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The outbreak of Mad Cow Disease on a farm in Washington State poses a challenge to the Bush Administration and the way it typically conducts business. On the one hand they have approached the dilemma in an entirely predictable manner, treating it as though it was strictly a political issue. They’ve applied the standard litany of fabrications and obfuscations that they trot in response to virtually every problem. It hasn’t worked.
Second, they have tried to paper-over the gravity of public health risk by assuring the public that "downer" cows will no longer make their way into the food chain. How they hope to accomplish this on a moments notice (and without a massive mobilization of meat inspectors) is anyone’s guess but, one thing is certain, the Bush credibility gap could prove to be quite costly in the interim.
Having seen how the administration routinely bludgeons the truth to advance its foreign and domestic policy agendas, who, in their right mind, is going to believe that they’ll suddenly reverse direction and implement a strict regulatory regimen. It simply won’t happen.
What will happen, and what always happens in the Bush Administration when they are put to the task, is they’ll develop a diversionary strategy to pacify the public. In this case, it’s likely that they’ll call for sweeping changes in the law to rebuild public confidence. However, as the legislation moves through the Republican dominated Congress, either the resources for funding the necessary programs will evaporate or there will be no clear method for implementation. In other words, they will conjure up a useful smokescreen to hide the fact that nothing has changed at all. And that, of course, is precisely the intention. Just think of it as Bush 101, the fundamentals of hoodwinking a gullible public.
The very notion of regulating big business is anathema to the ideologically driven Bush Administration. As they see it, their primary function is to deliver the nation’s persecuted corporations to the Elysian Fields beyond the grasp of government oversight. It’s doubtful that anyone is foolish enough to suppose that George Bush has suddenly revisited his core beliefs and been transformed into Ralph Nader, "Public Advocate".
As a result, the American meat industry can expect to take the pummeling it so richly deserves. There will be no real help from Washington. (After all, it is the meat industry that sends its legions of lobbyists to Capitol Hill every year to avoid even the stench of regulation.) This is one time when the administration’s boatload of deceptions will not work in its favor. No public relations campaign will alter world’s aversion to tainted meat.
It should prove interesting, though, to see the Cattleman-in-chief dispatching his salesman-cum-diplomats to the four corners of the earth trying to hawk their rancid animal flesh. How fitting that the same president who was able to con the nation into putting thousands of innocent Iraqis to the sword, would be "hoist by his own petard" by a stumbling bovine in Mabton. Now that’s justice!
MIKE WHITNEY can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org