When Bill Clinton left office, he issued a record number of executive orders on the environment and other issues which he'd been unable to legislate through the republican-controlled Congress. During his two terms, Clinton had averaged about one executive order per week (over 30,000 pages of new regulations in the last 90 days). Clinton's last minute EOs included issues like banning discrimination based on sexual orientation in federal hiring, bans on permanent striker replacements, an order to allow poor nations manufacture generic versions of expensive AIDS medicines, and a host of environmental orders which reserved hundreds of acres of federal land as refuges for wildlife and national monuments.
When Bush came into office, he promptly set out to reverse those Clinton orders by issuing his own contradictory ones and advancing legislation which ignored or overturned them. Many were allowed to stand, but others were challenged in court and in Congress. For instance, when Bush took office he rescinded Clinton's EO establishing labor management groups for federal govt. workers who were in unions with his own EO reversing Clinton requirements that federal contractors follow union standards. Bush also brought back an order which Clinton had struck down which required unions to inform workers of their right to refunds for dues used for politics.
An EO issued by Clinton to ensure environmental justice for minority and low-income populations was 'reinterpreted' by the administration and broadened to include 'everyone' as a dodge on their specific responsibility to the disadvantaged populations who suffer greater exposure to environmental hazards than others. The Clinton orders on the environment were bypassed in legislation like Bush's plan to allow coal-fired power plants to buy credits from cleaner plants instead of reducing their own emissions, ignoring the impact of those who still had to live with the offending plants and their hazardous emissions. On Oct. 1, 2001, Bush's Fish and Wildlife Service reversed a Clinton order to increase Missouri River flow to protect species. Jun. 9, 2003, Bush's USDA reversed Clinton ban on logging and road building on 58.5 million acres of federal forest land.
Bush has had his own executive order revolution in his two terms and we should brace for many more. This power-grabbing administration will do more than pilfer a few typewriter keys and abscond with WH furniture and silverware. In November, Bush signaled that he intended to bypass any opposition which the new Democratic majority might pose to his autocratic ambitions, by ordering agency staff to produce a myriad of executive orders for his consideration.
In January of this year, Bush issued an EO which directed that each government agency must have a regulatory policy office run by a political appointee, to supervise the development of rules and documents providing guidance to regulated industries. In July, Bush issued a presidential order giving him the authority to confiscate the assets of whoever opposes his Iraq occupation under the pretext of protecting his U.S. sponsored Iraqi regime. The same month, Bush issued an order broadening the law which had restricted the interrogation methods which can be used on terrorism suspects, absolving and allowing the CIA to resume their activities which were suspended after criticism which accompanied their revelation.
Everything from Bush's career appointments in Justice, Defense, Intelligence, the Courts, and the myriads of other government institutions he has dominion over, will stand in place and operation until the next administration moves to upend and dissolve them.
At the Justice Dept., there were reports that under the leadership of Bush crony, Gonzales, the WH had scrapped the civil service process which normally guided the selection of judges and other appointees in favor of a political process which focused on how much loyalty to the administration nominees demonstrated instead of considerations of merit and expertise. That political abuse of the hiring process was capped by the dismissal of nine U.S. attorneys based on their dissent from administration orthodoxy. Most of those appointees will have to be carefully and systematically evaluated by the next administration as they seek to return our system of Justice to its expected role as an impartial, apolitical arbiter.
At Defense, there is the obvious influence of Bush's appointments which led us into Iraq and have kept us bogged down there. Many of the Pentagon's Bush cabal will be able to shrink back into the military fold when the next administration team takes charge. A great deal of the transformation of Bush military expansionism will be directed from the Pentagon where there is an institutional support ingrained into a career military which is almost never shy about their eagerness to demonstrate the strength of their forces. A strong leader will be needed to actually transform their mission instead of merely acquiescing to them because if some inexperience in foreign affairs, or a lack of expertise or influence in managing the military management structure.
In almost all of the agencies which Bush has so thoroughly infected with the influence of his craven political ambitions, there are already effects of the traditional flight of loyalists from lame-duck administrations poised for a reversal of party control. The NYT has reported on the large number of interim appointments which now exist in many Cabinet positions which would require congressional approval. The Bush administration has decided, in their interest or because of the opposition of the new Democratic majority in Congress, to leave these positions in the hands of the deputies-in-charge instead of pressing for replacements. Many of these seconds are appointees which have even more political and operational baggage than their predecessors. Although there will be a certain flight of these figures from an ascending Democratic Executive, there will still be a need to systematically dismantle the webs of assumed authority Bush has encouraged and allowed.
Who knows just how many of Bush's political prisoners are still detained in the CIA's secret prisons around the world? Who can actually quantify all of the agents dispatched around the globe who are infected with Bush's imperious mission to meddle and obstruct in the internal affairs of sovereign nations?
Like Israel's use of cluster bombs in their recent assault and invasion of Southern Lebanon, making the previously settled territory uninhabitable because of the deliberate minefield-effect of the residual bomblets left littered everywhere, the Bush administration will leave a legacy and infrastructure at home and around the world which will pose dangerous and pernicious obstacles to any efforts to reform or reverse the effects of Bush's autocratic constructions.
As we look to the future without Bush and his anti-democratic minions in power and assumed authority, we will still need to remain focused on the malignant and infectious consequences of his unilateral meddling. One thing is certain; if we don't persist in removing these incendiary traces of his legacy that he's deliberately deposited at home and abroad, the Bush regime will have effectively institutionalized the tyranny they've so obviously craved and attempted throughout their term.