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. 16-18, 2001

Bush won’t abandon unilateralist approach — Independent (UK)
After nine months of isolationism, the Bush administration has been forced to embrace the United Nations, make friends with nations it once rebuked or just ignored and generally embrace the international community. But don’t expect Bush to completely abandon the unilateralist approach he followed prior to Sept. 11, writes Mary Dejevsky. With his approval rating at stratospheric levels and partisan squabbling in Congress at an all-time low, Bush and company are getting cocky, suggests Dejevsky. “His hawkish defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, looks cock-a-hoop these days, scarcely able to contain his satisfaction” at the speedy success of the war in Afghanistan, while the diplomatic fence-mender Colin Powell “seems to have lost the energy and drive,” writes Dejevsky. Bush has already signalled his disinterest in changing his position on missile defense, a program almost none of America’s traditional allies like.

More problems with missile defense — Wall Street Journal (via Reuters)
Part of the national missile defense program being pushed by President Bush is already over budget and behind schedule, the Wall Street Journal is reporting. The space-based early-detection component in question, being developed by Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, is reportedly three years behind schedule. It is just the latest component to run into serious technical and budget problems. An interceptor made by Raytheon and the rocket that carries it, made by Boeing, have also had serious problems. According to the Journal report, Lockheed, which is in negotiations with the Air Force over the project, will probably not be penalized for the problems.

Nov. 15, 2001

Bush’s new ‘dictatorial’ powers — The New York Times
Conservative columnist William Safire has found one more thing about the White House’s current Republican resident he can’t stand. In his regular Times column, Safire tears into Bush’s new executive order allowing non-citizens suspected of terrorist activities to be tried in military courts: “[A] president of the United States has just assumed what amounts to dictatorial power to jail or execute aliens,” wirtes Safire. “… [W]e are letting George W. Bush get away with the replacement of the American rule of law with military kangaroo courts.”

New book says Bush bargained with Taliban — Inter Press Service
A new book published in France this week accuses the Bush administration of bargaining with the Taliban over oil interests in the months prior to the Sept. 11 attacks. Bush, the book’s authors allege, ordered the FBI to back off its investigations of the Taliban leadership’s links to terrorists, causing the FBI’s deputy director John O’Neill to resign in protest. Bush reportedly offered the Taliban political recognition and economic aid if the regime would agree to support US plans for oil and gas pipelines through the country. But the Taliban refused to agree with US proposals, prompting Washington to threaten military action well before the Sept. 11 attacks. “At one moment during the negotiations, the US representatives told the Taliban, ‘either you accept our offer of a carpet of gold, or we bury you under a carpet of bombs’,” said one of the book’s authors.

Nov. 14, 2001

Ashcroft goes back on a promise– St. Petersburg Times
During his confirmation hearings, Attorney General John Ashcroft promised senators that he would not let his own ideology affect how he enforced the law. “Now senators who took him at his word must feel betrayed,” say the editors of the St. Petersburg Times. In recent months, the Justice Department has announced its intent to challenge voter-approved initiatives in California and Oregon on issues that Ashcroft has a long history of fighting: medical marijuana and physician-assisted suicide. “[Th]e disturbingly long reach of federal authority suggests that this is not impartial law enforcement, but rather the imposition of an ideological agenda,” the Times’ editors argue. “It’s interesting how some Republicans champion ‘states’ rights’ until a state chooses a social policy at odds with party dogma.”

Bush: I’m not in charge — Chicago Sun Times
When asked at a recent press conference about US military plans in Afghanistan during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, President Bush essentially said that he was not in charge of the military operations, columnist William O’Rourke notes. “As to the specific times and dates, we’ll let the military speak to that. They’re in charge of this operation. This is not a political campaign, this is a war,” Bush is quoted as saying. That’s a peculiar statement for a commander-in-chief, says O’Rourke. “Bush was displaying what many feared would be the order of the day in a Bush administration: the president as CEO, delegating power, approving decisions, not taking charge himself,” argues O’Rourke. “Not that we would want — or expect — a duplication of Lyndon Baines Johnson, personally selecting targets to be bombed in Vietnam. But it would be preferable if the president claimed to be in charge.” Especially disturbing, says O’Rourke, was Bush’s distinction between political and military campaigns and his role in each. “In other words, Bush might be in charge of unimportant things, like a political campaign, but not serious things, like a war.”

Nov. 13, 2001

We’ve got bigger problems than bin Laden — Los Angeles Times
By casting Osama bin Laden as the locus of all evil in order to justify the war against Afghanistan, President Bush is making the same mistake his father made before him with Saddam Hussein, writes Robert Scheer. “We lull ourselves into a false sense of security when we insist that madness is the exclusive province of one group of extremists,” argues Scheer. “By personalizing evil, Bush ignores the role of our allies and ourselves in making this such a dangerous world.” Scheer notes that the massive nuclear arsenal now at the center of disarmament talks between Washington and Moscow, as well as the nukes being built in India and Pakistan, pose the single greatest risk to global security. That nuclear risk is particularly worrisome, Scheer suggests, given the mounting evidence about terrorists’ efforts to acquire nuclear weapons from Pakistan, China and the former Soviet republics. “Rest assured that Bin Laden soon will be reduced to a violent footnote. But the danger to our civilization presented by the Cold War residue of weapons of mass destruction, which we and other civilized nations continue to produce, will haunt us long after Bin Laden is a dim if bizarre memory,” writes Scheer.

Bush Peace Corps nominee under fire — The Associated Press, Orange County Weekly
President Bush’s pick to head the Peace Corps is under fire from critics who say his nomination takes the political buddy system to ridiculous new heights. The nominee, Gaddi Vasquez, now a public relations flak for a California utility at the forefront of the state’s energy crisis, has a spotty history in public office but plenty of friends in the Republican Party. As a county supervisor, he helped lead Orange County into a catastrophic financial meltdown and $1.7 billion bankruptcy in 1994, “and then refused to accept any responsibility for the largest municipal calamity in modern financial history,” according to the OC Weekly. After he left office with an 11 percent approval rating, Vasquez — whose hero is Richard Nixon — was installed at Southern California Edison by influential friends in the California Republican Party, according the the OC Weekly. The president apparently chose Vasquez not only because of his connections to the GOP, but because Bush had pledged to install a hHspanic in the position. It also can’t hurt that Vasquez “poured more than $106,216 into Bush campaign coffers in the past year,” according to the Orange County Weekly. Critics point out that Vasquez has no foreign service, international relations, or volunteer experience. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will consider Vasquez’s nomination on Wednesday.

Nov. 12, 2001

Bush condescends to world — The Guardian (UK)
The American public likes to be told that the United States is a noble force for good in the world, and George W. Bush is good at telling Americans what they want to hear, according to The Guardian. But judging by his speech before the United Nations’ General Assembly over the weekend, “Bush and his speechwriter are far less effective at talking to the rest of the world. … Bush lectured the nations of the world as though they were a bunch of disobedient schoolkids.” The Guardian suggests that the president’s words and tone were particularly “insulting” because the US had been so cavalier toward UN and multilateral agreements before the Sept. 11 attacks. Suddenly, The Guardian says, Bush was calling on the gathered nations to rise to the “new” challenge of terrorism. “[B]eneath its apparent multilateralist shell, Mr Bush’s speech was still conspicuously unresponsive to any agenda other than that of the US itself,” The Guardian says.

Nukes, terrorism and pecan pie — KEYE-TV, Austin
First Lady Laura Bush says Russian President Vladimir Putin and his wife will get the “royal Texas treatment” during their visit this week to the Bushes’ Crawford, Texas ranch, according to Austin’s KEYE-TV. On the schedule: a chuck wagon on the lawn, cowboy cooks, beef tenderloin, a Western swing band and pecan pie. With their stomachs full and their boots up, President Bush and his Russian counterpart are expected to discuss missile defense, nuclear weapons reductions, and the war on terrorism.


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