01.06.09

20 Forgotten Bush Scandals

Everyone remembers weapons of mass destruction, the US attorney firings. But historians will note that those are only the beginning of the Bush administration scandals…

From forgotten scandals to " The Last Dick," read the entire Daily Beast Farewell to Bush Chronicles.

In an interview with Fox News on Sunday, George H.W. Bush congratulated his son on running a “clean operation." Bush apparently wasn’t paying very close attention. Everyone remembers weapons of mass destruction, the US attorney firings. But historians will note that those are only the beginning of the Bush administration scandals…

The Bush administration will leave the annals of presidential disrepute several times thicker than it found them. There’s Iraq, the hospital visit to John Ashcroft, the US attorney firings. But historians will note that those are only the beginning of the Bush administration scandals. Does the name Jeff Gannon ring a bell? Boxgate? What about the anti-prostitution AIDS tsar who purchased the services of—wait for it—the D.C. Madam? The Daily Beast has put together 20 of Bush’s greatest forgotten scandals.

Interior Department officials "frequently consumed alcohol at industry functions, had used cocaine and marijuana, and had sexual relationships with oil and gas company representatives."

Sex and Shoplifting

1) In March 2006, Claude Allen, Bush's top domestic policy aide, was arrested when he tried to return items he had shoplifted from Target for cash refunds. Allen, who made $161,000 a year, blamed stress from Hurricane Katrina.

2) In 2005, bloggers pricked up their ears when a reporter named Jeff Gannon asked a softball question at a Bush press conference. Some sleuthing turned up nude photos of Gannon—real name: James Guckert—on male escort websites.

3) Randall Tobias, Bush’s AIDS tsar, mandated that organizations must oppose prostitution in order to receive American aid. It later emerged that Tobias purchased services through the notorious D.C. Madam, though Tobias maintained he only bought “massages.”

4) The Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service would not seem to be the sexiest government agency. But a departmental investigation last year found that officials had “frequently consumed alcohol at industry functions, had used cocaine and marijuana, and had sexual relationships with oil and gas company representatives.”

Where’d the Money Go?

5) When testifying before Congress in 2007, L. Paul Bremer, the former head of reconstruction in Iraq, was unable to account for as much as $12 billion—about half of his budget—as the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority between May 2003 and June 2004. According to a report by Rep. Henry Waxman, contractors brought bags to meetings in order to collect shrink-wrapped bundles of money.

6) In 2004, Pentagon auditors found that Halliburton had not adequately accounted for $1.8 billion of the bill it sent to the United States government for its work in Iraq and Kuwait.

7) Also that year, Bunnatine Greenhouse, the Army Corps of Engineers' chief contracting officer, charged that KBR, a Halliburton subsidiary, unfairly received billions of dollars worth of no-bid contracts in Iraq. Greenhouse was demoted in 2005.

Disappearances

8) In 2002, Canadian citizen Maher Arar was detained at an airport in New York and spirited away to Syria, where he was tortured and held for 10 months by his captors before being returned home. Canadian officials investigated Arar's case, declared he was innocent, and paid him $9 million in compensation. American officials refused to admit the mistake and instead kept Arar on a terrorist watch list.

9) Army Captain James Yee, a Muslim chaplain in Guantanamo Bay, was hooded, shackled, and detained in solitary confinement for 76 days on charges of espionage. Within a year the case against Yee had collapsed and the Army tried to save face by charging him with hoarding pornography.

All the President’s Wordsmiths

10) In an email to friends, Danielle Crittenden, the wife of White House speechwriter David Frum, bragged that her husband had written Bush’s famous “Axis of Evil” line. The e-mail leaked to Slate, causing a minor scandal.

11) Part of the self-created mythology of White House speechwriter Michael Gerson was that he composed his speeches in longhand. But as fellow scribe Matthew Scully later noted: “At the precise moment when the State of the Union address was being drafted at the White House by John [McConnell] and me, Mike was off pretending to craft the State of the Union in longhand for the benefit of a reporter.”

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Ron Edmonds/AP

No Administration Friend Left Behind

12) First there was Columnist Gate: In 2005, USA Today reported that conservative commentator Armstrong Williams received a $240,000 contract from the Department of Education to promote No Child Left Behind on his television show and to sell other African-American journalists on the legislation. Later, The Washington Post uncovered a similar deal with columnist Maggie Gallagher to promote a marriage initiative for the Department of Health.

13) A Defense Department report in 2006 urged the military to end its practice of paying Iraqi journalists to publish pro-American stories in their newspapers, arguing the tactic would "undermine the concept of a free press."

14) According to The New York Times, Karl Rove scored lobbyist Ralph Reed a lucrative contract with Enron in 1997 to gain his support in the 2000 presidential race.

15) David Safavian, the former chief of staff of the General Services Administration, was convicted of helping Jack Abramoff on a shady land deal as well as concealing a " lavish weeklong golf trip" paid for by Abramoff.

16) As head of the World Bank, Paul Wolfowitz was forced to resign in disgrace after he helped his "female companion, " Shaha Riza, score a $60,000 pay raise and promotion—and then tried to cover it up.

Down the Memory Hole

17) Bush fundraiser Lurita Doan's gig as chair of the General Services Administration went down in flames when she was accused of asking agency staff to help Republican candidates win elections. Doan denied any wrongdoing. When witnesses said she asked her staff at a meeting, "How can we use GSA to help our candidates in the next election?" Doan claimed she had no memory of the presentation.

18) Though Army microbiologist Bruce Ivins, who committed suicide in 2008, was suspected of being the anthrax mailer, that didn't keep Bush and Cheney from openly speculating that Al Qaeda was behind the attacks and even going so far as to pressure FBI officials to come up with a bin Laden connection, according to the New York Daily News.

Mission Accomplished

19) In 2003, Bush went to a warehouse in St. Louis to give a speech titled “Strengthening America’s Economy.” But the boxes laid out before the presidential podium bore the label "Made in China." The labels were then obscured with white paper. The White House blamed an " overzealous advance volunteer.”

The Last Word

20) The administration ethos was nicely summarized during the investigation in the firing of US attorneys, in a testy exchange between former White House Political Director Sara Taylor and Sen. Patrick Leahy. Taylor: "I took an oath to the president…And I believe that taking that oath means that I need to respect, and do respect, my service to the president." Leahy: "No, the oath says that you take an oath to uphold and protect the Constitution of the United States. That is your paramount duty. I know that the president refers to the government being his government—it's not."

Read More Farewell Chronicles:
Part II: Son of Nixon
Part III: I Survived the Bush Presidency
Part IV: How Much is a Bush Speech Worth?