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At the White House today, Ari Fleischer announced that he will resign as press secretary to President Bush effective in July. Ari says he has spent 21 years in government, he never intended to spend the rest of his life in government, he’s recently married and wants to spend some time with his wife, he wants to do some speaking and writing and take it a little easier.
But we wanted to know from Ari, concerned as we are for him as a conscientious human being, whether there was anything about President Bush that rubbed him the wrong way.
This is how it went:
Ari, one of your predecessors, Jerald terHorst, resigned as President Ford’s press secretary, he said, as a matter of conscience — because he couldn’t defend President Ford’s pardon of President Nixon. Is there anything President Bush has done as President, that made you think, even for a moment, that you would resign as a matter of conscience?
Ari Fleischer: No.
Question: Not for a moment.
Fleischer: Not for a moment. Why should there be?
We started to answer the question, but Ari, realizing immediately that he had violated one of his cardinal rules — never ask a question of a reporter to which you don’t know the answer — cut us off — and he segued into a long-winded answer how President Bush is better than sliced bread.
But since he asked, the question, “Why should there be?” and didn’t let us answer, we thought we might try and come up with some of the reasons why, if we were Ari — that is, if we were conservative Republicans who cared about conservatism — we would resign in protest as a matter of conscience.
We would resign because of the slaughter of innocents that can be directly linked to President Bush wars in Afghanistan and Iraq — wars that could have been avoided had the President even listened to his father and his father’s keepers — like Brent Scowcroft and others — to give peace a chance, to not thumb your nose at the international community, to follow the rules of international law.
We would resign because of the President’s failure to crack down on corporate and white collar crime, his abject failure as a conservative Republican to uphold the rule of law and put white collar criminals behind bars.
There is a long history of Republican prosecutors who knew how to do this, including former U.S. Attorney Rudolph Giuliani. But President Bush’s administration has been so infused with corporatists that they have driven the prosecutors to despair.
Take the prosecution of pollution crimes. (By the way, this is not trivial business. According to a book review in yesterday’s New York Times, “Martin Rees, Britain’s Astronomer Royal, a professor at Cambridge University, one of the world’s most brilliant cosmologists and a longtime arms control advocate, gives civilization as we know it only a 50-50 chance of surviving the 21st century.”)
According a report released earlier this month by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), the number of new cases referred by the Environmental Protection Agency for federal prosecution has dropped dramatically during the Bush Administration
“EPA chief Christie Whitman is quietly presiding over the largest enforcement rollback in agency history,” said PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “Field agents say that EPA management is not interested in investigating corporate crime — as a result, the enforcement program is dying from the roots.”
The PEER report found that new criminal pollution cases referred by EPA for federal prosecution are down more than 40 percent since the start of the Bush Administration, new civil pollution referrals are down by more than 25 percent under Bush, and with the drop in new referrals, the number of environmental prosecutions, after initially holding steady, is also beginning to fall.
We would resign because President Bush has become a profligate spender, driving the country into bankruptcy by shoveling billions in taxpayer monies to his buddies in the war industry, with no heed to brazen conflicts of interest so raw that the blistering is beginning to offend even the most conservative of commentators, like Larry Klayman of Judicial Watch, who has called on President Bush’s father to resign as a paid advisor to the Carlyle Group, a multibillion beneficiary of the war build up.
In short, Ari, President Bush’s war policy has killed thousands of innocents, the administration is allocating trillions of dollars to weapons and military spending and tax cuts for the rich, while starving funding for vital social programs and investments in public infrastructure, and while the world looks to the Middle East, federal and state white collar prosecutors are being stripped of their resources, and the corporate and white collar criminals are ravaging the Middle West, and the rest of the homeland.
Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime Reporter. Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Multinational Monitor, and co-director of Essential Action. They are co-authors of Corporate Predators: The Hunt for MegaProfits and the Attack on Democracy (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press, 1999.)