The White House on Thursday issued a lengthy list of “accomplishments” for 2005, beginning with reauthorization of the USA PATRIOT Act (which as any schmuck with a TV set or access to the Internet knows hasn’t actually happened). It goes on from there to applaud Bush’s pursuit of “a comprehensive strategy for victory in Iraq” (yeah, tell that to the 2,163 U.S. soldiers who’ve died in Dubya’s seeming endless war), “[combat] the spread of WMD” (if, it’s to be assumed, Bush can ever determine who really has such things and who doesn’t), and restrain federal spending (which, under this GOP administration, has in fact been growing at its fastest rate in 30 years--unchecked by Bush’s exercise of his veto pen); the White House list also champions the prez’s signing into law a $286 billion highway bill (which one conservative critic said represented a “wholesale abandonment of limited government principles”) and his nomination of “well-qualified candidates to the U.S. Supreme Court” (without a word being mentioned about the sad fiasco surrounding Harriet E. Miers, the White House counsel whom Bush once touted as “the best person I could find” for the Court, only to have her savaged even by his own supporters and withdraw from the running). As Steve Benen over at The Carpetbagger Report observes, there’s “a sense of the desperation” about the administration propagandizing its supposed successes from the last 12 months. And it only confirms widespread media reports about Bush living in a bubble, protected from information and opinions that lack a requisite rosy glow.
Sure, the United States received some good news over the last 365 days: the economic and employment pictures improved somewhat (though average worker wages still lagged behind), violent crime rates declined, the identity of the Watergate scandal’s “Deep Throat” informant was finally revealed, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that juveniles who committed their crimes under age 18 were not susceptible to the death penalty, BTK Killer Dennis Rader drew 10 consecutive life sentences for his crimes, the effort by religionists to replace the teaching of evolution with “intelligent design” theories was shot down in Pennsylvania, the Slurpee turned 40, HBO’s Deadwood was renewed for a third season, and Jessica Simpson made us believe in hot pants again. But these things didn’t happen so much because of Bush, as despite him. Even this week’s welcome announcement that two combat brigades will be withdrawn from Iraq by next spring was obviously motivated not by strategic planning so much as by crass politics, with Bush finally responding to Republican fears that next year’s midterm elections will severely thin their ranks in Congress unless he starts listening to polls that show Americans want troops pulled out of Iraq as soon as possible.
What the prez contributed to 2005 was more along the order of shame, than fame. This, after all, was the year that Bush and Republicans on Capitol Hill pandered to religious right-wingers by passing extraordinary legislation to prevent the husband of Terri Schiavo, a Florida woman in a vegetative state, from removing her feeding tube ... but then could barely stir themselves as Hurricane Katrina blew in to drown New Orleans and leave tens of thousands of people homeless up and down the Gulf Coast. It was also this year that Bush’s grand scheme to privatize Social Security--his top domestic priority--died a slow and painful death, despite the prez’s persistent cross-country sales job. (Assessing the plan’s demise, E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post noted that “The more Bush discussed this boutique idea cooked up in conservative think tanks and Wall Street imaginations, the less the public liked it.”) Another of Bush’s chief legislative ambitions, opening the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, was blocked (at least temporarily) by the Senate this week, when it excised the drilling measure from a larger defense spending bill. And let’s not forget that 2005 also brought us the CIA leak scandal; Bush’s hauty indifference toward war-protesting mother Cindy Sheehan, which only popularized the antiwar movement; news of rampant cronyism within the administration, most notably in the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA); the indictments of both Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, and Bush’s chief ally in the U.S. House, Tom DeLay (R-Texas); reports that the government has shown favoritism toward Bush allies in awarding lucrative contracts; and, in recent days, revelations about how the prez authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on American citizens without legally required warrants or congressional sanction--and despite the fact that such an abuse of civil rights and the Constitution might be cause for Bush’s impeachment.
As a Republican prez, you know the shit has hit the fan when the conservative national business newspaper Barron’s editorializes that you should be removed from office, as it encouraged Congress this week to consider booting Bush from the White House because of his domestic spying tactics:
Willful disregard of a law is potentially an impeachable offense. It is at least as impeachable as having a sexual escapade under the Oval Office desk and lying about it later. The members of the House Judiciary Committee who staged the impeachment of President Clinton ought to be as outraged at this situation. They ought to investigate it, consider it carefully and report either a bill that would change the wiretap laws to suit the president or a bill of impeachment.If this is what constitutes a “good year” by Dubya’s standards, how much more can America take of his “leadership”?
It is important to be clear that an impeachment case, if it comes to that, would not be about wiretapping, or about a possible Constitutional right not to be wiretapped. It would be about the power of Congress to set wiretapping rules by law, and it is about the obligation of the president to follow the rules in the Acts that he and his predecessors signed into law.
DEBATING IRAQ WAR IS GOOD? Since when, Georgie Boy? Brendan Nyhan (formerly with the political rhetoric watchdog site Spinsanity, but now blogging on his own) dissects the prez’s specious enthusiasm, voiced in the year-end issue of People magazine, for “the ability of people to express their opinions.” Read on.
READ MORE: “Lawsuit Against Bush?” by Michael Scherer (Salon); “Top 12 Media Myths and Falsehoods on the Bush Administration’s Spying Scandal” (Media Matters); “Power Down: Has Executive Activism Turned the President Into a Wimp?” by Bruce Reed (Slate); “Excuses, Excuses,” by Joe Conason (Salon); “Big Lies,” by Eleanor Clift (Newsweek).