20 More Forgotten Bush Scandals
By popular demand, The Daily Beast presents a sequel to its
compilation of Bush administration improprieties. New scandals include: military coups, Cheney “loyalty oaths,” and a campaign plane that didn’t fly. For more on Bush, read The Beast's
The hardest part about compiling The Daily Beast's recent list of “ 20 Forgotten Bush Scandals” was narrowing it down to 20. You can't walk down the street without tripping on one of these things. Thus, we present 20 more scandals that we unearthed under a mound of shredded files and lost WMDs.
The Environmental President
1. The Bush EPA decided in 2002 that carbon emissions are not pollution, buying into the car lobby's perverse argument that curbing CO2 is anti-tree and anti-human. "Why would you regulate a pollutant that is an inert gas that is vital to plant photosynthesis and that people exhale when they breathe?" a spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers said at the time.
2. In 2007, the Bush team successfully demanded that the EPA weaken air quality standards to allow more smog in wildlife, farmlands, and parks.
3. In 2001, the EPA attempted to loosen restrictions on arsenic levels in drinking water. “I think we could have handled the environmental issue a little better,” Bush conceded later that year.
4. The White House may have hit its lowest point when it pressured the EPA into encouraging New Yorkers to return to their homes, jobs, and schools despite tests showing that the air in Lower Manhattan contained dangerous levels of asbestos, lead, and other toxins. Thousands became sick and EPA head Christine Todd Whitman only narrowly dodged a lawsuit on appeal after a lower court ruled the cover-up “shocked the conscience.”
Consumer Regulations Are for Losers
5. The Consumer Product Safety Commission, which manages product recalls, became so underfunded that its employees began to quit in droves. According to its commissioner, “they have no confidence the agency will continue to exist—or will exist in any meaningful form."
6. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued 86 percent fewer rules or regulations than under President Clinton and put a director in charge who was literally asleep at his desk.
7. FCC head Michael Powell weakened media ownership laws to allow large conglomerates to greatly expand their reach, drawing the ire of media critics like Obama adviser Lawrence Lessig, who called for the FCC to be eliminated entirely.
He Doesn't Believe in Polls
8. Even the US census was neglected under Bush. "The incompetence and lack of frugality is astounding to me," Republican Sen. Tom Coburn said of the Census Bureau's 2010 preparations.
Keep Your Friends Close—and Your Enemies Locked Outside
9. During a tour promoting Bush's plan to privatize Social Security in 2005, three attendees were turned away at the door by a volunteer dressed as a secret service agent after he spotted a “No More Blood For Oil” bumper sticker on their vehicle. The group quickly became known as the “Denver Three” and a symbol the notorious stage management of Bush rallies.
10. In order to get tickets to a 2004 election rally with Vice President Dick Cheney, attendees had to a sign a “ loyalty oath” affirming that they would endorse Bush's re-election.
11. Dr. James Holsinger Jr. nomination as surgeon general was scuttled in 2007 after it became known that he had written a paper bashing gay sex as unnatural and dangerous and presented it to the United Methodist Church as part of an effort to keep its religious restrictions on homosexuality intact.
12. The voting rights chief for the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, John Tanner, argued that voter ID laws wouldn't disenfranchise elderly minority voters because “minorities don't become elderly the way white people do: They die first." He added that blacks would likely have an ID anyway because "when someone goes to a check cashing business, God help them if they don't have a photo ID."
More Iraq Scandals!
13. Bush and Cheney have been telling interviewers that they were disappointed with how slowly Iraqi society rebuilt itself, but their own rebuilding efforts weren't so hot, either. A 2007 federal oversight agency's report found seven out of eight sample projects “no longer operating as designed because of plumbing and electrical failures, lack of proper maintenance, apparent looting, and expensive equipment that lay idle.”
14. In 2004, the White House was forced to admit that some 380 tons of explosives had disappeared from an Iraqi facility the army had failed to guard properly.
15. When a private intelligence company located a new Bin Laden video through an online source, they turned it over to senior Bush officials on the condition they not reveal the tape so as not to tip off Al Qaeda that its communications were compromised. By the same afternoon, the administration had already leaked it to cable news, immediately ending the company's years-long surveillance operation.
16. The Bush administration caused a bipartisan feeding frenzy in 2006 when it approved a state-owned company in Dubai to take over management at ports in major American cities like New York, Baltimore, and Miami. Critics warned that terrorists could exploit the Dubai connection to carry out operations.
In Defense of Democracy
17. In 2002, the administration appeared unconcerned about a military coup against scummy-but-elected Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez. After the coup failed, Condoleezza Rice encouraged Chavez to “right his own ship.”
18. Lawyers representing clients in terrorism-related cases would deal with them only in person because they suspected the government was monitoring their communications. According to the Justice Department: “if there has been surveillance of lawyers involved in terrorism cases, it has been handled in strict accordance with federal law and with the Constitution’s promise of a criminal defendant’s right to counsel.”
19. Are the worst scandals yet to come? One report suggested that the famous hospital visit to John Ashcroft's bedside was to reauthorize a program locating and identifying millions of “potentially suspect” Americans who could be subject to interrogation or detention in an emergency.
The Last Word
20. Everyone remembers John McCain's famous “Straight Talk Express,” but can you remember George W. Bush's campaign jet in 2000? The aircraft was named “Accountability One.” Mission accomplished!
Read More Farewell Chronicles
Benjamin Sarlin is a reporter for The Daily Beast. He previously covered New York City politics for The New York Sun and has worked for talkingpointsmemo.com.