(Copyright © 2001 Al Aronowitz)

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Subject: The feeling of a coup
Date: Sun, 01 Apr 2001 18:05:32 -0400

The Feeling of a Coup


By Anthony Lewis

Mar 31, 2001,

[This article from was sent to Portside  by dave@d... "a good thumbnail sketch of how bad things really are with "W"!"]

BOSTON -- We are learning something these days about the power of a willful president. Without a popular mandate, George W. Bush is making radical changes that will have long-term consequences for this country and the world. He is making them in a hurry, and for the moment there are no checks or balances to stop him.

Day after day headlines tell us of fundamental policy reversals. Mr. Bush spurns the global effort, going back to the first Bush presidency, to reduce global warming. He calls off talks with North Korea about its missiles, casting doubt on the whole attempt to ease relations between South and North. He proposes to rethink U.S. aid programs that help dismantle former Soviet nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

A string of Bush administration decisions has halted steps to protect the environment. Arsenic in drinking water, roads in national forests and so on: limits are going to be "restudied."

The reasons given for the environmental decisions have been almost insultingly unconvincing. Christie Whitman, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, said she was withdrawing the arsenic limit set in a Clinton administration regulation because it had not had "thorough review" in terms of "sound science." In fact, the limit was proposed by highly regarded scientists after extended study.

Mr. Bush, explaining to senators why he opposed the Kyoto protocol on global warming, spoke of the "incomplete state of scientific knowledge of the causes of, and solutions to, global climate change." Of course the science is incomplete on global warming, as it is on most subjects. But virtually all scientific experts support the theory that greenhouse gas emissions contribute to warming.

Contempt for public opinion as well as for science is evident in the environmental decisions. A striking example is what has happened to a Clinton regulation that prohibited road-building in about a third of the national forests.

The head of the Forest Service, Michael P. Dombeck, resigned the other day and sent a letter to his boss, Ann M. Veneman, the secretary of agriculture. He respectfully urged her not to abandon the ban on roads.

"Doing so," he wrote, "would undermine the most extensive multi- year environmental analysis in history, a process that included over 600 public meetings and generated 1.6 million comments, the overwhelming majority of which supported protecting roadless areas."

Mr. Dombeck's plea is not likely to move the Bush administration. It postponed the effective date of the road-building regulation for 60 days for further review. And in the meantime its lawyers have not defended the regulation in a lawsuit brought against it by the Boise Cascade timber company and the state of Idaho.

The American public would almost certainly vote to protect roadless parts of the national forests, as it would to reduce the amount of arsenic in water.

But the public is not the audience that concerns Mr. Bush and his appointees. They are out to please the interests that supported and financed his campaign: timber companies, mining companies and the rest.

Nor is Mr. Bush moved by the arguments of respected Republican elders. As he ordered a review of the program for dismantling Soviet weapons, former Senator Howard Baker — whom he has named ambassador to Japan — was telling the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the program should be funded in full.

The Bush motto, a Washington quip has it, is "Do it my way or no way." That catches the willful quality of these first months. But there is more to the story than that.

This is the most radical administration in living American memory. I use the word deliberately. Today's right calls itself "conservative," but it is not that. Conservatives want to conserve. That is why Teddy Roosevelt started the national parks and the conservation movement. George W. Bush and his people are driven by right-wing ideology to an extent not remotely touched by even the Reagan administration.

And we haven't seen the half of it. As Mr. Dombeck said of opening the national forests to road-building, the decisions "will have implications that will last many generations."

All this from a man who ran as a "compassionate conservative," concealing his hard-edged ideology, and who could not get half the voters to vote for him even in that guise.  ##

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Subject: Bush: "Values Candidate?"
Date: Mon, 30 Apr 2001 22:39:45 -0400

April 26, 2001

San Francisco Chronicle


By Jerome Karabel

NO PRESIDENT since 1877, when Rutherford B. Hayes took the oath of office, has come to power with less legitimacy than George W. Bush.

Having lost the popular vote by a record margin of more than half a million, President Bush shares with Hayes the dubious distinction of being the only other man whom many Americans believe also lost the electoral vote as well.

As recently as last weekend, according to a CNN poll, 48 percent of all Americans did not believe that the man now residing in the White House won the election "fair and square."

The results of the widely reported Florida recount conducted by the Miami Herald and USA Today, trumpeted in headlines as proof that Bush won the election, are unlikely to change this perception. Properly understood, those results show no such thing.

The main thrust of the Herald account is that Bush would have increased his lead under most scenarios had the U.S. Supreme Court not intervened to stop the counting. Yet an astonishing fact is buried deep in the article: had all 67 counties examined all the "under-votes" (those ballots which seemingly did not record a clear vote for president), Gore would have won Florida -- and the White House.

Gore's margin of victory would have been by 393 votes under the most inclusive standard and by 299 votes under a more stringent standard. In this thicket of competing ways of conducting the recount, the only reasonable conclusion is this: who won hinges almost entirely on which standards are applied.

Having come to office lacking a popular mandate, Bush has compounded his political problems by steadfastly refusing to govern from the center.

Elected in good part because of his carefully cultivated image as a “compassionate conservative" and a "different kind of Republican," he quickly revealed -- through his nomination of John Ashcroft, his reversal of new Labor Department rules designed to prevent repetitive stress injuries, and his reneging on a highly touted campaign pledge to reduce carbon dioxide emissions -- that the moderate George W. Bush was a campaign creation, and one quickly discarded once in office. Not surprisingly, right-wingers have been ecstatic: in the words of Edwin J. Feulner, president of the conservative Heritage Foundation, the Bush administration is "more Reaganite than the Reagan administration." But for many Americans, who took Bush's campaign rhetoric seriously, his actions in office have come as a shock.

Is running a deeply deceptive campaign, they wonder, the way -- as Bush promised time and again during the campaign -- to restore honor and integrity to the White House? In the final analysis, however, Bush's greatest vulnerability may come neither from his lingering legitimacy problems nor from the growing sense among Americans that the man now in the White House campaigned for president "in borrowed clothes" (as Bush once famously said of Al Gore), but rather from the simple but jarring realization that he does not share their fundamental values.

The values gap between the president and the American public has been revealed most dramatically on the environment, where a series of provocative acts -- the proposal to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the violation of the campaign pledge on carbon dioxide, the perverse unwillingness to acknowledge the scientific evidence on global warming, and the disastrous proposal (quickly withdrawn) to end salmonella testing for meat served in school lunches -- has made clear that George W. Bush is a man who places profits and economic development above all competing values.

So extreme has been Bush's policy on the environment that even the National Wildlife Foundation -- a centrist group with 4.5 million members, about half of them Republicans -- has sent the administration a message: "Mr. President," said NWF President Mark Van Putten, "stop the war on our environment and our national heritage."

With even moderates like Van Putten angry and a growing number of congressional Republicans already jumping ship on the environment, the vulnerability of the Bush administration -- and of its philosophy of corporate profits above all -- is more and more apparent. Already, according to an ABC/Washington Post poll released this past week, 60 percent of the public believes Bush cares more about "protecting the interests of large corporations," compared to only 28 percent who believe he cares more about the interests of "ordinary working people."

The veil of moderation, which permitted Bush to win the White House, has now been stripped away to reveal the president for who he is: a man willing to place the narrow, short-term interests of big business over our environment, our health and our safety.

These are not the values of the American people. And as this becomes increasingly clear, the man who came to the presidency as the "values candidate" will ironically have to face a formidable, and perhaps fatal, values problem of his own.

[Jerome Karabel is a professor of sociology at the University of California at Berkeley.]

Copyright 2001 San Francisco Chronicle.  ##

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