Friday, May 25, 2007

Surviving the Bush Administration

Check your local news stands for the June issue of Harper's, or check it out online (Unfortunately, the online version is for subscribers only). They have a number of authors taking different aspects of American life and looking at (first) how Bush & Co., screwed them up beyond almost all hope; and (second) what we can do to save ourselves from those screw ups.

Here are some tidbits from the article - chapters, authors and a taste.

The Constitution - David Cole
For a short parlor game, challenge your friends to name a constitutional right that Bush has not sought to undermine. After the right to bear arms and the guarantee against the quartering of soldiers, the game will be over. . . .
We cannot destroy the Constitution in order to save the country, because the Constitution is the country. The first and most important step toward restoration of constitutional principle, then, will be the next election. If the public does not demand fidelity to our founding principles, our representatives will not do so on their own.

The Courts - Dahlia Lithwick
Bush's actual appointees to the federal bench don't necessarily adhere to a socially conservative worldview. What they hew to is the president's vision of executive authority. They are willing to sacrifice the conservative ideal of states' rights if it means limiting environmental protection, and they are willing to abandon the conservative principle of limited government if it means shoring up the so-called unitary executive. . . .
The best the next president can do, then, will be to dramatically reform the judicial-confirmation process. Nominees should not be able to hide their views behind claims that an issue may come before them when they sit on the bench. They should have to answer questions about their jurisprudential records, and there must be consequences if they do not. Senators who use confirmation hearings as days-long infomercials should instead use their time for rigorous constitutional inquiry.

Civil Service - Ken Silverstein
Where the Bush Administration has undeniably broken new ground is in its insistence that ideological purity and devotion to the president himself serve as a litmus test for appointees, and the rigor with which it has chosen and vetted candidates on only those grounds. . . .
How can we safeguard the civil service against future assault? To begin with, Congress should slash the number of presidential appointees, a figure that has grown from roughly 600 during the Kennedy Administration to 3,000 today -- even as the overall size of the civil service has remained the same.

The Environment - Bill McKibben
One of the best things about the departure of the Bush Administration will be the end of headache-creating cognitive dissonance. It has taken over institutions ostensibly devoted to defending the natural world -- the Department of the Interior, the EPA, the Council on Environmental Quality -- and turned them into organizations devoted to environmental degradation. . . .
There is much that can be done. As the head of a vast regulatory body, the next president can exert significant influence on environmental rules. ... Most important, the next president will have to put the environment, and especially carbon policy, at the center of every diplomatic effort."

Science - Chris Mooney
Again and again the administration has sought to "manage" inconvenient scientific information from a public relations standpoint rather than take it seriously or use it to inform policy. And it's not just climate science. A similar PR-oriented approach has been apparent across a range of issues, subjects sharing few commonalities save that they motivate the Republican base: embryonic stem cell research, mercury pollution, sex education, endangered-species protection, and many more. . . .
The first step is to choose a distinguished scientist to serve as the presidential science adviser - the government's top scientist, who heads the Office of Science & Technology Policy-- and, more important, to make sure this scientist is allowed into the president's inner circle.

The Economy - Dean Baker
The problem that a high dollar poses for manufacturing is straightforward: if the dollar is expensive relative to other currencies, then it is very cheap for Americans to buy imported goods and very expensive for foreigners to buy U.S. exports....Not surprisingly, this high dollar has led to a rapidly rising trade deficit, which in 2006 grew to more than $760 billion, or nearly 6% of the GDP. . . .
But restoring the pre-Bush tax rates (at least for the wealthy) and ending the war will free up
sufficient funds to support universal health care and a major round of infrastructure modernization.

The Marketplace of Ideas - Jack Hitt
On Thursday, June 6, 2002, FBI agent Coleen Rowley testified before Congress that 9/11 might have been avoided had her agency been better organized to manage the clues it had on hand ... By Monday, though, Americans would forget about Rowley. Her story was sidelined after then Attorney General John Ashcroft called an emergency press conference from Moscow to annnounce that federal agents had seized Al Qaeda operative Jose Padilla and foiled a plot to set off a radioactive "dirty bomb." ... In 2002, most Americans reacted skeptically to the Cassandras who suggested that Padilla was dragged out of obscurity precisely to shove Rowley's story from the top of the broadcast. It is only today, after scores of similar examples, that Americans can look back at those moments and see the earliest beta tests of the Bush media-management model. ...
[Politicians need to] disagree without degenerating into name-calling. They [need to] talk about solutions. Just as the cure for bad speech is more speech, it seems that the best antidote for our debatelessness may be, quite simply, debate.

Intelligence - James Bamford
By far the most significant intelligence error of the Bush Administration has been the decision, contrary to established American policy and common sense, to treat terrorism not as a crime, to be solved by intelligence and law enforcement agencies, but as an existential military threat, to be confronted with tanks and Marines. This was not an abstract choice. The administration has worked for years to embed Bush's worldview in the highest levels of the American intelligence system. . . .
The first step to avoiding future such operations will be shifting the center of gravity away from the Pentagon and back to the CIA. The country would face fewer wars, its intelligence would be more independent and less biased toward the military, and the CIA chief would again reign over the community, eliminating a thick Defense Department layer of bureaucracy.

The Military - Edward Luttwak
It has always been the case that failed wars damage armies and sometimes break them. So it is with Iraq, unless remedies intervene soon enough. The Washington Post reported this March that "senior US military and government offiicals" fear "it will take years for the Army and Marine Corps to recover from what some officials have called a 'death spiral,' in which the ever more rapid pace of war-zone rotations has consumed 40 percent of their total gear, wearied troops, and left no time to train to fight anything other than the insurgencies now at hand." . ..
Having shifted to maneuver war-fare in the 1980s, the combat formations of the Army and Marine Corps must now evolve one step further to become commando forces writ large. Such a transformation would bring great savings in itself, because today's excessively costly "Special Operations Forces" -- which, though once truly specialized, now amount to an outsized fifth service, with air, naval, and ground elements--could be reabsorbed into the regular structures. To return to a structure in which the Special Forces really are specialized would release much funding for the new and more agile Army & Marine Corps we will need, once our troops are finally disengaged from their futile role as Mesopotamian constables.

Diplomacy - Anne-Marie Slaughter

The paradox of American foreign policy today is that the United States, though more powerful than ever, has rarely been so lost in the world and never more reviled. Majorities of Turks, Moroccans, Jordanians, and Pakistanis believe the entire US campaign against Islamic terrorism is in fact meant to secure oil or even to achieve world domination. Further, majorities in those countries, as well as in France, Germany, and Russia, say that the Iraq war has made them less confident that the US wants to promote liberty or democracy abroad. ...
A new US president, of either party, must launch a diplomatic offensive to restore American moral and political leadership in the world. First we must close Guantanamo ... Second, we must get serious about nuclear disarmament. ... Third, we should join the International Criminal Court. ... Fourth, we must reform the UN Security Council and other global institutions ... Fifth, we must try to stop global warming.

The National Character - Earl Shorris
The undoing of the American character has a long history. It took m ore than half a century from a summer's day in August, when the US used the first weapon of mass destruction, to the lies the Bush Administration used to cover its invasion of Iraq. ... It is not power, but fear that corrupts -- if not absolutely, then deeply, beyond the barrier of reason. ...
We have become brave in answering pollsters and timid in pursuing action. ... The undoing of these last 6 years may not be possible; certainly it cannot happen soon. It is a comfort of sorts to think that the disposition to evil is limited to the Bush Administration and its followers in the legislature, but there is an itch in that idea. Bush and his minions in the Congress were reelected in 2004. Could there have been any cause for that but fear?

Some very well thought out essays, with troubling thoughts about just how difficult it may be, in the end, to rescue ourselves, and our nation, from the Bush presidency.


Blogger TomCat said...

Thanks for this, LP. It's the most comprehensive resource I have seen. I doubt that I shall live to see the day when the US has fully recovered from the damage this megalomaniac has done.

2:58 PM  
Blogger buckarooskidoo said...

you've convinced me that it is hopeless. I will lead the way for all those who would like to relocate somewhere pleasant, non-confrontational and future-oriented: Slovenia! People are positively joyful there and they SPEAK ENGLISH!!!!! Our President can't even make that claim.

Ljubljana or BUST!

7:44 PM  

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