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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July 14-16, 2001

The most powerful man you’ve never heard of — Washington Monthly
Mitch Daniels, the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, has been called “Dick Cheney’s Dick Cheney.” Last week he emerged from obscurity to claim responsibility for the White House’s controversial negotiations with the Salvation Army to help that group bypass anti-discrimination laws and avoid hiring gays. “Daniels has accumulated remarkable power since his swearing in,” writes Nicholas Thompson. “He helped design and defend the Bush tax cut; he was the main architect of Bush’s budget; he presides over decisions on which Clinton-era regulations stay and which ones go.”

Kyoto could shrink your electric bill — Reuters
George W. Bush dumped the Kyoto accord in part because it would have cost US energy companies billions to adjust their production systems to emit less carbon dioxide. In defending his decision, Bush argued that the added costs would have further increased skyrocketing energy costs for US citizens. But a new study released by the World Wildlife Fund finds that if the global warming compact is ratified — which may still happen if a coalition of other industrialized countries can still come together on it in Bonn next week — it could save US consumers $50 billion a year on gasoline and electricity bills by 2010 and $135 billion a year by 2020.

Sensitive, analytical Dubya — Handwriting University
Last August US News & World Report commissioned Katie Darden of Handwriting University to analyze a sample of then-candidate George W. Bush’s handwriting. Among Darden’s conclusions: “George W. Bush has an active, curious, probing mind that can quickly size up situations, evaluate the circumstances, and make instant decisions. He is observant and attentive to details, which assists him in having a good memory… Bush is an emotionally responsive individual who feels situations intensely. He is also sensitive about what others think of him, and as a result will probably avoid acts which might invite criticism… Governor Bush does not like having others tell him what to do.” Any chance of a sample mixup?

July 13, 2001

Don’t bomb Texas, bomb California! — Various
The Navy has decided to drop Padre Island in Texas as a potential practice bombing site to replace Vieques in Puerto Rico. Environmentalists are breathing a a sigh of relief, as the bombing range would have claimed 20 miles of national seashore, home to numerous endangered species. But still under consideration is the Fort Hunter Liggett estate in the central California coastal region known as Big Sur. If the Liggett site is approved, navy jets would bomb it about 12 times a day. Opposition to the plan is led by a group of Benedictine monks, environmentalists, and actor Robert Redford.

GOP rolling in soft money — Roll Call
Even as the House of Representatives prepares to vote on a bill to ban all soft money in federal campaigns, the National Republican Congressional Committee reveals that it has been working overtime to stockpile campaign donations in the opening months of 2001, bringing in a record $39 million in just the past 6 months. Almost half of the total came in at events featuring the president and vice president, including a gala at Cheney’s official residence on the grounds of the Naval Observatory in May. That event has drawn fire from critics who say the GOP — which criticized the Clinton administration’s coffee klatches and Lincoln Bedroom sleepovers — should know better than to use federal property for fundraising.

NRA wins another via Ashcroft — Various
The National Rifle Association famously boasted that, if George W. Bush were elected president, it could set up shop right in the Oval Office. Now it appears that the group may have found a home in the Justice Department instead. Attorney General John Ashcroft, a longtime NRA member, has apparently presuaded the Justice Department to reverse its position on how the Second Amendment should be interpreted to better reflect the NRA’s stance. For 30 years, the department has held that the Consitution protects the collective right of state militias to bear arms, but that the right does not necessarily extend to individuals. The department’s attorneys are drafting a legal brief arguing that gun ownership is indeed an individual right, and will present the brief in a case pending in a federal court in New Orleans.

Dubya’s rhythm-free zone —
On June 29, George W. Bush proclaimed June “Black Music Month.” Yep, he announced it only two days before the month was over. But that’s not the only thing about the proclamation that puzzles columnist Jimmy Dean Smith. Bush’s statement at the proclamation-signing ceremony that black music “is always easy to enjoy, yet impossible to imitate” has him wondering: “Of course, it is possible to imitate black music. Elvis did it; Creedence did it; Madonna did (and still sort of does) it. And how can an American George W. Bush’s age — he turned 55 July 6 — say that black music is ‘always easy to enjoy’? What black music has he been listening to? (Performers at the White House celebration included James Brown, who regularly performs at Strom Thurmond’s birthday parties, and the Four Tops.) In short, how can he call black music — which includes not only the Tops’ ‘Baby I Need Your Loving,’ but also such works as ‘AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted,’ ‘There’s a Riot Goin’ On,’ and ‘Fear of a Black Planet’ — ‘easy to enjoy’?”

July 12, 2001

White House backs off anti-gay rights stance — Washington Post
Apparently caught in an effort to execute an end-run around Congress, the White House now says it has not agreed to help the Salvation Army and other religious non-profits win exemption from state and local anti-discrimination laws. (See yesterday’s Bush Files, below.)

Bush forgets how to say Pledge — Various
We saw the video on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” and the Associated Press confirms it: George W. Bush, leading a group of immigrants in their citizenship ceremony at Ellis Island, asked those in attendance to raise their right hands — rather than putting their hands over their hearts — before saying the Pledge of Allegiance. Most of the audience, including many in Bush’s entourage, followed suit (albeit with confused looks on their faces) before the president corrected himself. (Thanks to Taylor for the tip.)

White House gets defensive on tax cut, surplus — Reuters
White House Budget Director Mitch Daniels was forced to admit that, indeed, the projected budget surplus is well below previous projections. Senate Democrats are already warning that the Bush tax cut would force the government to dip into Social Security reserves to finance general operations, an argument GOP lawmakers call “scare tactics.”

July 11, 2001

Republicans have more nightmares — Association for the Study of Dreams
Researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz have found evidence that Republicans are three times more likely than Democrats to have nightmares when they dream. According to scientist Kelly Bulkeley of the Association for the Study of Dreams, Republicans’ nightmares tend to be characterized by more aggression, misfortune, and physical threats to family and friends, while Democrats’ nightmares are moderated by familiar settings, familiar characters, and more elements of hope, power, and positive action. “My speculation is that people on the right are very attuned to the dangers in the world,” says Bulkeley, “and they’re seeking ways to defend themselves against those threats. People on the left tend to be more utopian and open to the possibility of going beyond the way things are now.”

Bush may aid Salvation Army anti-gay discrimination — Washington Post
An internal Salvation Army memo shows that the Bush administration is aiding the religious nonprofit’s efforts to avoid legal sanction for refusing to hire gays and lesbians. The memo reveals that the White House has made a “firm commitment” to issue a regulation protecting charities from state and local antidiscrimination rules. In return, the Salvation Army has pledged to tout the administration’s “faith-based” programs. “The document suggests President Bush is willing to achieve through regulation ends too controversial to survive the legislative process,” says the Post.. “It also underscores the close allegiance between the administration and conservative groups.” (Thanks to Blake for the tip.)

Bush’s Hollywood star wars — The Guardian (UK)
If Bill Clinton was right at home among the glitterati, George W. Bush finds himself under fire from Hollywood’s elite, from Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand to Bianca Jagger and John Cusack. In the German magazine Stern, Redford called Bush an “ignorant” leader who “doesn’t have a clue,” especially when it comes to global warming. “This latest wave of high-wattage criticism is symptomatic of George Bush’s longstanding celebrity-deficit,” says the Guardian. “During the election campaign Al Gore was embraced by the Hollywood A-list: Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Affleck and Warren Beatty. George Bush, meanwhile, had to make do with such waning stars as Bo Derek and Arnold Schwarzenegger.”

July 10, 2001

NAACP head calls Bush appointees Taliban-esque — New Orleans Times-Picayune
New NAACP chair Julian Bond sharply criticized George W. Bush’s administration yesterday, saying Bush “has selected nominees from the Taliban wing of American politics” and “whose devotion to the Confederacy is nearly canine in its uncritical affection.” Bond said the administration has already significantly impinged on the interests of African Americans, most of whom voted for Al Gore. Not surprisingly, the Bush camp lashed back.

Administration considers calling fetus ‘unborn child’ — Associated Press
Fetuses will have more access to government health care if the Bush administration classifies them as ‘unborn children’ for purposes of an insurance program called the Children’s Health Plan. The administration is framing the move as a pro-women, pro-poor effort to provide more prenatal care for low-income women. But abortion rights activists call it a thinly veiled attempt to undermine Roe v. Wade.

Aping Clinton — Washington Monthly
George W. Bush ran on the premise and promise that he wasn’t anything like Bill Clinton. But so far the president is following a familiar pattern, writes Bruce Reed: “A Southern governor with lots of charm but an uncertain mandate wins the presidency by promising to take his party in a new direction. Then his administration spends its first months doing everything in its power to assure his party he didn’t mean it.”


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