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 28, 2001

Don’t spend that refund check yet — San Diego Union Tribune
The Bush administration is using the tax rebate check that’s winging its way to millions of Americans as a public relations ploy — and as in any promotion, notes David Milstead, it’s a good idea to read the small print. The check, he points out, amounts to an advance on next year’s tax return. “If it’s an advance, you ask, does that mean my refund in April will be $300 smaller than it would have been? And if I’m unlucky enough to owe taxes, does that mean my tax bill will be $300 higher? The answer to both questions is yes.” Does that also mean that whatever economic boost the rebate provides this year will be equal to the drain coming next year when many Americans find themselves $300 poorer than they expected?

About that endorsement… — Austin Chronicle
Paul Burka, senior executive editor for the Texas Monthly, is chewing crow. The longtime Democrat broke ranks and supported Bush for president in the pages of the Lone Star mag, and he’s finding that decision hard to defend in the newsroom these days. His explanation: Bush looked pretty good next to most Texas politicians, but, well: “I didn’t realize how his weakness would play out… He doesn’t like to do homework, he makes snap decisions that come back to haunt him, and if he’s not interested in an issue, forget it.”

July 27, 2001

(Reagan) White House secrets — Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
The Bush administration is blocking the release of about 68,000 pages of White House records from the Reagan administration — even though the Presidential Records Act of 1978 requires their disclosure. Reagan, the first president covered by the act, ordered the National Archives to notify the sitting president before past administrations’ records are made public. Bush has twice invoked that order in the past six months to delay release of the Reagan papers. Some historians suspect that Bush seeks to protect members of the current administration who also served under Reagan and Bush Sr. from potential embarrassment.

Ashcroft to NRA: I’m with you — Violence Policy Center
The Violence Policy Center has obtained a copy of the letter Attorney General John Ashcroft wrote to the National Rifle Association’s chief lobbyist in May, announcing that the department would be reversing its longtime position on the Second Amendment. Justice’s new philosophy is that the right to bear arms is an individual right, rather than a collective one. Ashcroft, a lifetime NRA member, timed his letter to coincide with the group’s annual meeting, where it was touted as evidence that “in John Ashcroft, we have an Attorney General who agrees with us.” In conjunction with publishing the letter, the Violence Policy Center has released a report on what it calls Ashcroft’s “pandering to a special interest group which donated substantial sums of money to his unsuccessful 2000 reelection campaign in Missouri for the US Senate.”

Liberals to Bush: Thanks — American Prospect
Ralph Nader said it would happen, and Robert Kuttner of The American Prospect says the predictions are coming true: The Bush presidency is lighting a fire under a hitherto moribund left. “The more you keep pursuing policies that most people think are nuts, the more people are eager to find alternatives,” writes Kuttner. “Please — keep it up, Mr. President, and the sometimes gutless Democrats in Congress will come roaring back.”

July 26, 2001

The man behind the curtain — The New Republic
A couple weeks back, the Washington Monthly called Mitch Daniels, chief of the Office of Management and Budget, the most powerful Washingtonian you’ve never heard of (see The Bush Files, July 14-17). The New Republic, however, has another candidate: Ed Gillespie. Gillespie wears many hats for the GOP: he was spokesman for Bush’s Inaugural Committee and coordinated the party convention last summer. He also happens to be the man who designed Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America and who is largely credited with Dick Armey’s rise to power in Congress. In other words, writes Ryan Lizza: “The most important operative you never heard of during the Gingrich revolution is also the most important operative you’ve never heard of in the Bush presidency.”

You’re not the boss of me — Hole City
Sometimes, you gotta laugh. When you feel the urge, the culture critics at Hole City can help: “The war of words between Republican President George W. Bush and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle escalated further this week as Bush reportedly declared himself rubber and Daschle, glue. According to high-level sources, the effect of this declaration was to cause anything negative stated by the Senator to “bounce off” Bush and actually become affixed to Daschle.”

July 25, 2001

Carter disses Bush — Knight-Ridder
Former presidents rarely criticize their successors, and Jimmy Carter has even managed to be kind to George Bush Sr. over the years. But Bush Jr. is another story: “I have been disappointed in almost everything he has done,” Carter says. The architect of the first Camp David accord criticizes Bush for his stance on Israel, for caving to extreme conservatives, for threatening to abandon the anti-ballistic missile treaty, and for ignoring members of his own cabinet. “I thought he would be a moderate leader,” Carter said, “but he has been very strictly conforming to some of the more conservative members of his administration.”

Expanding Plan Colombia — The Nation
A Congressional staffer discovered a “disconcerting bit of text” in the House Foreign Operations Appropriations bill last week, reports The Nation: The language seems to indicate that the Bush administration is trying to quietly ramp up the use of private military contractors in the Colombian drug war. The provision would circumvent the Clinton-era cap on the number of US soldiers that can be based in Colombia by allowing an unlimited number of civilian contractors — including former soldiers and intelligence personnel — to be deployed in the region.

July 24, 2001

Where’s the Bush? — Business Week
The budget surplus is drying up, layoffs are up, profits are down — the economy, in a word, is falling apart. And the president? Bush is using his bully pulpit to promote pet issues like faith-based programs, writes Business Week‘s Richard Dunham, but not to reassure the public about an economy fewer and fewer Americans have faith in. “[I]t sort of makes you long for the smooth-talking days of Bill Clinton, who at least felt people’s pain.”

Ashcroft’s pollution loophole — American Prospect
Who said this? “Enforcing environmental law is a top priority for the Justice Department. I look forward to protecting our natural resources and helping ensure that companies are in compliance with the law.” Attorney General John Ashcroft, of course. His comments came as the administration was announcing plans to quietly suspend a key provision of the Clean Air Act. Under Clinton, the EPA had sued dozens of oil companies for abusing a loophole in federal regulations that allowed them to continue using old, heavily polluting equipment. Now the administration has suspended the provision in question to evaluate its “legal soundness,” essentially guaranteeing no further suits or settlements.

So much for bipartisanship — Roll Call
George W. Bush still occasionally uses the word “bipartisan” to describe his leadership style, but his pals in Congress are tired of the whole idea. Senate GOP leaders told Democrats last week that they no longer cared to share the time-consuming job of presiding over Senate floor sessions, one of the last symbolic gestures left from the power-sharing discussions earlier this year. “Usually it is the majority’s responsibility to preside,” Minority Whip Don Nickles (R-Okla.) tells Roll Call. “We hope to regain the majority, and we will be happy to preside.”


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