The last five years has seen the Bush administration and the Bush/Rove arm of the Republican party install political operatives, crony appointees and other political hacks in virtually every branch and agency within the federal bureaucracy. At this point, it is beginning to appear that there is very little that they have overlooked. From the Treasury Department, to emergency disaster management, to the State Department, to the EPA, to mining oversight to NASA, at this point, there is likely no agency at the federal level that does not have the taint of political hackery infesting it. Though this was known and sensed in smaller circles, the operation was widely exposed to the public during the Hurricane Katrina debacle. Bush's expedient, unqualified choice of Michael Brown to head FEMA proved more than embarrassing. It was, in fact, deadly.For his part in this political hatchet job, Nicholson was then shifted from the Vatican to an appointment as Secretary of Veterans Affairs, despite zero background in healthcare or disability benefit management, where he resumes his good work by gutting the VA of unionized hospital workers in favour of private contractors.
Brown's actions in the immediate aftermath of the disaster was a pageant of blithe incompetence and mismanagement, wrapped in the guise of a PR effort, wherein he was simply advised to roll-up his sleeves in order to look "busy." Brown, it turned out, was actually more concerned about his dinner reservations than saving the lives of flood victims. But this was just an exposed tip of a very ugly and monstrous berg floating, submerged, throughout the federal government.
Other stories have to come to light recently that speak to the vast array of GOP operatives working in many facets of the federal government. The recent story about the attempted muffling of James Hansen, NASA's top climate scientist at Goddard Space Flight Center, revealed the efforts of a one George Deutsch who, it turns out, was an unqualified Bush appointee who had lied on his resume and has since resigned after being exposed as a charlatan. Interestingly enough, it was not the NY Times that exposed Deutsch but a blogger, Nick Anthis, who actually looked into Deutsch's claims and laid bare the man's falsified resume. The only salient aspect of Deutsch's background and the real reason for his ill-conceived appointment was that he was an intern for the 2004 Bush/Cheney campaign, which is usually the only qualification a Bush administration appointee needs have. In one telling note to a NASA contractor developing web content, Deutsch wrote these fateful words:The Big Bang is not proven fact; it is opinion. It is not NASA's place, nor should it be to make a declaration such as this about the existence of the universe that discounts intelligent design by a creator.Here we see political agenda thrust to the fore as he explains that religion, not science, has primacy in Bush's version of NASA. Deutsch explicitly revealed that the only purpose of NASA, and science in general, is to affirm the beliefs of a segment of a population that the GOP has spent decades courting.
This is more than a science issue, it is a religious issue. And I would hate to think that young people would only be getting one-half of this debate from NASA. That would mean we had failed to properly educate the very people who rely on us for factual information the most.As a public affairs officer at NASA headquarters, Duetsch variously engaged himself by trying to keep a lid on discomfiting scientific opinion that was emanating from highly respected scientists regarding the mounting evidence of global warming and the long established Big Bang theory. Of course, such scientific postulation is entirely unacceptable to the Bush orthodoxy and the dutiful Deutsch had been placed in a strategic position to keep such noise makers under thumb. Even though Deutsch has now been dispatched, Hansen points out that the problem is much deeper:He's only a bit player. The problem is much broader and much deeper and it goes across agencies. That's what I'm really concerned about.An informed public is certainly nothing the Bush administration wants.
On climate, the public has been misinformed and not informed. The foundation of a democracy is an informed public, which obviously means an honestly informed public. That's the big issue here.
Hansen's above stated concern is exactly correct. The problem is much broader than one young GOP lackey at NASA headquarters.Of a more immediate and dangerous nature than the subversion of global warming indicators are tales that can be found detailing the political machinations of Bush appointees within the State Department:State Department officials appointed by President Bush have sidelined key career weapons experts and replaced them with less experienced political operatives who share the White House and Pentagon's distrust of international negotiations and treaties.In fact, decades of experience in nuclear arms, chemical weapons and other arms proliferation issues have walked out the State department door with the exodus of many experts in these fields. As readers might have expected, John Bolton, as Undersecretary of State, was the man at the centre of the expertise-loss program. Bolton has often conveyed a notorious distaste for treaties and international co-operation.This is, perhaps, the major reason why US "diplomacy" with Iran amounts to nothing more than thinly veiled threats of tactical nuclear weapons strikes against civilian nuclear facilities in that country. And the EU-3 appear more than ready to appease this posturing, after blindly rejecting the latest Iranian offer.
Aggressive posturing in the foreign arena has disenfranchised a great deal of the international community. Indeed, some of that appears to have rubbed off on the Europeans. Treaties and international law have been tossed on the scrap heap of history and with it, the tools of diplomacy and global good will This is something the United States can ill afford just as nuclear proliferation appears as a major concern for the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union. But the Bush administration, guided by the shaking fist of John Bolton, has purged the diplomatic ranks of the State department and instead filled the void with hapless, unqualified lackeys.
But the inculcation of politics in realms of governance is vast and the subversion of science, reasoned foreign policy, competent disaster management, sound environmental policy are only some facets of the machinations of the Bush/Rove machine. In what can only be regarded as role reversal of the usual lobbyist efforts on the Hill -- influencing government officials with political campaign favours -- the Bush team has used governmental positions occupied by cronies to garner political campaign favours.
During the 2004 presidential race, Bush sought to employ the support of the Vatican, specifically to attack Kerry, and he did so through his trusty appointed ambassador:President Bush reportedly asked Vatican promote socially conservative values in the United States more aggressively -- a further sign that the Catholic Church and its members could play a key role in this year's presidential campaign.Bush's papal meeting was brokered by the US Ambassador to the Vatican, Robert James Nicholson. Nicholson was a former chairman of the Republican National Committee.
Given Kerry's stance on civil unions and abortion rights, the implications of this attempt were hiding in plain sight. Though Pope John Paul II was an outspoken critic of the war in Iraq, Bush really didn't visit the Pope in order that he might further digest contrary papal views on American foreign policy. But the meeting in Rome was quite successful as far as Bush's presidential campaign aspirations were concerned:Just hours before Sen. John Kerry was scheduled to discuss his support for legalized abortion at a large women's rights rally Friday in Washington, a top Vatican cardinal called on priests to deny communion to Catholic politicians like Kerry who take that stance.
These are just a few of many examples of crony appointments designed to not only reward the loyally unqualified, but to exact political leverage and keep the media machine on spin cycle. The media is also happily rewarded for spinning up the Bush agenda and the installing conservative troll Kenneth Tomlinson as that semi-public entity's chairman, the private and so-called "liberal media" now seems fully absorbed with Republican players. Aravosis of Americablog has pointed out that Mike Tirone, senior producer of MSNBC's Scarborough Country and formerly a producer of Chris Matthew's Hardball, is busily supplementing his income with paid lectures on "How to Reach Masses of Conservative Voters With Your Cause, Policy or Political Message." Now, readers might say that Tirone has every right to his political affiliation and this is true. However, a trip into the website of the group Tirone is involved with reveals a rather interesting passage:
Millions of conservative voters and the media that serve them wield enormous influence in Americas public debate. Learn how you can reach this powerful political block with your agenda by listening and talking to editors at top moderate-to-conservative media. These influential decision-makers will explain which kinds of stories you need to tell to grab their attention and how you can develop long-term relationships with them.Indeed, the advice does not stop there:
Likewise, the media that serve this growing segment can deliver your perspective with awesome credibility and power to millions of passionate voters. To gain incomparable insight into the mindset of the conservative voter as well as find out how to pitch their favorite media plan to attend this exclusive panel discussion. These editors will tell you how to be more successful in breaking into their media, as well as how to more effectively communicate with their audience.Yes, folks, for the low, low price of $279, you too can learn how to make friends and influence a media machine in order to effectively bias the public with your partisan Republican message and MSNBC producer Mike Tirone is just the man to tell you how to do it. And, he will do this with "awesome credibility." Expect Chris Matthews and Joe Scarborough will be at the top of Tirone's "need to know" list.
Previous stories of media flacks being paid by the administration to disseminate "the message" had only detailed individual, low-level bit players, which really didn't seem to garner much return on investment of those taxpayers dollars. But media hugger-muggery with the White House really began to unfurl when Fitzgerald's CIA leak investigation exposed the multitudinous connections top level reporters from a variety of news outlets maintained with the Bush administration. Bob Woodward of the Washington Post, Judith Miller of the NY Times, Matt Cooper at TIME magazine and several others were all party to high level White House officials dishing out the putative dirt on Plame and Joe Wilson. And recently, further evidence of media complicity with the White House has arisen with the revelation that TIME magazine had suppressed knowledge that Rove had been involved with the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame until well after the 2004 presidential election. At least three TIME reporters knew, by July 2003, that Rove was directly involved in the matter. None of this came to light, of course, until subpoenas began to fly in summer of 2005. How much the suppression of this information affected the election will never be known, although it is easily imagined that, given all the other terrible news surrounding the Bush administration, it may have mattered not at all. Rove involvement in the Plame affair would have been just one more shovel full on an already heaping, steaming pile failed policy, incompetent governance and political vindictiveness.
Even conservative think-tanks have engaged in dissent suppression as they ignore their usual mission and spin, spin, spin for an administration that makes such activity increasingly difficult for anyone who would claim to be an actual conservative. This drive is, as expected, propelled by the quest for money from Republican donors who will brook no criticism of the president or his policies. Former deputy assistant treasure secretary under GHW Bush and a Reagan policy advisor, Bruce Bartlett, was recently expunged from the payroll of the National Center for Policy Analysis for his increasingly vocal criticisms of the Bush administration's fiscal recklessness. As has been evidenced in nearly every aspect of the Bush agenda, Bartlett admonished this administration for its "anti-intellectual distrust of facts and analysis."
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