Thursday, December 28, 2006

Op-Ed: The Fix: Ghost of Scandals Past

By Jen Kolic

As the year draws to a close, the Bush Administration is crumbling like a proverbial piecrust. Or a junkie in need of a fix. What better time to look back at its origins? If you’re expecting a fluffy holiday piece, flip ahead to arts or something. But if you’re curious about which mental hospitals Bush culled to build his administration, grab a mug of Jack & cocoa and settle down around the ashtray, kids…

Let’s start with Robert Gates. Sure, he’s no Rummy, but that might be the only good thing about him. That, and his arrival means Bush knows he’s in for the beating of his political life. If you think your Secretary of Defense is going to be interrogated at length in the Senate about an illegal war, you want your Secretary of Defense to be a guy like Robert Gates. He basically acted as Regan’s human shield during Iran-contra, and that’s probably all he’s doing here; he’s just going to make sure Bush and Cheney aren’t blamed for anything too heinous.

Everyone knows that White House Press Secretary Tony Snow is a former Fox News commentator. But of course, this is American politics, and there’s more to it than that. In the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, Cheney told anyone who would listen (well, okay, mostly NBC) about the 9/11-Iraq connection: Mohamed Atta, the head hijacker, met with an Iraqi intelligence official in Prague mere months before the attacks. He said it explicitly at least three times between December 2001 and September 2002, despite the fact that the CIA was telling the White House that no such meeting ever happened. Four years later, when even an ignorant clod like Cheney could see that we had fucked up the Middle East even worse than Southeast Asia, he told Tony Snow in an interview on Fox that the administration “never made the case” that Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11. Tony Snow promptly leapt onto the Vice President’s lap, licking his hands and face, wagging his stumpy tail.

Similarly, we all know about Cheney’s connections to Halliburton, which caters to the oil and gas industries, but what about Condoleezza Rice’s stint on the board of directors at Chevron, an energy behemoth engaged in every aspect of the oil industry? Sure, she was also Vice President of the San Francisco Bay chapter of the Boys and Girls Club of America, but they didn’t name a goddamn oil tanker after her. Toss in Transamerica, Charles Schwab, and Hewlett Packard (currently involved in a personal-info selling scandal), and she’s got a corporate history with almost as many conflicting interests as Cheney.

James A. Baker, co-founder of the Iraq Study Group, has roots in the Regan and Bush Sr. Administrations, but more recently he halted the 2000 Florida recount. And after such a huge, selfless favor, how does the president repay him? By referring to his Iraq Study Group as just one voice among many. Before the group's sprawling, 79-point report was even released last week, Bush was already talking it down—that’s what they get for hinting at timetables. Baker worked for Bush’s father, and then helped him nab the election. He’s not in any position to evaluate the president objectively and Bush isn’t going to take Baker seriously, anyway.

But no matter. The Bush Administration is taking casualties almost as fast as the Times can publish classified documents. Rummy’s leaving and Bolton’s giving up; who’s smart enough to get out next? The rats are fleeing, but Bush and Cheney are determined to go down with the ship.

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