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George W. Bush and Tom DeLay, his political enforcer in the House of Representatives, have changed long established rules of U.S. political culture as “bipartisanship” has become winner take all; debate and deliberation has devolved into Party line dictates; civility has turned into hostility.
This partnership for naked power involves the dousing of executive and legislative power as they still haven’t taken the whole judicial branch with liquefied Christian rhetoric. Concerned citizens and even some Congressional Democrats have finally gotten the idea, but have not yet formulated a strong political answer to the audacious Bush-DeLay axis.
In the Senate, liberal Democrats like Ted Kennedy (MA) and Dick Durban (IL) watch in disgust and horror as Bush re-nominates for federal judgeships the same incompetent people that the Senate has already rejected. For Circuit Court, Bush re-named California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown, who compared big government to slavery and referred to minimum wage laws as the triumph of our own socialist revolution. Senior citizens today, she claimed, cannibalize their grandchildren by getting free stuff from the political system. She weighed in heavily on the decision to end meaningful affirmative action in California. Bush also re-nominated 39-year-old Brent M. Kavanaugh for the Court of Appeals. His record of judicial achievement consists of his work with former Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr who tried unsuccessfully to convict Bill Clinton for lying about having sex with Monica Lewinsky. According to saveourcourts.org, Kavanaugh has a consistent record of bias against gays, lesbians and transgender people. The Senate rejected him just over a year ago after reviewing his record and finding little but ultra right wing views and lack of legal experience to recommend him.
These candidates, like other Bush re-nominees, share extreme right wing agendas and practice judicial activism on the right to end judicial activism everywhere else. Since God forbade gay marriages our law must certainly not allow it. And, of course, enemy combatants don’t merit due process or any rights dictated by liberal documents like the Magna Carta.
Perhaps Bush only knows a very limited number of people, suggested comic Bill Maher, trying to generate a little optimism, and that’s why he keeps sending the same names of ultra right wing cooks to the Senate.
Trying to put positive spin on the nomination of Undersecretary of State for Arms Control John Bolton for UN Ambassador, however, resembles an attempt to find the upside of heroin addiction. A Los Angeles Times editorial (April 20) described Bolton as a man who appears to have a mean streak, apparent arrogant restlessness that bodes ill for this assignment. The Times might have added his addiction to bad information that led him to scream at subordinates when they contradicted him with the facts. He has said on several occasions that Cuba possessed weapons of mass destruction, despite clear warnings from intelligence experts that the information indicated the very opposite. Senate testimony by Republican officials and letters sent to the Foreign Relations Committee by a Republican woman who had scary encounters with Bolton, show him as a pathological bully and molester of women aside from his apparent compulsion to repeat false information.
The Bush-Delay gang indeed behaves like people addicted to their drug of choice: power. The inner circles seem to have gotten so high on this dubious aphrodisiac that, once inhaled, forces them to say anything, push other people around and spend the nation’s treasury on loony projects like wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. This addiction, enabled by the change in the basic rules by which the U.S. government has operated for many decades, has also allowed their corporate and banking supporters to grow wealthier at the expense of the rest of us. When Democrats object, Bush talks about the political capital he earned in the 2004 election as if government under law meant what Louis XIV said: “L’etat, c’est moi.”
The monarchical disdain Bush has shown for the informal democratic process of U.S. government extends dramatically to the behavior of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. One dissident Member claimed that beyond personal peccadilloes, we’re watching the destruction of the House of Representatives. In place of debate, discussion, hearings and Committee meetings, DeLay has substituted naked power: his. Referring to DeLay’s acceptance of huge sums of money from corporate lobbyists to support his ambitions, the Congressman said that DeLay covers his corruption with layers of Christian babble. When adverse publicity threatens to drown him, he uses Jesus as his life preserver. Like Bush, the devout DeLay attends church and then makes deals with corporate donor. He took a $56,500 contribution for one of his political action committee fronts from Westar Energy Inc. In return, he promised the energy company a “seat at the table” with drafters of a critical energy bill. DeLay took oodles of corporate money and then leveled pious tirades at Godless liberals for murdering Terri Schiavo.
Lobbyists know that contributions in the hundreds of thousands of dollars can lead to legislation that means many millions in corporate profits. So, in May 2001, Enron’s top lobbyists gladly contributed to DeLay’s political coffers in addition to the $250,000 the company had already pledged to the Republican Party that year. DeLay used some of the funds to help finance the successful redistricting of Texas even using federal power to try to force the recalcitrant Democrats into appearing for a 2004 vote.
After the Republicans gained House seats in Texas, an investigation began into the legality of corporate political donations to the Republican Party in Texas including large contributions by Enron officials in 2001 and 2002. According to Lou Dubose, DeLay may have flagrantly broken a Texas law that bars corporate financing of state legislature campaigns (Dubose, The Hammer: Tom Delay, God, Money and the United States Congress).
When it comes to raising money for his PACs, however, DeLay shows his mastery of the modern world. He saves his anti-modernism to explain the real causes for the school terrorism at Columbine. “Guns have little or nothing to do with juvenile violence. The causes of youth violence are working parents who put their kids into daycare, the teaching of evolution in the schools, and working mothers who take birth control pills (Stephen Pizzo, Inside Job: The Looting of America’s Savings and Loans,” alternet May 16, 2002). The man who has promoted himself as a champion of children took “a $100,000 check from a private prison company” (the Corrections Corporation of America or CCA, which runs private prisons in Texas) while attending a fundraiser for his own children’s charity, the DeLay Foundation for Kids. The Texas Observer (June 6, 2003) described CCA as a company whose history over 20 years has been “fraught with malfeasance, mismanagement, and abuse.” CCA wanted DeLay, who wields heavy influence over the Texas legislature, to support a bill that would privatize half of Texas’ jails.
Fundraising and Christian values mix for DeLay the way vodka goes with olives in an alcoholic’s martinis. Ed Buckham, DeLay’s former chief of staff, also his pastor, organized daily office prayer sessions and then became a lobbyist who organized a DeLay junket to South Korea. He was later indicted for illegal lobbying, but nevertheless still pushes the Traditional Values Coalition and its crusade to save America from the “war on Christianity.” Finally, in 2004, even the Republican dominated House Ethics Committee had to respond to DeLay’s offer of $100,000 to former Congressman Nick Smith’s son, Brad, who vied for a House seat. In return, Brad would vote for the Medicare prescription drug bill. The Ethics Committee admonished DeLay (Roll Call, 11/22/04). DeLay responded by ousting the chair of the Committee and placing him with one of his own loyalists. The more pious than thou DeLay also took a first class trip to Europe ($4,285) at the expense of lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who represented Indian gambling and Saipan sweatshop interests. In exchange, DeLay helped defeat the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act, which would have made it a federal crime to place certain bets over the Internet and which Abramoff’s clients opposed (Washington Post, March 1 and 12, 2005).
In 1997, DeLay had worked with Abramoff to foster sweatshop labor on Saipan. Referring to these women-abusing factories as “free market successes,” DeLay urged textile industry owners in those territories to “stand firm” against those in Congress and the Clinton Administration who were urging the island to adopt humane labor and immigration laws [DeLay speech, December 1997, Tan Reception, CNMI].
DeLay, like Bush, represents the culture of naked power: endorsing illegal wars while ridiculing opponents’ appeals to law and fairness. According to a senior democratic Member, DeLay routinely dismisses legislation authored by Democrats and rails against his own Members if they dare engage in bi-partisan authorship of bills. He laughs at those who question his taking large sums of corporate money and then invoking Jesus principles to justify the donation.
Fifty five million voted against these people and their policies in 2004. Now they must press the Democrats to either turn into a real opposition party or declare themselves terminally irrelevant.
SAUL LANDAU teaches at Cal Poly Pomona University, where he is the director of Digital Media Programs and International Outreach, and is a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies. He is also the co-author of “Assassination on Embassy Row,” which is about the Letelier and Moffitt murders. His new book is The Business of America.