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October 10, 2007
New York Times Editorial
Unmuzzling the Federal Watchdogs

In a bipartisan rebuff of White House hubris, the House has overwhelmingly endorsed an overhaul of the inspector general process to insulate it from the waste, fraud and political meddling that are a hallmark of the Bush administration.

. . . narrows the grounds for removing an inspector general to specified causes, not political vagaries.

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. . . The need for bolstering some 50 federal inspectors general has become a grim subtheme of the Bush administration’s arrogant massing of executive power. Most recently, State Department employees accused the White House-appointed inspector general, Howard Krongard, of blocking rather than abetting their efforts to uncover fraud and abuse in the contract billions being showered on Iraq and Afghanistan.

. . . Other allegations of compromised investigations have been raised about inspectors general at the Commerce Department, NASA, the Smithsonian Institution and the Legal Services Corporation.

. . . The House voted 404 to 11 for reforms, despite the White House’s threat of a veto. The Senate should show comparable determination to see fraud and abuse weeded out by in-agency investigators . . . one more barn door to be closed on an irresponsible administration.

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--read entire editorial--


Day after day, disaster upon disaster is brought upon this administration. Are there no successes? Today, it's the leaders of the band, the inspectors general.

It's shocking to see our mainstream newspapers regularly (at long, long last) referring to this administration with such phrases as "waste, fraud and political meddling that are a hallmark," along with "arrogant massing of executive power" and "one more barn door to be closed on an irresponsible administration."

These same papers nodded their way through Donald Rumsfeld and his coterie of fired generals, all of them complicit in a wrongheaded war. They blandly (and blindly) reported abuse, fraud, malfeasance, outright theft, unending incompetencies and a gathering storm of illegalities as if they were merely news.

As near as three weeks ago, they were reverently agog at the dissembling David Petraeus, in the full body-armor of his beribboned uniform, testifying before an inert and apathetic Congress.

Now, bless their eager little hearts, they jump to the same tune and comparable band-wagons in hindsight, as the first shadow of where journalism has brought us (or failed us) falls across their desk.

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Because it has failed us. Perhaps because we all but asked to be failed and journalism gives us what we ask of it.

There is an unnerving tendency to compare Bush to Nixon, probably because this White House was fashioned after Nixon's by design. Cheney-Rumsfeld are Nixonites and David Addington (Cheney's rottweiler) is empowered to bring presidential power back to those bad old days.
I was around for the Nixon administration, the most dishonored post-war presidency. George Bush is no Richard Nixon. Nixon had successes (and was brought to resignation, if not justice).
But of course impeachment is the other reason for the comparison. We as a nation are so embarrassed at having impeached Bill Clinton and let Bush-Cheney off the constitutional hook, that the relationship sticks. Not going after Bush-Cheney is an indictment of Nancy Pelosi, who daily proves herself as lame (and smiling) a duck as Bush.

This sorry executive excuse for divisive and disastrous policy (equally distributed at home and abroad) looks less and less likely to be brought to justice with every passing month. It will just expire, like a sick animal.

In the meantime, ever the optimist, I search for something, anything that might register in the win column as a success.

So far I've come up empty.

* For more in-depth articles by Jim on Washington at Work, check out


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Jim Freeman's op-ed pieces and commentaries have appeared in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, International Herald-Tribune, CNN, The New York Review, The Jon Stewart Daily Show and a number of magazines. His thirteen published books are (more...)

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