Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The march of freedom, part d'oh!

Best buddies II: President Bush and House
Majority Leader Tom DeLay. Posted by Hello

First it was Bush and Abdullah, now it's Bush and DeLay. A Middle-Eastern dictator who oppresses his own people and holds the world hostage for Saudi oil, and a Texas Republican whose narrow partisanship, rampant corruption, and myriad ethics violations stand out even in the morass that is Washington, D.C. Can you not judge a man by the company he keeps?

Indeed, you can.

One piece of good news coming out of Washington today was Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert's (belated) decision to reverse a January decision that restricted investigations of alleged ethics violations by House members. It's a fairly technical matter, but the Republican move to restrict investigations essentially shielded members like DeLay from Democratic attempts to look into his alleged (although pretty obvious) ethics violations. "I'm willing to take a step back," said Hastert. Oh, really? Was it not more like bowing to political pressure? After all, the January decision did nothing but make Republicans look bad, not least because of new revelations about DeLay's unethical behaviour: foreign trips paid by lobbyists of dubious repute (including Jack Abramoff, prominent Bush fundraiser), gerrymandering in Texas to secure Republican Congressional victories, etc.'' Now that we again will have bipartisan rules in place, we can begin to rebuild Americans trust in the ethics committee,'' said Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. Well, that might be a bit hopeful, but at least it's a move in the right direction. Said DeLay to a group of reporters: "You guys better get out of my way. Where's our security?" Time to bring the hammer down on The Hammer, once and for all.

But, hey, that obviously didn't stop Bush from spending time with DeLay in Texas. Said Bush: "I appreciate the leadership of Congressman Tom DeLay in working on important issues that matter to the country." I see. Like Bush's wholly unpopular effort to privatize part of Social Security? Or like Republican efforts to meddle with the independent judiciary in the Schiavo case (and like DeLay's pitchfork-populist opposition to the judiciary generally)? Or like DeLay's persistent pandering to the evangelical right on all sorts of issues that appeal to social "conservatives"?

Shall we add Bolton to Abdullah and DeLay? Today, the Bush Administration reaffirmed its supported for its beleaguered nominee for U.N. ambassador. "John Bolton is someone we are very confident will be confirmed," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said. "We urge the Senate to move forward quickly on his nomination so that he can get about doing the much-needed business of reform at the United Nations." Notice how the debate is now being framed? It's not about Bolton anymore, because even the White House must realize that Bolton's reputation is justifiably covered in mud. Now it's about "reform at the United Nations". If so, then send a real reformer, not a hardcore unilateralist who questions the very legitimacy of the U.N. But, the truth is, it's not about reform. America's U.N. ambassador is a diplomat, not a bureaucrat. He or she represents America's interests and engages with the international community. That's it. He or she does not spend his or her time working to reform the entire institution. As Thomas Friedman, who is annoying right on so many issues, puts it in today's New York Times, "'Reforming the U.N.' is without question one of the most tired, vacuous conservative mantras ever invented." Friedman makes a strong case, however obvious given what we know of the man, that Bolton is the wrong man for the job. Whether or not the White House agrees, Bolton's nomination is stuck in neutral as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee continues its investigations. Hence the (lame) attempt to shift the debate to U.N. reform -- and away from the nominee himself. Given what's come out about Bolton, it might be a good strategy, better than backing down and admitting defeat (and a huge mistake), which the White House never likes to do. But it's just so transparent.

So is Bush's character when he spends his time with Abdullah and DeLay and revs up support for Bolton. What's next? A photo-op with Michael Jackson?

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