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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Dec. 7, 2001

Moly Ivins: Investigate Bush’s Enron connections — United Press Syndicate (via
Considering the recent, messy demise of energy giant Enron and the company’s close ties to the Bush White House, Molly Ivins argues that the president is getting off easy. Had a company run by a close friend and major contributor to the president flamed out as spectacularly during the Clinton administration, “we’d have four congressional investigations, three special prosecutors, two impeachment inquiries and a partridge in a pear tree by now,” Ivins writes. Enron boss Kenneth Lay, a longtime Bush friend, was among the president’s biggest financial backers during the campaign, donating nearly $2 million to the Bush effort. Enron also strong-armed company executives into donating to its political action committees, which solidly supported Bush.

Civil rights showdown — Chicago Tribune
Mary Frances Barry, chairwoman of the US Civil Rights Commission, threatened earlier this week to block a new Bush appointee from joining her panel; so the White House got tricky, reports Jeff Zeleny. They brought in a local Washington judge to swear Peter Kirsanow, a conservative black attorney, onto the commission late at night, in a move that took several commission members by surprise. “This is obviously a power play designed to muzzle the commission,” griped Berry. “This is not about us and the Bush administration. It’s about the independence of the commission.” Tension between Barry and the White House have been growing ever since Barry’s commission severely criticized voting inequities in the 2000 presidential election, suggesting that Republican operatives may have intentionally disenfranchised minority voters, who tend to vote Democrat.

Feds sued over Utah canyon drilling — Reuters (via ENN)
The National Resources Defense Council and the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliances are suing the US Department of the Interior, accusing the agency of illegally speeding up the oil and gas leasing process on public lands in order to advance the Bush administration’s energy plan. The suit claims that the Interior Department doled out new leases for oil and gas exploration without performing federally-mandated environmental studies or consulting with local Indian tribes and archaeologists about cultural artifacts in the region, which could be harmed by drilling.

White House backtracks on Maher criticism — New York Post
Bush adviser Mark McKinnon “admitted the White House went too far” in criticizing comments made just after the Sept. 11 attacks by Bill Maher, host of TV’s ‘Politically Incorrect,’ reports David K. Li. Maher had said that the terrorists were not necessarily cowards, since they sacrificed their own lives for their cause, whereas in recent conflicts the US military has launched long-range missiles at enemies while staying largely out of harm’s way. White House press secretary Ari Fleischer subsequently lashed out at Maher, saying Americans “need to watch what they say.” McKinnon is now calling Fleischer’s comments “pretty Big-Brother-ish,” and says that administration officials “don’t believe that it’s our role to be dictating or telling people what they should be producing.”

Dec. 6, 2001

Civil liberties roulette — The Baltimore Sun/The New York Times
It appears that Attorney General John Ashcroft’s unwillingness to provide information about terror suspects applies to both private citizens and federal investigators. A coalition of civil rights groups is suing the Justice Department to get information about the hundreds of people detained since Sept. 11; meanwhile, Ashcroft is denying an FBI request for access to detainees’ gun-purchase records. The suit, filed by a host of groups including Human Rights Watch, the ACLU, and the Arab-American Institute, seeks information on those people detained for suspected immigration violations, Gail Gibson reports. At the same time, the Times reports that the Justice Department blocked the FBI’s access to detainees’ gun-purchase records, even after the FBI found that two had recently purchased guns. Fox Butterfield reports that Ashcroft, a longtime member of the NRA, is apparently holding firm to his pre-Sept. 11 pledge to keep the reports secret. “Even as the department is instituting tough new measures to detain individuals suspected of links to terrorism, [law enforcement officials] say, it is being unusually solicitous of foreigners’ gun rights,” writes Butterfield.

Dissent in the Bush kitchen — Associated Press
President George W. Bush is in full damage-control mode after insulting his mother’s cooking not once but twice in two days. While in Florida with his brother, Gov. Jeb Bush, the president said he ate with the family only when former first lady Barbara wasn’t cooking. Later, in remarks at the Orange County Conference Center, Bush said his mother “was one of the great fast-food cooks of all time.” He later reportedly called his mother and told her not to watch television coverage of the speech.

Dec. 5, 2001

Investigating ‘un-American’ art? — World Socialist Web Site
The Secret Service, which recently questioned a North Carolina college student about “anti-American material” reportedly inside her apartment, has moved from academia to the art world. An employee at Houston’s Artcar Museum claims FBI and Secret Service agents visited in early November in response to complaints of “un-American activity.” The museum’s exhibit, called “Secret Wars,” features artwork which protests government covert operations. The exhibit was planned before Sept. 11. The gallery employee said the agents arrived before the gallery opened, toured the exhibit, took notes, and inquired about the museum’s source of funding.

Bush’s first Sept. 11 thought — Guardian (UK)
When an 8-year-old child asked President George W. Bush what he first thought when he heard about the initial plane hitting the World Trade Center, Bush replied, “There’s one terrible pilot.” Bush said he saw the first plane hit on television, which contradicts earlier reports that he got the news from a phone call from National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. Bush’s latest account of the morning of Sept. 11 casts more doubt on exactly what happened that day, as Bush went from Florida on a zigzag flight around the country. “This is not considered his finest hour, and the latest comment seems to be further evidence about the sluggishness of his immediate response,” according to the Guardian.

Dec. 4, 2001

O’Neill on his way out? — New York Post/Reuters Securities
Beth Piskora reports that the White House, “increasingly dismayed by the poor performance of Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, is quietly chatting about ways to dump and replace him,” thanks to O’Neill’s W.-like tendency toward verbal gaffes. Vice President Dick Cheney may have already started interviewing potential replacements for O’Neill, foremost among them Donald Marron, the chairman of UBS PaineWebber, writes Piskora. In response, a White House spokesman told Reuters that the rumors were “as wrong as wrong can be,” and reiterated President Bush’s support for O’Neill. The hubbub around O’Neill comes a day after US News & World Report’s “Washington Insider” suggested that a major White House shakeup was imminent on the heels of RNC chairman Jim Gillmore’s (reportedly forced) resignation.

Regulatory czar asks business which rules to dump — Washington Post
John D. Graham, the new administrator of the federal Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, secretly asked an aide to poll leading business lobbyists about which federal regulations they found most onerous, reports Michael Grunwald. The aide, Grunwald writes, came back to Graham with a chart of 57 especially-despised regulations. Graham says the exercise was purely for his own edification and vowed that he would not act on any of the recommendations without input from other agencies and the public. “Still, the chart and other documents from a fledgling anti-paperwork campaign provide another glimpse of behind-the-scenes strategy-setting by business lobbyists and conservative Republicans in government, during the Bush administration,” writes Grunwald.

Dec. 3, 2001

Bush administration shake-up imminent? — US News & World Report
In the wake of Republican National Committee Chairman Jim Gillmore’s surprise resignation, Washington is abuzz with rumors that “two to three other major Bush appointees will quit by spring as part of a political shake-up,” according to US News & World Report‘s Washington Insider. In an unrelated but interesting tidbit, the Insider reports that former drug and education czar William Bennett is back on the political scene as a kind of unofficial patriotism czar. “He’s creating the Committee on Terrorism in American Culture, which aims to buck up American youth, especially college students whose patriotism is being met with snickers and sneers on some campuses,” the Insider reports.

Bush to nominate “‘Biblical law’ activist” — Americans United for Separation of Church and State
Much to the outrage of liberal groups, President Bush is reportedly preparing to nominate Robert Brame to serve on the National Labor Relations Board. Americans United for Separation of Church and State, for example, says that Brame’s ties to allegedly extreme-right religious organizations should disqualify him. Brame was once a “top official” at American Vision, “an Atlanta-based group that seeks to replace America’s secular democracy with a ‘Christian’ regime based on ‘biblical law,'” according to a recent AUSCS press release. Among American Vision’s publicly acknowledged views: that women must be subordinate to men and gays should be executed. Brame recently resigned from the board of directors of American Vision when its controversial positions became public, and has said that he had earlier been unaware of the group’s extremist views. Brame also sat on the advisory council of the Plymouth Rock Foundation, a group known mainly for having opposed Sandra Day O’Connor’s nomination to the Supreme Court because its members believe it is wrong for women to sit in judgement of men.


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