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.


Dec. 14, 2001

Bush: Quit drugs to fight terror — Associated Press
If you’re doing drugs, you’re helping terrorists. That was the message from President Bush on Friday. While stopping just short of calling drug users terrorist co-conspirators, Bush argued that, because many terrorist organizations worldwide are financed in part by drug trafficking, quitting drugs may in some ways help cut off the flow of money to groups like al-Qaeda.

Rumsfeld on the rise — LA Weekly
Just a few months ago, conservatives and liberals alike were calling for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s ouster. Now, columnist John Powers suggests Rumsfeld is the only member of the cabinet who seems to be in complete control of his own agenda. “Decked out in gray suits and rimless glasses, he strolls into briefings like Wyatt Earp into the saloon …. The rap against Rumsfeld was always his arrogance …. But in wartime, people want a cocksure leader…. Like Osama bin Laden, Rummy clearly digs the war, and while most of the Bush team walks around wearing permanent expressions of hemorrhoidal despair, he looks like he’s having fun,” Powers opines. Suggesting it’s that confidence and enthusiam which makes Rumsfeld a favorite of the press corps, Powers says “Rummy makes being lied to entertaining, and that’s part of what makes him dangerous.”

Dec. 13, 2001

Bush’s strange route to supremacy — Guardian (UK)
How, Matthew Engel asks, has “the accidental, arguably fraudulent, president who is George Bush become master of the universe?” First, Engel suggests, by surrounding himself with the right people. Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, he notes, are seasoned politicos and military men — far more experienced than the team former president Bill Clinton assembled when he first took office. Also, the members of the Bush team actually appear to like — or at least respect — one another. Moreover, Engel says the Bush team has managed to grow in power simply because it honestly believes it knows best. “You can often sense the president’s inability to come to grips with anyone else’s opinions,” Engel says.

Death penalty debate flares in Europe — International Herald Tribune
With the indictment of French citizen Zacarias Moussaoui as a terrorist suspect, the long-standing split between Europe and the US over capital punishment has surfaced again. US officials have pointedly not ruled out seeking execution if he is found guilty. But France opposes the death penalty even for convicted terrorists. Spain has also been hesitant to extradite a group of suspected al Qaeda members to the US amid questions about what sort of trial they will get. The US has, however, decided not to try Moussaoui in a secret military tribunal, perhaps in deference to European sentiment against it.

Bush dumps allies along with ABM treaty — Independent (UK)
Bush’s decision to abandon the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty might be an indication of Washington’s increasing tendency for going it alone, says the Independent’s Rupert Cornwell. “Although yesterday’s step was expected, America’s friends and foes alike may see it as further evidence that Washington’s embrace of multilateralism, when it searched for, and won, wide international support immediately after the 11 September attacks, is over,” says Cornwell. Pulling out of the ABM isn’t the only move that has European allies worried. The US recently refused proposals to strengthen the 1972 Biological Warfare Convention in Geneva, and the US Senate just passed the American Service Members’ Protection Act, reiterating the government’s rejection that UN courts have any jurisdiction over American citizens.

Dec. 12, 2001

Bushies to renew wooing of Christian right — Chicago Tribune
Bush administration insiders’ latest theory on why last year’s election was so close is that, among other things, voter turnout among evangelical Christians was lower than expected, reports Jeff Zeleny. Noting that nearly 4 million evangelical Christians on whom the Bush team was counting never voted, top Bush adviser Karl Rove said the campaign may have taken the religious right vote too much for granted — but would not make the same mistake in 2004. Rove also said the unexpected drop in Christian voter participation may have been out of their control: “[W]e also may be returning to the point in America where fundamentalists and evangelicals remain true to their beliefs,” Rove said, “and think politics is corrupt and therefore they shouldn’t participate.” Now where could they have gotten an idea like that?

Report: Bush welfare proposals would hurt gays — National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
New welfare rules being recommended by the Bush administration would devastate gay families, according to a report from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Among the proposals are provisions which would effectively bar children of gay parents from access to benefits like Head Start and low-interest student loans. Other initiatives, according to the report, would block gays’ access to fertility clinics and “stigmatize [gay] youth in the nation’s schools.”

Dec. 11, 2001

Keeping the Internet safe for sex — National Coalition for Sexual Freedom
A civil liberties group called the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom has joined with New York City artist Barbara Nitke in filing suit against Attorney General John Ashcroft over the last remaining censorship provision of the Communications Decency Act. The suit charges that it is unconstitutional to allow one jurisdiction’s standard for obscenity to dictate free communication in the nation as a whole. “Many people are unaware that one of the most powerful censorship provisions of the Communications Decency Act is still in place. Even fewer realize the dangerous effect it could have in the hands of an overzealous Administration and Attorney General,” said Susan Wright, spokesperson for the group. Both the NCSF and Nitke run websites which could still be targeted under the CDA.

Halliburton loses asbestos suit — Dallas Business Journal
Shares of Halliburton Co., the company Vice President Dick Cheney ran until last year, lost half their value Monday following news that one of the company’s subsidiaries had lost a $30 million asbestos liability suit in Baltimore, reports the Business Journal. The suit claimed that asbestos made by Dresser Industries caused lung cancer in five people, three of whom died. The courtroom loss may result in a flood of liability sauits against the company. According to the Business Journal, a Nov. 8 SEC filing shows that about 340,000 asbestos claims have been filed against Halliburton and its subsidiaries since 1976. While 194,000 of those claims have been resolved, 146,000 are still pending.

Dec. 10, 2001

Bush to Congress: Get lost — Los Angeles Times
When Congress offered its input on the domestic war against terrorism, the White House response was clear: thanks, but no thanks. David Savage reports that the Bush administration has decided to maintain tight control over the war effort, making policy decisions that far exceed the executive branch’s traditional sphere of influence. Bush has justified his seizure of power, Savage says, by arguing that he needs “extraordinary options” to fight terrorist. “The Senate Democrats say they can see a need for this “extraordinary option” but do not see why it should not be established — and restricted — by law,” reports Savage.

Emergency warning — San Francisco Chronicle
One of the best ways for a leader to lay claim to power he or she doesn’t legally have is to declare an emergency, says commentator Harley Sorenson. President Bush has signed three national-emergency orders, which puts him on pace to match President Clinton’s 14 — a national-emergency record. Many of those “emergencies” are not exactly remembered as such: They included threats from Angola, the Sudan and Colombia. The trend, Sorenson says, results in a growing power imbalance in Washington and gives rise to bad policy. “On the strength of his two national-emergency proclamations stemming from the Sept. 11 attacks, Bush was able to authorize military tribunals, which totally destroy the rights of noncitizens suspected of committing or contemplating terrorism,” says Sorenson.