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Bush administration scandals

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This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's focus on the fallout of nuclear "spin."

This article is part of SourceWatch's coverage of the Bush administration:
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Bush administration scandals, as of January 18, 2005, according to Salon's Peter Dzikes, came to a grand total of 34 for the "first four years of George Bush's presidency." [1]

On January 13, 2005, Katrina vanden Heuvel posted her list in The Nation of "the Bush Administration's Ten Most Outrageous Scandals thus far uncovered by government investigators." :

  • Halliburton's Corruption
  • Iraq's Decline
  • Abu Ghraib Prison Torture
  • CIA Pre-9/11 Intelligence Failures
  • HHS Deceptive Ad Campaign
  • HHS Scully Scandal
  • Government-wide Accounting Problems
  • Sex Education Misinformation
  • CAPPS II Failures
  • Real Costs of the Iraq War

It was less than one year ago, on April 20, 2004, Thomas R. Asher, writing for Tom Paine, headlined with "Losing Control" -- "Echoes of Watergate fill the air: a president is charged with misdeeds. He is besieged by plans gone awry, betrayed by underlings blowing whistles, harassed by a once-compliant press and barraged by querulous demands for data, documents and testimony."

Asher added: "George W. Bush, who reveres power, is losing his own as events in Washington and Iraq, and their public portrayal, slip from his grasp. His predicaments are rooted less in Lord Acton's adage that 'power corrupts' than its corollary that power seduces its holders into overestimating their strength and ignoring its limits. Bush has an inflated sense of several variants of power: bending others to one's will, be they subjects, messengers, adversaries or enemies; silencing dissent; protecting secrets; and building and preserving credibility. The latter is especially important in an election year." [2]

Additionally, Asher writes, "Bush faces a wider range of potential scandals, which include: [3]

  • Iraq: the rationale for, cost of, and occupation plans following America's conquest (DOS, DOD, CIA, FBI);
  • Suppressed Medicare costs (HHS) and bioterrorism studies (DOD);
  • Insufficient terrorism preparedness and prevention, domestic and international, before and after 9/11 (CIA, FBI, DOD, etc.);
  • Mounting fiscal deficits and tax relief only for the wealthy (Treasury, OMB); and
  • Skewed or suppressed scientific research and policies (NIH, HHS, FDA, EPA).

"The president and his administration, in Watergate mode," he says, "already find themselves focusing more on damage control than new initiatives, both in Washington and Baghdad. They spend time with lawyers and spinmeisters, rather than policy advisors, and are bogged down in old problems, which prevents them from focusing on the cascade of new ones. Their power to 'embed' or bully the skeptical media is diminishing. And Mr. Bush's re-election campaign is increasingly shrill, scattered, partisan and reactive--not the image of serene confidence and control he hoped to project." [4]

Amazingly, he points out, "Mr. Bush's multiple misrepresentations and misjudgments put him in position to break a key Watergate speed record. From the Watergate burglary on June 17, 1971 to Nixon's resignation on Aug. 8, 1974, it took some 38 months. In between, Nixon managed to keep the tawdry facts and circumstances under sufficient control to win re-election in 1972. In contrast, from the first 'new product' announcement of the Iraq invasion in early September, 2002, to election day November 2, 2004, is a mere 26 months, which would beat Nixon's record by 33 percent." [5]

Compared to the Vietnam War fallout, he writes, Bush may establish another "world record":

"Iraq also may eclipse the presidential war blowback record set by Vietnam. Of course, no civilized exit strategy for American hegemony and troops currently exists and the likelihood of an international takeover is diminished because of (a) little support among our NATO allies, (b) a timorous United Nations, further weakened by the Bush administration's lack of respect and support, and (c) Bush's continued refusal to relinquish effective control. It took six years, from 1962 to 1968, for Vietnam to undo a president, Lyndon B. Johnson; five years if you count only his time as president. In contrast, the Iraq war began in March, 2003, fewer than 19 months before Election Day 2004." [6]

A month earlier, in fact, on March 19, 2004, the administration's scandals were reaching the point that The Carpetbagger Report--"Scandal after scandal after scandal"--claimed to be having flashbacks to scandal fatigue ("a conservative buzz phrase from the late 90s"). [7]

At the time of that posting, the daily weblog cited no less than twelve "substantive scandals involving the GOP in the last three years":

  • Dick Cheney's secretive Energy Task Force was investigated by the GAO and the case is currently pending at the Supreme Court.
  • The Homeland and Lilly Protection Act
  • The Plame Game is under investigation by the Justice Department.
  • Bush's Medicare scam and the circumstances that led the administration to lie to Congress about the cost of the legislation is under investigation by the HHS inspector general's office.
  • The massive intelligence failure that led Bush to lie to the world about the Iraqi threat is under investigation by a congressionally-authorized independent commission (which Bush fought the creation of).
  • Bribes offered on the House floor to Rep. Nick Smith (R-Mich.) in exchange for his vote on Bush's Medicare plan are under investigation by the House Ethics Committee and the Justice Department.
  • Attorney General John Ashcroft was under investigation by the Federal Election Commission for violating campaign finance laws in 2000, and the FEC concluded that Ashcroft accepted $110,000 in illegal contributions.
  • An investigation into House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's criminal fundraising schemes in Texas -- which allegedly used corporate funds to help state GOP lawmakers -- is already before a Texas grand jury.
  • Republican staffers on the Senate Judiciary Committee were investigated for stealing thousands of confidential memos from Dem computers, a matter that has now been referred to the Justice Department for a possible criminal probe.
  • Republican Connecticut Gov. John Rowland is under a criminal investigation (and an impeachment investigation) after he lied about prominent state contractors and several government aides paying for refurbishments to his lake-front cottage.
  • Former Rep. Bill Janklow (R-S.D.) was under investigation for vehicular manslaughter, a crime for which he was later convicted.
  • The Pentagon launched a formal investigation into well-armed evangelist and three-star General William G. Boykin, Bush's pick for deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence, and his record of extreme religious rhetoric.
  • The circumstances that led to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 are under investigation by a congressionally-authorized independent commission (which, again, Bush fought the creation of and then later resisted cooperating with); and subsequently the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States
  • And honorable mentions should go, of course, to investigations into Halliburton (Dick Cheney's former company) and Enron (George Bush's biggest corporate supporter).

"The Most Dangerous Man in the World"

In the March 19, 2004, edition of Capitol Hill Blue, Doug Thompson wrote about "The Most Dangerous Man in the World". On the anniversary of the launch of shock and awe in Iraq, Thompson says that the "invasion was necessary, we were told by our leaders, because Saddam Hussein was 'the most dangerous man in the world,' had weapons of mass destruction and had helped Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda kill more than 3,000 civilians in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001.

"President George W. Bush told the nation and the world he had proof of all this and Congress approved the rush to war, even though doing so meant scaling back our search for bin Laden in Afghanistan.

"That was then. This is now," he wrote. "Now we know that Hussein's so-called weapons of mass destruction did not exist because his scientists lacked both the resources and the expertise to actually build them. Now we know that our 'proof' of a hard link between Hussein and bin Laden came from faulty intelligence and any real link has yet to be proven."

"We know now that Saddam Hussein did not pose any real imminent threat to the U.S. Hussein was, at best, a sham leader who controlled his country through illusion, deceit and bluster. Ironically, he was brought down by a military sent into battle by another sham leader who controls his country through illusion, deceit and bluster.

"On the news talk shows this morning and in speeches throughout the day, the Bush administration tries to justify the war with Iraq by calling Saddam Hussein 'the most dangerous man in the world.'

"But the most dangerous man in the world is not sitting in a jail cell somewhere in Iraq.

"He is not hiding out in a cave somewhere in Afghanistan.

"Not really. The most dangerous man in the world may well be working out of an oval-shaped office at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC."

"-gates" during the George W. Bush administration

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