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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Sept 1-4, 2001

Why Bush’s screw-ups cost more than Clinton’s — CNN
Crossfire co-host Bill Press asks the burning question: “Which would you rather have, a president who lies about sex, or a president who lies about the budget?”

Ask not upon whom the intercepted missile falls — New Scientist
There’s a big flaw in Bush’s national missile defense proposal — beyond, that is, the fact that it doesn’t work yet — says MIT physics professor Ted Postol: The Pentagon’s current strategy involves targeting incoming missiles while their booster rockets are still burning, because the heat makes a better target for the “kill vehicle.” But Postol notes that by homing in on the boosters, the kill vehicle may fail to knock out the warhead itself — which could then wobble forward on an unpredictable trajectory, ready to explode over an unintended target. A missile fired from North Korea might explode in Alaska or Canada; one from Iraq could wipe out a chunk of Europe.

Enviros sue to stop Star Wars II — The Guardian (UK)
A coalition of environmental groups is suing to stop the construction of a missile defense site in Alaska, citing the Defense Department’s failure to prepare an environmental impact study for the base. Their complaint alleges that the Pentagon is relying on “subterfuge” to evade studying the impact of construction of new facilities in remote and pristine locations, pollution released by missile launches, and the like.

Tax rebate check bounces — Louisville Courier-Journal
Johnathan Hudson of Jeffersontown, Ky. was relieved to receive his $300 federal tax rebate check, because he didn’t have the cash to pay his bills. He soon discovered that the feds seemed to be having the same problem. Hudson tried to deposit the IRS check in a local bank, but it bounced. The IRS says the problem was not insufficient funds, but a computer glitch that caused the IRS computers to fail to recognize the check. Hudson is considering auctioning the check — which bears an ominous bank reject stamp — on eBay. (Thanks to Heather Combs for the tip.)

August 31, 2001

Missile defense critic claims Pentagon harrassment — MSNBC
Ted Postol, a researcher at the Massachussetts Institute of Technology, thinks the Bush administration’s national missile defense is deeply flawed and misguided, and he’s happy to tell you why. But the Pentagon, which is trying to sell the policy to US citizens and allies abroad, would rather Postol just shut up — and it has driven the point home by dispatching agents to his office, classifying his correspondence, and demanding that MIT investigate him. “What they’re trying to do is maneuver me into a situation where I can no longer talk,” Postol says. “I intend to continue talking.”

Ashcroft’s veil of secrecy — Associated Press
When John Ashcroft was a senator from Missouri, he publicly trashed Attorney General Janet Reno for “stonewalling” when she was slow to turn over prosecutors’ memos on investigations like Waco to Congress. Now that Ashcroft himself heads the Justice Department, the department refuses to release any prosecutor memos, on the grounds they might compromise the privacy of those under investigation and have a chilling effect on prosecutors themselves. In a letter to Ashcroft, Dan Burton, chairman of the House Committee on Government Reform and a fellow Republican, writes: “I am concerned that you have one standard for a Democrat attorney general and another standard for yourself.”

August 30, 2001

Secret Service leans on Bush-hater — Macon Telegraph
Jesse Ethredge, 57, makes no secret of his feelings about George Bush. The bumper on his camper is inscribed with the words: “Don’t U blame me. Thief — Liar — Two Faced Murderer Geo W. Bush. Hell with Bush and all damn Republicans.” His car also features a sticker depicting cartoon character Calvin urinating on the word “Republicans.” Ethredge’s public sentiments earned him a visit from the US Secret Service last week. The agents apparently quizzed Ethredge about what he would do if Bush were to appear in his driveway. “I’d tell him to get out as fast as he come in it,” Ethredge replied.

The vanishing press conference — History Network
Despite White House aides’ promises in March that the president would hold two press conferences a month, he has conducted only four since his inauguration. In fact, writes Rick Shenkman, he now holds the record for the least number of press conferences in a similar period since William Howard Taft (with the exceptions of Richard Nixon at the height of Watergate and Ronald Reagan after Iran-contra).

August 29, 2001

Another treaty teeters — In These Times
The Bush administration seems never to have met a treaty it didn’t want to gut or ditch. Now it has its sights set on scrapping the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which outlaws nuclear bomb tests. While Bush himself has been mum on the topic since the election, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld have argued that the United States needs to resume nuclear testing to ensure the reliability of the Pentagon’s nuclear weapons cache. But Jeffrey St. Clair says, “This is an old canard. The only parts of the nuclear stockpile likely to deteriorate are the non-nuclear components, which already are regularly tested and evaluated by the weapons teams without encroaching on the terms of the treaty.”

Administration names dump historic landmark — San Jose Mercury News
From the You Cannot Make This Stuff Up Files: Gale Norton Monday announced that she would name a garbage dump in Fresno, Calif. a national historic monument, along with other places of national civic pride, like Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthplace. There’s just one little problem (beyond, of course, the fact that it’s a dump): the site is on the Superfund national priority list, because the groundwater beneath the landfill is dangerously polluted, yet feeds several local drinking water wells.

Bizarre Bush hires — Molly Ivins
Molly Ivins advises us to take a closer look at some of the administration’s less publicized hires, including Office of Management and Budget “regulatory czar” John Graham, who once argued that dioxin might prevent cancer, and Stephen Griles, a deputy secretary at the Interior Department and previously a lobbyist for the coal and oil industries. The list also includes a former lobbyist for Monsanto (now the No. 2 official at the EPA), and a General Electric attorney who defended the corporation in its battle with the EPA over toxic waste sites, and whom Bush wants to head the Council on Environmental Quality.

The value of hard work — US Newswire
Bush and Co. have regularly defended the president’s extended vacation in Texas by insisting that Bush is hard at work on matters of national importance, despite his absence from DC. So it’s worth checking out the regular “press gaggle” conducted at the ranch. A sample of a recent briefing, conducted by aide Claire Buchan:
“Okay, for those of you in the pool tomorrow, the President has invited you to the ranch to watch him work. You’ll be gathering here at approximately 10:30 a.m., be on the ranch about 11:30 a.m., where the President will already be working, and expect to be there about 20 to 30 minutes.
Asked what Bush will be doing, Buchan replied: “Every day, the President has a project where he works on the ranch, clearing cedar, building trails, building bridges.”
Reporter: Will this be minimum wage or —
Buchan: I’m not sure that you should expect that you’ll have to work.”
The briefing concludes with an announcement that “on Labor Day, September 3 [the president] will travel to Detroit, Michigan, and Green Bay, Wisconsin, to celebrate the values of hard work and responsibility with working Americans.”
Reporter: “Celebrate the values of what?”
Buchan: “Hard work, responsibility.”

August 28, 2001

An Uncurious President — Arianna Huffington
George W. Bush got a lot of heat for reading his favorite children’s book, “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” to a crowd of third graders last week, since the book is intended for preschoolers. Arianna Huffington wonders why Bush has clung to that book for so long, reading it in front of hundreds of thousands of children over the years. “Maybe he sees it as a metaphor for his own life, where he clearly was a voracious consumer of drink — and lord knows what else — devouring enough to make himself sick. He then went into his personal cocoon, emerging reborn as a beautiful butterfly. Or, at least, as a moth with enough pals on the Supreme Court to make him President of the United States.” (Thanks to Lee F. Carpenter, Esq. for the tip.)

Leak-proofing the White House — Dallas Morning News
One thing the Bush administration has proven itself good at: keeping secrets. There have been almost no unintentional leaks so far in Bush’s brief tenure. The stem-cell decision, reached almost a month before it was publicly announced, remained secret until the administration carefully orchestrated its revelation. “I’ve been here 29 years, and I’ve never seen a White House this loyal,” said Charles Cook, publisher of the inside-the-beltway Cook Political Report. “That translates to being tight-lipped.” The White House is stonewalling journalists and lawmakers alike: “They don’t give information on the routine requests, much less the extraordinary ones,” said Phil Schiliro, a spokesman for Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., one of Congress’ most vigorous inquisitors.


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