White House of Evil (Part One)
ArtVoice, Feb 28th, 2002

by Michael I. Niman

Democracy took a beating in 2000 as three nations saw politicians attempt to seize power after losing popular elections.  Only one of them, however, succeeded.  In Peru, Alberto Fujimori failed after Peruvians took to the streets, driving him into exile in Japan.  In Serbia, Slobodan Milosevic also failed under similar circumstances as workers and students united to prevent him from maintaining power after losing his nation’s presidential election.  Milosevic is now standing trial for war crimes in The Hague.  Proponents of Democracy were not so lucky in the United States, however, where George Bush seized the presidency after losing the Florida primary. 

The Coup We Know

Recent disclosures should remove any doubt about who won and who lost in Florida.  Yes, the statewide media recount shows that if we recounted the votes in 4 counties, as Al Gore demanded, Bush would have won.  This news was widely reported in the mainstream media, often under the headline, “Recount Shows Bush Won Florida.”  What was glossed over was the fact that under a full statewide recount taking all counties into consideration, Gore beat Bush.  Different counting standards allowed for varying margins of victory – but Gore won under every scenario.  He’s not our president, however, because he, personally, is a loser. 

Gore quelled protests and called for restraint at the same time Republican congressional aides had their little frat boy riot in Florida.  We’ve since learned that Florida Governor Jeb Bush, George W.’s brother, sent out a directive ordering Florida election officials to remove people from the voting roles if they were convicted of felonies in other states, even though to do so would be illegal – but don’t expect any indictment of Jeb from George W’s Justice Department.  Florida law only bars those who have been convicted of felonies in Florida from voting.  Most of the 50,000 plus people who were removed from the roles were African Americans, a group whose members voted for Gore over Bush with a nine to one plurality. We also learned that Florida’s Secretary of State, Katherine Harris was operating under the advisement of a Bush campaign consultant as she made her every move quelling the vote count in those pivotal weeks after the election. 

Considering the historical anomaly of his ascendancy to the presidency, many pundits assumed the mandate-less Bush would shy away from controversy by leading a low-key administration.  As soon as he took office, however, he proved them all wrong – and the wilding began. 

The Corporate Cabinet

First there were his cabinet appointments:  A treasury secretary who comes directly from a post at Alcoa Aluminum and argues for the total elimination of social security and government support of health, education and all other social programs.  There’s an Agriculture Secretary who comes from the board of the first company to introduce genetically modified food to the American marketplace in the form of a hybrid tomato-flounder (as in the fish) combo which looks and tastes like a tomato but has a flounder-like resistance to cold weather.  Genetically Modified Organisms, buy the way, according to a Wacky George decree, will now be served at all White House functions.

There’s an Energy Secretary who financed his failed Senate bid with $700,000 in campaign funds from GM, Ford and Daimler Chrysler.  There’s an Interior Secretary who used to be an attorney representing oil companies on environmental issues, and a Deputy Interior Secretary who is a former oil and coal industry lobbyist.  There’s a Transportation Secretary who resigned from congress to work for Lockheed Martin.  Before that he received campaign contributions from aircraft manufacturer Boeing and most of the major US airlines.  Bush’s Labor Secretary served on the Boards of Dole, Clorox and a slew of health care corporations as well as having strong ties to Bank of America and Northwest Airlines (the recipient of a recent government bailout which offered no benefits to laid-off workers).  His Assistant Secretary of Labor, for Mine Safety and Health, is a former mining industry executive.

Tobacco, Oil and Klansmen

Bush gave us a Health and Human Services secretary with close ties to tobacco giant Phillip Morris. At the same time, Bush cut funding for the Justice Department’s lawsuit against the tobacco industry – all but killing the promising multi-billion suit to regain health care costs incurred caring for dying smokers. His National Security Advisor is a former Chevron Director with a supertanker named after her.   And finally there’s Attorney General John Ashcroft, long dogged by accusations of racism.  Before becoming Attorney General he praised Southern Partisan magazine, telling editors that, "Your magazine also helps set the record straight. You've got a heritage of doing that, of defending Southern patriots like Lee, Jackson and [Confederate president Jefferson] Davis. Traditionalists must do more. I've got to do more. We've all got to stand up and speak in this respect…”  The same magazine reported that KKK leader David Duke represented the “American ideal,” that slave owners were benevolent care givers concerned about the “peace and happiness” of their slaves, and that there were no “Americans” in New York City – only “Italians, Jews and Puerto Ricans.”

The list goes on and on from the cabinet right on down to judicial appointments of long-time civil rights foes and corporate cronies.  And it’s obscene.  With their boy unable to buy or win the presidential election, the Bushistas knew their Whitehouse takeover was on shaky ground with reelection uncertain.  Hence, with four years to play, they set out to radically transform the American social, economic and environmental landscape using a corporate wet dream as the blueprint for the economy and incorporating a nightmarish hypocritical fundamentalist stencil for setting social policy. The result has been 13 months of environmental and economic devastation, which has seen the economy crash as pollution controls were gutted.  Bush’s foreign policy is hell bent on alienating the entire rest of the world with the possible exceptions of a handful of rouge states such as Israel and Saudi Arabia. His economic policies are designed to follow Reagan’s model of starving government coffers through tax cuts to corporations and the richest Americans, thus forcing cuts in education, social services and healthcare for the poorest Americans.  What follows this week and next, is the chronology of a nightmare.

Bush’s Wild Months

It began immediately after the inauguration, which itself was an odd affair with protestors, despite their invisibility in the mainstream media, outnumbering spectators and participants.  On the 21st of January, 2001, Bush, acting from the get go as if he had an electoral mandate to change the country, issued a presidential order cutting funding to all international health organization that perform abortions or offer counseling to poor women that includes discussion of the abortion option. The result is both the imposition of Bush’s religious views upon other cultures, and diminished family planning services in poor overpopulated countries where those services are most needed.

In March he derailed Korea’s reunification talks and re-ignited the fuse on the Korean War, angering both North and South Koreans.  Less than a week later he announced he was scrapping his campaign pledge to actively reduce greenhouse gases. Before the month was over he signed off on repealing recent workplace ergonomic safety standards, which were enacted after 10 years of research by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.  As March came to a close, he cut funding for head start and daycare programs, pediatric training and programs combating child abuse, while delaying imposing stronger limits on arsenic levels in public drinking water. He enraged the industrialized world by announcing that the US would not abide by the Kyoto treaty on global warming, which in Bush’s lexicon is still a “theory,” and he slashed federal budgets supporting successful community policing initiatives. He also suspended federal rules barring companies convicted of criminal activity from doing work for the government.  Finally, on the eve of April Fools Day, he closed the White House Office for Women’s Initiatives and Outreach.

An Oily Legacy

He began April’s pillage by cutting funding for training health care workers who work in inner city and poor rural communities, and by announcing he plans to allow his friends in the oil and natural gas industries to drill on publicly owned National Park land. Speaking of friends, the chemical and meat industries combined donated $1,171,000 to the Bush campaign.  Payback came in April when the Bush administration halted the release of an EPA study linking cancer in humans to consuming animals with dioxin in their fat.  Though this link is widely known, mum is still the word.  Bon appetite.

Bush stayed busy, continuing his oily energy policy by lowering energy efficiency standards on air conditioners, cutting federal renewable energy research funding by 50%, cutting research into developing fuel efficient cars by 28%, and eliminating the deadline for auto companies to develop high mileage prototype vehicles, all while attempting to open up the ecologically fragile Gulf of Mexico to oil exploration as part of this nation’s mad dash to deplete the rest of the world’s oil reserves by the end of the decade. 

By the time last summer rolled around, the Bush administration had eliminated restrictions on test planting genetically modified organisms, moved to decrease public access to information about the health effects of chemical plant accidents, argued to de-fund a natural disaster preparedness program, cut $700 million from a fund to repair public housing, $500 million from the Environmental Protection Agency and $200 million from NAFTA era programs to retrain displaced workers. He reversed himself on a campaign pledge to spend $100 million on rain forest conservation measures. He cut $39 million from libraries programs, proposed eliminating federal funding for the Reading is Fundamental literacy program for poor children, eliminated funding for the “We the People” program which taught school children about the Bill of Rights, and all but eliminated the White House AIDS office and the White House Council on Environmental Quality. 

He cut over 80% of the funding for the Community Access Program, which provided basic health care for poor Americans who lacked health insurance and eliminated all of the funding for the Wetlands Reserve Program.  With the arrogance of a sun belter, he made further cuts into the already miniscule HEAP program, which helps poor people pay winter heating bills. He also cut $60 million from the federal appropriation to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America – this despite six photo-op laden campaign visits to such clubs. On the spending side, of course, he proposed a $2 trillion tax cut, with 43% of the booty going to the richest 1% of the country, mostly in the from of estate tax cuts.

To Be Continued

  All of the actions outlined here occurred during the relatively short period leading up from Bush’s inauguration, to the start of last summer.  Political events in the spring and summer, ranging from Vermont Senator Jim Jefford’s defection from the Republican Party, to April’s demonstrations for global democracy in Quebec and around the world, and the impending release of the media recount of the Florida ballots, all threatened to derail the Bush administration’s fast track ride into corporate nirvana.  Then came September 11th  – a day whose horrific events launched the beleaguered Bush administration onto a tidal wave of  “war time” popularity.  With the train back on track, now with nuclear propulsion, the Bush clan became more arrogant and greedy then ever.  “White House of Evil – Part Two” will take over where this article leaves off – looking at the horror of the post 9/11 Bush presidency.

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