Or, What to Do with the Enormous Mess Left Behind by the Bush Administration
Bush is neither out of office, impeached nor imprisoned yet (although he deserves to be all three). And, we need to continue to concentrate on that fact since in the agonizing months remaining, he unfortunately can continue doing incalculable harm to our troops, our treasury, our health, our economy, our Constitution, our other laws and treaties, our morale, our prestige and our reputation.
Now is the time to insure those seeking the job commit on the things necessary to clean up the political toxic waste spewed behind Bush and his co-conspirators in seemingly unending piles of offal. As much as we would prefer to simply put the unpleasantness behind us, we cannot. If we do not dramatically, publically spotlight and undo the damage, if people are not punished for their attempted putsch to topple us into a perpetual dictatorship controlled by a small group of Neocons, then some successor might someday claim under some pretext that it’s okay to repeat some or all of what the Bushites practiced. There is always the risk that next time it might not be a barely articulate bumbler attempting it. Using the same techniques, but less clumsily so, someone else could have successfully accomplished the coup d’état which is obviously what the Neocons had in mind.
No, we must ferret out and undo everything, absolutely everything, Bush has done since being illegally placed in power by the five Republicans appointed to the Supreme Court. To begin with, expressly repeal every law sponsored by those in Bush’s cabal, officially terminate all his executive orders, and denounce each so-called “signing statement” purporting to amend laws Bush didn’t happen to like. To drive the point home, perhaps we should even ask some of the recipients of his “Medal of Freedom” like L. Paul Bremer III, Tommy Franks and George Tenant, three of the idiots responsible for the Iraq occupation fiasco, to return their medals on the grounds they were awarded the “honors” on false pretenses.
Once Bush’s paperwork is formally canceled and his camp followers removed, we can start over re-examining each item to see which, if any, merit reasoned consideration. This re-examination, the second half of the cleansing procedure or perhaps more appropriately triage, needs to be followed through because we do not want to be like Bush and his Neocons, automatically rejecting for all eternity anything originating from the other side solely because it came from the other side. There might be something or someone useful to salvage.
There is probably little worthy of reclamation. After all, even the titles of many of Bush’s laws are really just deceptions, the exact opposite of what was actually intended by the various Neocon drafters or, more appropriately Neocon obscurers. Egregious examples of the Bush legislative excesses include the so-called Patriot Act, perhaps the most unpatriotic act of all our history. Or, just look at some of the lofty names the Bush folks came up with for their subterfuges like the Healthy Forest Initiative, the Bankruptcy Reform and Consumer Protection Act, and the Clear Skies Initiative. Then, compare how such legislation was used by this Administration once it got it passed. Still, the effort to search for something worth saving must be made. It should be done in an adult matter applying cost/benefit analysis to each and every one which was always missing when the Bush White House was in charge.
In addition to removing the written framework for Bush’s excesses, every single person in the Bush Administration implementing them should be removed. Everyone ever recommended for office during Bush’s tenure must be required to tender a resignation, starting with those in charge of funds, troops, contracts and regulators. Possible exceptions might be those who were in place already prior to Bush’s being crowned king, those who subsequently quit in disgust or disillusionment and those who were fired because of whistle blowing or not being sufficiently loyal to Bush personally. Those removed should never again be allowed in positions of power and trust unless and until they can affirmatively prove they are worthy of it or a reconciliation council is set up similar to the concept used in Mandela’s South Africa working its way out of apartheid.
Yes, it’s “profiling” of a sorts, but it’s not an illegal or unconstitutional profiling since this particular reason for discriminating is not among the constitutionally prohibited list. Consequently, Bush’s favorites can be treated with suspicion that they were active and knowing participants in the attempt to overthrow our democracy. An investigation of their finances and conduct should be undertaken to determine whether that was so. Maybe we can recover some of the trillions stolen, diverted, lost or wasted. Lots of prosecutors and investigators should be hired and their offices fully staffed and funded to facilitate the investigation. To insure the message is received that this should not happen again, let’s convict and jail some for crimes like torture and conflict of interest. Unlike how the Bush Administration has conducted litigation, the defendants here should be allowed the benefits of legal counsel, habeas corpus, bail, confrontation of accusers and all the other civil rights in open court that have been shelved these past several years. Once again, the effort should be to dissuade violations of the Constitution from reoccurring whenever wannabe warlords are squatting in the Oval Office.
Detractors might argue that mass removal of Republican bureaucrats and functionaries would eliminate a large group from the pool of potential public officials and might diminish the general caliber of replacement future appointees. In normal circumstances that might be true, as turned out to be the case when even the most nominally Baathist Party members were banned in Iraq. However, the arrogantly hapless and often malicious ideologues that tended to flock to the Bush banner from the dark recesses of the Republican Party have proven to be so horrifyingly harmful, it would appear replacements selected at random out of the phone book could hardly be worse. Let’s have higher standards for hiring their replacements, although that is a very low bar given all the “Heckofajob Brownies” that were installed. The party affiliation should not be a criteria. In the Justice Department for instance, the hirees should be those with the best grades. For judges nominated, let’s start looking at the non partisan American Bar Association recommendations again to see who will be the best judges, not the best zealots.
Moreover, new laws should be put in place to forbid former officials of all sorts from becoming lobbyists for at least six years after they were in office. We don’t want Democrats taking advantage that way anymore either.
Maybe every appointee should be required to pass the same test new citizens must pass and must show they can add a column of figures and come up with the same answer twice running. We definitely should indicate that their oath of office in which they swear to defend the Constitution does not mean party or personal loyalty comes first. We also need to affirm that violations of the oath have consequences.
We must investigate every contract entered into by the Bush Administration with private companies, especially the no-bid contracts that were awarded to companies which were campaign contributors of Bush or were companies in which Bush officials held stock. It will be like turning over rocks to reveal the slugs and bugs skittering away from the harsh light of day.
Corruption, bribery, profiteering and gouging should be punished and severely so for both the companies who profited and the individual officers and officials on both sides of the transaction. Failure to perform timely or otherwise should be grounds for seeking damages for breach of contract. Instead of ignoring costly nonperformance, let’s require it be done as promised or force disgorgement of the ill gotten lucre.
More importantly, perhaps the General Accounting Office should investigate whether we need some of the contracts at all. For instance, why do we need to pay Blackwater guards in Iraq five times what we pay our own troops for the identical tasks? Why should Blackwater employees be given immunity in advance from all laws for whatever they might do? To the extent possible, we should get out of such contracts immediately and move such contractors to the bottom of the list, if at all, for future work.
Lots of regulators should be hired to once again insure the safety of our air, water, food, toys, etc. For each, we should be conservative (small “c”) because so much is at risk with each. Greater conservatism (small “c” again) should be practiced once again with our bank deposits and our resources.
What else should be done to prevent a repeat of not only the tragedies of 9/11, Katrina, Iraq, the Bush Recession, global warming, and the dissipation of our military? For one, we need some new laws to insure no more voting fraud by paperless hackable electronic voting machines. We need some better laws on campaign financing to stop buying of elections. We need some new laws to insure government transparency and less secrecy, at least less secrecy designed solely to cover up malfeasance, misfeasance and nonfeasance. Maybe we need to go back to the old equal time rules on access to the media in political campaigns. We certainly need to find a way to have less centralization of the news, the airwaves and bandwidth. Maybe we need to think about enacting something like the European Vote of No Confidence to oust dangerous Presidents prior to the end of their term. Maybe we need a “None of the Above” opportunity on voting to allow a different slate of candidates to stand for election. We definitely need better debates. Perhaps let the League of Women Voters run some again and ignore the pressure from the candidates. Definitely let the minority parties participate.
We need to start obeying once again our international treaties we long ago agreed to like the Geneva Conventions and the Kyoto Accords. Maybe we should disbar the attorneys who asserted we did not have to do so.
Without question, we need to reduce the temptations for foreign adventuresome. On the top of the list should be a reduction of the need to use petroleum for fuel. Both conservation and alternative sources of energy should get the subsidies and priorities that oil production and ethanol does now.
We definitely need to get out of Iraq. We can save a little face by saying we’ll be back if the country acts up again or actually attacks us or invades Israel or others. That’s probably what we should have done the moment we seized Saddam anyway. It would not have justified our highly illegal invasion without cause, but at least it would not have subsequently revealed our serious vulnerabilities and our utter inability to govern Middle Eastern countries from afar. There will be pain getting out. On the other hand, it will be less than the pain and cost of staying forever. Besides, we got kicked out of Vietnam. They were as fiercely suicidal as the Muslims, but none of them followed us home once we left their country.
Perhaps we should stand up and apologize to the rest of the world for being such jerks for the past eight years. Maybe we should turn Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld over to international tribunals to see if they are war criminals. That might go a long way toward showing we mean it when we say we are sorry.
The bottom line is that it will take effort and expense to eliminate the rot that is infesting us. We must fumigate the entire house so to speak. Unfortunately, unless we dig it all out now, the infestation will spread and the entire house might collapse.