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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Oct 20, 2001

The new, improved W. — LA Weekly
It isn’t just that George W. Bush seems like a more competent leader in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks; he actually is doing a better job, even if not by choice, says Harold Meyerson. The terrorist attacks and the retaliatory campaign have “forced Bush to repudiate nearly every aspect of his pre-September 11 nutzoid unilateralist foreign policy,” says Meyerson. Before Sept. 11, the administration isolated itself by opposing nearly every international treaty under consideration. Now the same administration is making nice with all those nations it had previously dismissed. The about-face “illustrat[es] the not-quite-maxim that a globalist is a nationalist who’s been mugged by an international terror network.”

Spare US government hiding in hills — Cleveland Plain Dealer
Vice President Dick Cheney has been working from secret outposts beyond Washington DC since shortly after the attacks, reportedly to ensure “continuity” should anything happen to the president. But he isn’t alone, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Some officials of the Department of the Interior are also working in secret bunkers originally created during the Cold War in case of nuclear attack. According to experts, as many as 200 federal employees from various agencies have been sequestered in secret locations since Sept. 11. According to one expert, President Bush’s apparently random flights around the country in the hours after the terrorist attacks were also dictated by the emergency continuity plans, and not (as Press Secretary Ari Fleischer initially indicated) because there was a specific threat against the White House or Air Force One.

Oct 19, 2001

Bush creams Clinton in leadership poll — Zogby International
According to a new Zogby International poll, even registered Democrats prefer having George W. Bush running the country to Bill Clinton right now. Pollsters asked 300 people who they would “rather have sitting in the White House during this time of crisis – George W. Bush or Bill Clinton?” Seventy-two percent of the respondents chose Bush, compared to twenty percent for Clinton. Broken down along party lines, the poll results show that more than half of the Democrats in the sample prefered Bush to Clinton.

The money trail from bin Laden to Midland — In These Times
Last month, President Bush ordered US banks to freeze the assets of terrorists and their supporters, and forbade American companies from doing business with those suspected of financially backing the bin Ladin terror network. But, says Wayne Madsen in In these Times, Bush “hasn’t always practiced what he now preaches, writing that “Bush’s own businesses were once tied to financial figures in Saudi Arabia who currently support” bin Ladin. Madsen reports that in 1979 George W. Bush accepted $50,000 from family friend James Bath in exchange for a 5 percent stake in Arbusto Energy. At that time, Bath was the sole US representative of Usama bin Ladin’s Saudi-based brother, Salim bin Ladin. Rumors persist, Madsen points out, that the $50,000 came directly from Salim bin Ladin; however, shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, the White House denied the connection, and Bush himself denied even knowing Bath (he later admitted he knew Bath and knew of the Saudi connection). “In fact,” writes Madsen, “Bath has extensive ties, both to the (bin Ladin) family and major players in the scandal-ridden Bank of Commerce and Credit International (BCCI) who have gone on to fund (Usama bin Ladin).”

Oct 18, 2001

Has the recount story been spiked? — Joshua Micah Marshall
There seems to be some confusion about the fate of the highly-publicized audit of ballots cast in the 2000 presidential election in Florida, commissioned by a consortium of US media heavyweights. The Toronto Globe and Mail reported last week that the consortium — which includes The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, The Wall Street Journal, the Associated Press and others — had unanimously decided to kill the story. “By ‘spiking’ the story,” opined John Ibbitson in the Globe and Mail, “they have raised questions about whether the country’s biggest media conglomerates are suppressing news that potentially could tarnish the image of Mr. Bush in the midst of the President’s war on terrorism.” But The Washington Post’s own Howard Kurtz says the consortium has not cancelled the project, only delayed it because of the journalistic burden of covering the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. In fact, says Kurtz, the consortium has not even analyzed the results of the audit yet, so “no journalist has a clue if they favor Bush or Al Gore.” Kurtz says the audit results will be reported by year’s end. But Web pundit Joshua Micah Marshall says Kurtz doesn’t give enough evidence to allay concerns that there may be ulterior motives at work in the delay. “[C]onsidering the importance of the matter at hand, it still seems to me that the media outlets in question are being deliberately vague,” Marshall says. If the consortium plans only to delay the report, then a joint press release to that effect is in order, Marshall suggests.

Bush administration’s mixed anthrax messages — BBC
In his “Letter From America,” the BBC’s venerable Alistair Cooke chides the Bush administration for fueling confusion and fear about anthrax by sending vague, divergent and often misleading messages to the public. First, Attorney General John Ashcroft has warned Americans to be on alert for biological attacks. Then, Cooke points out, Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson, “gave a gung-ho, reassuring, ‘all is fine’ address to the nation, saying the United States had on hand plenty of vaccines to take care of any biochemical attack that might happen.” Aside from being untrue (there’s not even enough vaccine for US soldiers, let alone the whole civilian population), Cooks says Thompson’s statement was “a wild statement, ill conceived as a reassuring one,”

Bush’s ‘women of cover’ and opportunistic feminism — Boston Globe
Twice in his White House press conference last week, President George W. Bush referred to Muslim women in the United States as “women of cover.” It may have been a cutesy speechwriter’s attempt at morphing the term “women of color” with a knowing nod to the traditional head scarf (hijab) worn by many Muslim women. Or it may be just another slip of Bush’s infamously inept tongue. In any case, columnist Derrick Z. Jackson suggests, Bush’s show of concern for American women of any stripe in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks is worth noting, since “before the war Bush was trying to put America’s women under the covers.”

Oct 16, 2001

GAO: Voting problems were massive, widespread —
Anyone still remember the last “story of the century” — the 2000 presidential election? The folks at the General Accounting Office, Congress’ research arm, do; they’ve just released their much-anticipated survey of voting irregularities nationwide in the election. The agency found “major problems” in more than half of all voting precincts nationwide.

Bush back to keeping money in politics — Associated Press
Despite his duties as commander-in-chief, George W. Bush is managing to find time to do a little political fundraising next week. The national Republican and Democratic committees halted fundraising after the September 11 terrorist attacks, but both parties lifted that ban in early October. Accordingly, the president is scheduled to headline a campaign event for the Republican Governors Association in Washington. Tickets start at a mere $2,500.

Oct. 15, 2001

Bush must avoid ‘petty,’ ‘petulant’ instinct — Boston Globe
Thomas Oliphant says Bush’s reactive approach to dealing with the complex problem of how to fight terrorism is occasionally self-defeating. While Bush can sometimes reassure the public by admitting that he is as confused as the rest of us by the virulence of anti-American sentiment, he also “gives in to urges” to be “petty” and “petulant” — like last week when he briefly cut Congress out of the top-secret security loop, and urged networks not to air videotape of bin Ladin. “At a minimum, an administration that needs international and domestic unity to accomplish its objectives should not even appear to be frustrating efforts to understand this evil better. But it has. … [W]e need to understand the enemy better, and that demands more information and more sharing of it, not less. The messy mechanics of American democracy are, ultimately, our most powerful weapon.”

Bush’s inadequate Islam adviser — The New Republic
David Forte has gained the ear of the Bush administration on matters Islamic, even though he isn’t a Muslim and doesn’t speak Arabic. In fact, he’s a US constitutional law expert. But Bush has cribbed from his writings about al Qaida’s brand of militant Islam, and his books are highly sought after in the State and Defense Departments these days. Why? According to Foer, Forte is a staunchly pro-family values Catholic whose writings have been aggressively promoted by the Heritage Foundation and another conservative think tank. “Forte is a less than reliable source,” writes Foer. “The problem isn’t just his weak background in modern Islamic politics; it’s his ulterior ideological motive. Forte doesn’t just want to redeem Islam from its critics … he wants to redeem religious orthodoxy itself — or, at least, cleanse it of the extremist stain.”


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