from the group.
Bush's energy policiesthe conservative Wall Street Journal waxed apoplectic over the task force's secret meetings, and obtained the names of all 528 task force members and, labeling them "Kremlinologists," ran the names in an editorial. The Washington Times howled about the "cronyism and dishonesty" behind the secrecy of the task force and demanded that the public be informed about the task force's proceedings. In contrast, both the Journal and the Times supports the secrecy of the Cheney energy task force, with the Journal calling efforts to open the proceedings to the public "politically motivated" and an "end-run" around the Constitution's separation of powers; the Times defends its support of the Cheney task force's secrecy policy and its criticism of the Clinton task force's secrecy policy by saying "Perhaps the most important difference between the two task forces is no one on the Bush team is channeling policy from Eleanor Roosevelt." (The Times will become mildly critical of the secrecy of the Cheney task force as time goes on and more calls for openness flood the airwaves; the Journal, who chronically savaged the Clinton task force's desire for secrecy, now just as apoplectically defends the secrecy of the Cheney task force.) (Michael Tomasky)
Oil profiteering and the "oiligarchy"New fuel sources aren't predicted to make a serious impact on US oil usage until 2020 or later. Between 2000 and 2020, oil consumption around the world is predicted to double, with China, India, and Middle Eastern countries doubling their demand. Cheney's energy task force predicts that US oil production will decline 12% by 2020, compelling the US to import fully 2/3 of its oil. Meanwhile, the Middle East will figure even more largely than before in the world's oil production, with half to two-thirds of the world's oil being produced in that region. Saudi Arabia has the biggest proven reserves, but Iraq's oil fields, already considered second only to Saudi Arabia's, are thought to have huge undiscovered reserves waiting to be tapped. The idea of securing Iraq's oil through military intervention is brought into office from day one. A 2000 report from the neoconservative think tank Project for the New American Century, authored in part by Cheney and his chief of staff Lewis Libby, called for the military occupation of Iraq as part of a global "Pax Americana," largely predicated on securing enough oil for America through the rest of the century. The build-up of US military forces around Iraq predated 9/11; in fact, US military preparations to overthrow Iraq's government and secure that country's oil fields for its own use began in 1990, before the Gulf War. (Kevin Phillips)
Bush's energy policiesThe GAO's David Walker will begin pressing Cheney for the information. Walker, the government's comptroller general, is a centrist Republican and a veteran of Reagan's Labor Department and a former executive of two accounting firms and a former partner at corporate accounting giant Arthur Andersen -- hardly a liberal partisan. He calls himself "the chief accountability officer of the United States government." Selected by Bill Clinton in 1998 after a bipartisan selection process approved him, Walker, like other comptroller generals, serves a 15-year term -- the longest fixed term of any federal appointee. The CG is supposed to be insulated from political pressures and should keep his or her mind on strategic, long-term approaches to the issues confronting his office. The GAO is widely considered the watchdog of the federal government, and Walker takes his position very seriously.
Iraq war and occupationO'Neill, believing the meeting will primarily focus on the festering Arab-Israeli conflict and Bush's possible attempt to complete the settlement brokered by Clinton in the final weeks of his term, is aghast. Bush is dismissive of any settlement, saying that the US needs to skew its support much more towards Israel than Clinton ever did (the Clinton settlement needed only a few overtures to balky Palestinian leader Yassir Arafat to become reality), and says he remembers flying in a helicopter once with Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon. "We flew over the Palestinian camps. Looked real bad down there. I don't see much that we can do over there at this point. I think it's time to pull out of that situation." With those few words, Bush abandons the entire eight-year effort by Clinton to broker a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, and allows the region to plunge into an escalation of violence that, among other things, helped trigger the 9/11 attacks. (Secretary of State Colin Powell tells Bush that his disengagement is "hasty," but Bush is almost contemptuous in his dismissal of Powell's concerns.)
Bush's economic policiesO'Neill discusses how the collapse of the Soviet Union has brought about a decentralization of the military threats faced by the US: instead of one large and formidable foe, the US now has a number of smaller, less technologically capable opponents who can be expected to fight for their interests using different, less conventional methodologies. O'Neill, who has known Rumsfeld for decades, is one of the few administration members who is willing to stand up to the blustering, bullying defense secretary. In this case, Rumsfeld is advocating an idea known colloquially as "transforming the US military," long advocated by defense analyst Andy Marshall, which in essence advocates using technological advances to transform the military into a smaller, more nimble fighting force much more reliant on long-range air and sea-based strikes before using land forces to "mop up" in battle. Like his boss, Rumsfeld sees Iraq as a major enemy of the US -- more so than even North Korea, China, Russia, and Iran -- and, like his neoconservative allies at the American Enterprise Institute, advocates swift pre-emptive action against Iraq and perhaps other countries as well, all of which, according to Rumsfeld, could develop weapons of mass destruction that could threaten the US within a year. Like Powell, O'Neill is skeptical of Rumsfeld's assertions. Cheney, however, is not. (Ron Suskind)
Anti-terrorism and homeland securityThis follows previous orders to abandon an investigation of bin Laden relatives, and difficulties in investigating Saudi royalty. An unnamed high-level CIA operative says there is a "major policy shift" at the National Security Agency at this time; "there were particular investigations that had been killed," he says. Osama bin Laden could still be investigated, but agents could not look too closely at how he got his money. Presumably one such investigation canceled is an investigation by the Chicago FBI into ties between Saudi multimillionaire Yassin al-Qadi and the US embassy bombings and other terrorist acts, because during this month an FBI agent is told that the case is being closed and that "it's just better to let sleeping dogs lie." Another investigation closed by Bush officials is the CIA's probe into Pakistani nuclear physicist A.Q. Khan's provision of nuclear technology to rogue nations such as Libya and North Korea; those provisions would not be "officially" discovered until February 2004. Why? Because of Khan's close financial ties to the House of Saud. Reporter Greg Palast notes that the Clinton administration had already hindered investigations by protecting Saudi interests, but, as he puts it, "Where Clinton said, 'Go slow,' Bush policymakers said, 'No go.' The difference is between closing one eye and closing them both." The Bush administration discontinues the covert deployment of cruise missile submarines and gunships on six-hour alert that had begun under Clinton, even as conclusive evidence that al-Qaeda was behind the Cole reaches the White House. The discontinuation makes an assassination attempt against bin Laden much more difficult. It is later discovered that the intelligence block was instigated by Dick Cheney. (Greg Palast, Scoop)
Partisan Bush appointeesFormer Green Beret Stan Goff writes: "The Vice President is an oil executive and the former Secretary of Defense. The National Security Advisor is a director on the board of a transnational oil corporation and a Russia scholar. The Secretary of State is a man with no diplomatic experience whatsoever, and the former Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The other interesting appointment is Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense. Rumsfeld is the former CEO of Searle Pharmaceuticals. He and Cheney were featured as speakers at the May, 2000, Russian-American Business Leaders Forum. So the consistent currents in this cabinet are petroleum, the former Soviet Union, and the military. Based on the record of [the previous Bush administration] and the general trajectory of US foreign policy as far back as the Carter Administration, I feel I can reasonably conclude that Middle Eastern and South Asian fossil fuels are one of their major preoccupations. ...I further conclude that the economic colonization of the former Soviet Union is probably high on that agenda, and in fact has a powerful synergy with the issue of petroleum. Russia not only holds vast untapped resources that beckon to imperialism in crisis, it remains a credible military and nuclear challenger in the region. We have not one, but three members of the Bush de facto cabinet with military credentials, which makes the cabinet look quite a lot like a military General Staff. All this way before September 11th." (Narco News/Pravda)
Anti-terrorism and homeland securitythe President's new security director, Condoleezza Rice, is approached by Richard Clarke, National Security Council Chief of Counterterrorism and holdover from the Clinton administration, and urged to continue Predator drone surveillance on Osama bin Laden. He cites the successes of the drone in late 2000 at finding bin Laden, and says that an attack by a Predator might well kill the terrorist leader. But the new administration soft-pedals Predator surveillance, and no new flights occur until after the 9/11 bombings. (AP/RedNova)
Corporate - friendly deregulationAs Bush's second term begins in 2005, those regulations are still on hold, though thousands of Americans have died from Listeria monocynogenes infections since Bush took office. The administration has also supported the deli meat industry's refusal to place warning labels on its meats that state "ready-to-eat" deli meats are potentially unsafe because of listeria contamination. During Clinton's eight years in office, he refused to continue his formerly cozy relationship with Tyson Chicken and fought the corporation to implement new USDA safety restrictions; that fight has been abandoned by the Bush administration, to the delight of Bush supporters like Lonnie Pilgrim, head of Pilgrim's Pride Corporation, one of Texas's largest chicken producers. (Pilgrim is famous for walking onto the floor of the Texas Senate in the 1980s and handing out blank checks to legislators in return for their vote against a workers' compensation bill that would have cost Pilgrim's Pride millions in compensation for workers maimed and crippled while on the job.) (Molly Ivins and Lou Dubose)
Anti-terrorism and homeland securityThe bipartisan commission was put together in 1998 by then-President Bill Clinton and then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich. The report warns that "mass-casualty terrorism directed against the US homeland was of serius and growing concern," and that America is woefully unprepared for a "catastrophic" domestic terror attack. The report contains 50 recommendations on how to combat terrorism in the US, including the creation of a cabinet-level National Homeland Security Agency, but all of them are ignored by the Bush Administration. Instead, the White House announces on May 8 that it will have Vice President Cheney study the potential problem of domestic terrorism, despite the fact that this commission had just studied the issue for 2 1/2 years. The Cheney task force never meets. According to Senator Hart, Congress was taking the commission's suggestions seriously, but then, "Frankly, the White House shut it down... The president said 'Please wait, we're going to turn this over to the vice president'... And so Congress moved on to other things, like tax cuts and the issue of the day." Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who helped create the Hart-Rudman panel, will later complain, "The [Bush] administration actually slowed down response to Hart-Rudman when momentum was building in the spring." Interestingly, both this commission and the Bush Administration were already assuming a new cabinet level National Homeland Security Agency would be enacted eventually even as the general public remained unaware of the term and the concept. (Buzzflash, Gary Hart News, Eric Alterman and Mark Green, Al Franken)