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Political Animal

Mind the Gap

By Brian Morton | Posted 1/12/2005

Conservatives of the hard-right used to slander anyone contesting the Bush administration’s War on Abstract Noun as “objectively pro-terrorist.”

Well, President George W. Bush’s nominee for attorney general has come out as “objectively pro-torture.” One might even say the whole administration is “objectively pro-lawbreaking.” Think about it—can you name any other time and any other administration that has violated the law so rampantly, freely, with impunity and no consequences? No public opprobrium, no investigations, no firings, no censures?

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s admission of “ghost prisoners” violates the law. The torture policies created in the now-infamous Bybee memo break the law. The administration flat out refuses to surrender any documents pertaining to attorney general nominee Alberto Gonzales’ participation in meetings about the torture memos, and when the story broke, current Attorney General John Ashcroft refused to provide such documents to a Senate panel, without even bothering to claim executive privilege. He just wouldn’t do it, and that was that.

It’s not just the administration, either. The congressional Republican leadership’s complicity is what allows all the lawbreaking to happen. These are the lawmakers whose staffers break into opposition computers on Capitol Hill and circulate Democratic strategy memos. When said staffer, Manuel Miranda, was “placed on administrative leave” after the ’02-’03 computer break-in, he claimed that he did nothing wrong, and then Republican senators pushed to limit the investigation into the matter. The GOP members of the Senate Judiciary Committee—the same ones who questioned Gonzales last week—argued that the investigation should be limited to the 14 Democratic documents leaked to The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Times, as they feared a “fishing expedition” through their computer’s server.

When the Republican-dominated House rammed the administration’s dishonest Medicare scheme through to passage, the GOP leadership offered a bribe to Rep. Nick Smith (R-Mich.) to get him to support the bill, and then threatened his son’s political prospects if he didn’t change his vote. The same fraudulent Medicare scheme was sold via illegal propaganda; the Department of Health and Human Services recruited a former TV journalist to front for advertisements for the bill, masked as actual news reports. And now, it’s been revealed, conservative black political columnist and TV personality Armstrong Williams was paid nearly a quarter of a million dollars to sell the administration’s No Child Left Behind plan on television and in his syndicated column. (After the disclosure, Tribune Media Services, Williams’ syndicator, dropped his column.) And as the House returned to session last week, the Republican caucus seriously considered completely gutting the ethics laws, before relenting in the face of the possibility that Democrats could run on the issue in 2006.

Last week the Government Accountability Office announced that a similar illegal payola scheme run by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (of which this writer is an alumnus, during the Clinton administration) constituted “covert propaganda.” The drug policy office hired an ad agency to create fake news reports that ran on more than 300 TV stations. As one might expect, a spokesman for the drug policy office dismissed the GAO report as making a “mountain out of a molehill.”

The ridge that exists between what is legal and what the politicians running our country feel is allowable has widened into a chasm. There’s no longer just a credibility gap—there’s a legality gap, and they’ve built a six-lane highway with no speed limits over it.

The Washington Post reported Dec. 31 that the good-government advocate Center for Public Integrity found “that nine of the 30 members of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board had ties to companies that won more than $76 billion in defense contracts in 2001 and 2002. Four of the 30 were registered lobbyists.” In December, the former Republican chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Billy Tauzin of Louisiana, took a job as top lobbyist for the pharmaceutical industry; his former House panel handles legislation affecting his employer.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia went duck hunting with Dick Cheney before hearing a case dealing with the vice president’s refusal to surrender information about his meetings with energy lobbyists over energy policy. Scalia, naturally, came down in favor of the VP.

Our government talks about “freedom” and “democracy” to the world while its policies promote torture, encourage graft, dismiss lawbreaking, revel in cronyism, and foster government run for the few and by the few, in secret. Soon, the nation’s top law-enforcement official will be a man who “objectively” believes that the president can override the law and immunize his policy-makers from criminal prosecution.

You might call it “objectively pro-dictatorship.”

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Political Animal archives

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The Fix (8/4/2010)

Police State (7/7/2010)

Funny Business (6/9/2010)

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