Bush and Cheney STILL have things they want to do!
R. Jeffrey Smith writes: “The White House is working to enact a wide array of federal regulations, many of which would weaken government rules aimed at protecting consumers and the environment, before President Bush leaves office in January. “The new rules would be among the most controversial deregulatory steps of the Bush era and could be difficult for his successor to undo. Some would ease or lift constraints on private industry, including power plants, mines and farms. “Those and other regulations would help clear obstacles to some commercial ocean-fishing activities, ease controls on emissions of pollutants that contribute to global warming, relax drinking-water standards and lift a key restriction on mountaintop coal mining. “Once such rules take effect, they typically can be undone only through a laborious new regulatory proceeding, including lengthy periods of public comment, drafting and mandated reanalysis. . . . “The burst of activity has made this a busy period for lobbyists who fear that industry views will hold less sway after the elections. The doors at the New Executive Office Building have been whirling with corporate officials and advisers pleading for relief or, in many cases, for hastened decision making.”
Emma Schwartz reports for ABC News: “Every administration tries to pass last minute rules in hopes of leaving a lasting mark. But experts say the Bush administration is expected to approve a greater number more quickly than previous administrations — something they said could lead to bad and costly policy. “‘The administration wants to leave a legacy,’ said Gary Bass, executive director of OMB Watch, which has been critical of these proposals. ‘But across the board it means less protection for the public.’ . . . “It wasn’t supposed to be this way. In May, Josh Bolten, then-head of the Office of Management and Budget, which oversees regulatory approval, issued a memo barring new proposals after June. It also required that all new regulations be completed by Nov. 1. proposed rule put forward by the National Marine Fisheries Service that would lift a requirement that environmental impact statements be prepared for certain fisheries-management decisions and would give review authority to regional councils dominated by commercial and recreational fishing interests. Pew Environment Group says the rule “threatens to completely undermine application of the law that protects ocean ecosystems.” OMB Watch reports: “In addition to the hundreds of thousands of public comments opposing the proposed rule, 80 members of Congress have also expressed their opposition, including a letter joined by 72 members of the House of Representatives. The letter states that the proposed rule fails to meet congressional intent made clear during the reauthorization of the [fisheries act]. Hundreds of scientists and environmental organizations have also signed on to oppose the rule.” Siobhan Hughes wrote about in the Wall Street Journal on Monday: “The Bush administration is moving to adopt rules that would loosen pollution controls on power plants, by judging the plants on their hourly rate of emissions rather than their total annual output, people familiar with the matter said. . . . “As long as a power plant’s hourly emissions stay at or below the plant’s historical maximum, the plant would be treated as if it were running more cleanly, even if its total annual emissions increased as plant operators stepped up operations.” “That hasn’t been the case. Many proposed regulations have yet to be finalized and new ones have already come out since the June deadline. “A spokesperson for OMB said in an email response that the Bolten memo ‘wasn’t intended to wholesale shut down work on important regulatory matters after November 1st, but to emphasize due diligence.’ “She added: ‘Ensuring the integrity of the process is important to the Administration.’”
Another example is something I’ve been calling attention to yet more examples of the Bush administration’s midnight rule-making for the past several months. For instance, back in May, Carol D. Leonnig wrote in The Washington Post in July: “Political appointees at the Department of Labor are moving with unusual speed to push through in the final months of the Bush administration a rule making it tougher to regulate workers’ on-the-job exposure to chemicals and toxins.”
Dina Cappiello wrote for the Associated Press just 10 days ago that Interior Department officials were rushing so hard to ease the endangered species rules before Bush leaves office that they were “attempting to review 200,000 comments from the public in just 32 hours.” And on Monday, And yet another one to add to the list. In today’s Post, The proposed sale, which includes famous areas in the Nine Mile Canyon region, would take place Dec. 19, a month before President Bush leaves office.” Tip of the Iceberg?Keep in mind that rule-making is by definition a public process. So what else is going on, beneath the surface? I raised a slew of questions in that vein for
* Are appointees in federal agencies trying to cover their tracks? Are documents being properly retained?
* Are Bush political appointees working on last-minute reorganizations within the federal government?
* Are Bush loyalists burrowing into the civil service? Will political appointees engage in a last-minute flurry of hiring and promoting Bush loyalists into key civil service jobs? Will political appointees try to make the jump into the civil service?
Bush in the Rearview Mirror
“‘I would say that the most amazingly bankrupt line of argument that I’ve ever seen in this campaign has been the constant and heavily financed effort on the part of the Obama campaign to make George Bush John McCain’s running mate,’ Rick Davis, McCain’s campaign manager, said in a conference call with reporters. “‘To me it’s outrageous. Everybody who knows John McCain, who has spent any amount of time following his life and times, knows that he has been probably one of the biggest flies in the ointment for the Bush administration on Capitol Hill when it comes to putting his country first.’”
Lauren Vernon writes for The Hill: “John McCain’s presidential campaign on Thursday said the Arizona senator would win the race for the White House if Democratic rival Barack Obama keeps seeking to link the GOP nominee to President Bush. “McCain campaign manager Rick Davis said the attempt of the Illinois senator’s campaign to link the current White House occupant to the new Republican standard-bearer is ‘a desperate attempt at the end of this campaign by Obama to try and stem the flow of people away from his campaign.’”
Gary Langer writes for ABC News: “For all the focus on the economy as John McCain’s greatest problem, there’s another right behind it: George W. Bush. . . . “Fewer than half of likely voters in the latest ABC News/Washington Post tracking poll, 47 percent, think McCain would lead in a new direction; 50 percent instead say he’d mainly continue on Bush’s path. McCain has not exceeded 48 percent ‘new direction’ all year, at a time when dissatisfaction with the country’s current course has hit record highs. “It matters: Among those who think McCain would lead in a new direction, 82 percent support him. But among those who think of him as Bush 2.0, 90 percent prefer Barack Obama instead — one of the starkest dividing lines between the two candidates. “Similarly, while McCain overwhelmingly is supported by the relatively few remaining Bush approvers, he loses Bush disapprovers — 72 percent of likely voters — by nearly a 3-1 margin, 71-27 percent.”
Michael Cooper and Dalia Sussman write in the New York Times about the latest New York Times/CBS News poll: “With just days until Americans choose a new president, the survey found them deeply uneasy about the state of their country. Eight-five percent of respondents said the country was pretty seriously off on the wrong track, near the record high recorded earlier this month. A majority said the United States should have stayed out of Iraq. And President Bush’s approval rating remains at 22 percent, tied for the lowest presidential approval rating on record (which was President Harry S, Truman’s rating, recorded by the Gallup Poll in 1952). “Mr. McCain’s renewed efforts to cast himself as the candidate of change have apparently faltered. Sixty-four percent of voters polled said Mr. Obama would bring about real change if elected, while only 39 percent said Mr. McCain would.”
Dave Montgomery writes for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram about how Texans are “joining the rest of the nation in registering sharp disapproval of his job performance as the nation’s chief executive, according to a newly released statewide poll. “Only 34 percent of Texans polled in a University of Texas survey approved of Bush’s handling of the presidency, with just under 10 percent approving ‘strongly.’ By contrast, 55 percent disapproved, with 38.7 percent strongly disapproving. “While the approval ratings are somewhat higher than national polls, the Texas findings reflect a significant downturn in popularity for a native son and former Texas governor who drew 61 percent of the Texas vote in his re-election victory over Democratic Sen. John Kerry four years ago. Throughout much of his two-term presidency, Texas has generally provided Bush with a safety net of robust support while he was losing favor elsewhere.”
“McCain . . . appears with the president only in commercials paid for and approved by Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama or the Democratic National Committee (DNC). McCain spends most of his days seeking as much distance between he and the president as he can find.” And Youngman notes that “the first lady isn’t the only current occupant of the White House getting in on the act. “Vice President Dick Cheney, who enjoys approval ratings lower than the president’s, is scheduled to attend a Victory rally in Wyoming on Saturday.”
“The Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has asked Baroness Scotland to consider bringing criminal proceedings against Americans allegedly responsible for the rendition and abuse of Binyam Mohamed, when he was held in prisons in Morocco and Afghanistan. “The development follows criticism of US prosecutors by British judges who have seen secret evidence of torture committed against Mr Mohamed, including allegations his torturers used a razor blade to repeatedly cut his penis. The Attorney’s investigation is expected to include allegations that MI5 colluded in Mr Mohamed’s rendition. Mr Mohamed, 30, an Ethiopian national and British resident, was arrested in Pakistan in 2002, when he was questioned by an MI5 officer. “On Tuesday, Government lawyers wrote to the judges hearing Mr Mohamed’s case against the UK government in the High Court. In the letter they said ‘the question of possible criminal wrongdoing to which these proceedings has given rise has been referred by the Home Secretary to the Attorney general for consideration as an independent minister of justice’. Baroness Scotland has been sent secret witness statements given to the court and public interest immunity certificates for the proceedings.” And in news of another case,
Syria Comment blogger
Jonathan Karl reports for ABC News that Gen. David Petraeus “proposed visiting Syria shortly after taking over as the top U.S. commander for the Middle East. “The idea was swiftly rejected by Bush administration officials at the White House, State Department and the Pentagon. “Petraeus, who becomes the commander of U.S. Central Command (Centcom) Friday, had hoped to meet in Damascus with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Petraeus proposed the trip, and senior officials objected, before the covert U.S. strike earlier this week on a target inside Syria’s border with Iraq.” Glenn Greenwald points out, this is not the exclusive Karl claims. Joshua Landis writes that he “has been writing since August 2008 that Petraeus tried to go to Damascus in the fall of 2007, but was refused permission by the Vice President. It wasn’t the president. (That little bit of info is an SC exclusive told to me by a top intelligence officer.)” Ken Herman blogs for Cox News Service: “President Bush hasn’t held a news conference since July 15. And that one ended with this comment from Bush: ‘OK, I’ve enjoyed it. Thank you very much for your time. Appreciate it.’ “Apparently he didn’t enjoy it and appreciate all that much. He hasn’t had a news conference since then and generally has ignored questions lobbed his way at White House events. . . . “Can we expect a presidential news conference anytime soon?” Not likely. From yesterday’s press briefing > Q. “Dana, looking ahead to the election, you said a while back that the President was trying not to give any press conferences while the campaign was going on, to let the candidates sort of have their own spotlight. When will we hear from the President once the election is over?” :
Peter Finn and Del Quentin Wilber write in The Washington Post: “A federal judge yesterday questioned the motives of Justice Department lawyers for withdrawing allegations linking a Guantanamo Bay detainee to a ‘dirty bomb’ plot in the United States shortly before they were required to hand over exculpatory evidence to the defense. “‘That raises serious questions in this court’s mind about whether those allegations were ever true,’ said U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, who is overseeing a lawsuit brought by Binyam Mohammed, 30, a resident of Britain who is challenging his detention at the U.S. military facility in Cuba. Sullivan warned that ‘someone is going to rue the day those allegations were made’ if it turns out that the government had evidence that they were unfounded. . . . “Mohammed said the CIA rendered him to Morocco weeks after he was arrested in Pakistan in April 2002. His attorneys argue that the government’s allegations are based on confessions their client made after his detention and torture in Morocco, where, they say, he was slashed with razors. “‘He parroted what his torturers wanted him to say,’ said Zachary Katznelson, one of Mohammed’s attorneys. ‘All they have are Mr. Mohammed’s own words, and they were extracted at the tip of a razor blade.’ “The government said Mohammed voluntarily confessed to a number of terrorist crimes, including the dirty-bomb plot, in 2004 at Bagram air base in Afghanistan before his transfer to Guantanamo Bay. The government has never acknowledged that he was in Morocco.” Sam Youngman writes for The Hill: “While President Bush has conspicuously stayed on the sidelines in the final days until the election, others close to him are venturing out on behalf of embattled Republican candidates. “First Lady Laura Bush, always a popular draw for Republicans, was in Mississippi on Thursday to stump for Sen. Roger Wicker (R), and on Monday she will do the same for House candidate Brett Guthrie at a rally in Kentucky. “That the first lady is hitting the road while the president stays in Washington speaks volumes to this election season’s dilemma: Republican candidates have to run away from the administration and its policies while still looking for help in races that were considered runaways in once-reliably red states. . . . Jennifer Loven writes for the Associated Press: “Under fire from Democrats and Republicans alike, the White House on Thursday defended giving billions of bailout dollars to banks that plan to reward shareholders and executives — or even buy other banks. “Allowing banks to engage in such normal business activities actually could help loosen lending and revive the sagging economy, said Ed Lazear, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers. He said the administration would not impose any conditions on banks beyond those required when Congress created the bailout program, which authorized the government to buy stock in financial institutions. . . . “Lazear was put before the cameras in the White House briefing room amid a rising chorus of complaints from lawmakers about the latitude that banks will have when they receive bailout money from Washington. “That bailout was originally sold by the administration as a plan for the government to purchase toxic mortgage-based assets from financial institutions, to get them off their books and inspire the resumption of normal lending. After passage, though, the administration decided the better course would be to devote $250 billion into buying ownership stakes in banks. “With taxpayers’ money flowing into their vaults, banks are going ahead with paying dividends to shareholders, giving bonuses to top executives and acquiring competitors. Lawmakers are asking why banks with the money to do those things need taxpayer-funded help.” this ad- titled Rearview Mirror – that the Obama campaign plans to air heavily in key battleground states this weekend. In the ad, images of Bush keep popping up in the rearview mirrors of a car as road signs outside highlight criticisms of McCain’s economic policy. CBS News: “‘Wonder where John McCain would take the economy? Look behind you,’ an announcer says as the spot opens. Onscreen, a man driving his car is shown looking in his rearview mirror, where he sees Mr. Bush’s face. Cappiello reported that — surprise! — the administration had concluded “that changes it wants to make to endangered species rules before President Bush leaves office will have no significant environmental consequences.” Juliet Eilperin writes: “The federal Bureau of Land Management is reviving plans to sell oil and gas leases in pristine wilderness areas in eastern Utah that have long been protected from development, according to a notice posted this week on the agency’s Web site. NiemanWatchdog.org back in June. Among them: * Are major contracts being let out that have long-term ramifications? And are any of those related to outsourcing? S heldon Alberts writes for the Canwest News Service that Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s camp responded furiously to a new ad from the Barack Obama campaign linking McCain to Bush. Juliet Eilperin wrote in The Washington Post in August that the new rules would “allow federal agencies to decide whether protected species would be imperiled by agency projects, eliminating the independent scientific reviews that have been required for more than three decades.” Juliet Eilperin wrote in The Washington Post: “The Bush administration is on the verge of implementing new air quality rules that will make it easier to build power plants near national parks and wilderness areas.”
No Presser for You
Perino: “You’ll probably hear from me that night, and then we’ll see after that.”
Q. “In terms of, you know, a press conference, obviously many of these questions were questions we’d love to direct to him.”
Perino: “How long have you covered the White House, this White House? Do we ever forecast when we’re going to have press conferences? No. And I really don’t think that’s going to change after November 4th. So you’ll just have to keep dressing up everyday, and then we’ll see.”
Retro Essay from ‘Letters from America’
The pledge of allegiance
Monday mornings in almost every public elementary school in America the children rise and then they recite (or they could choose to listen to the class chanting) the pledge of allegiance to the flag of the United States. It’s a single sentence and this is how it goes:
“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Last week it was announced in Washington that next February 2004 the nine justices of the Supreme Court will meet one morning and begin to consider the complaint of an atheist parent who says it’s against the Constitution that he should have to make his daughter listen to “a ritual proclaiming that there is a god”.
When it does come up I imagine the young atheist will have a hard time restraining himself from a cry of shame as he stands and watches the nine justices bow their heads in prayer, as is their custom.
What clause in the Constitution does he believe is being violated? Why the very first amendment, the first item in the Bill of Rights.
It is written in the most guileless English: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”.
What could be simpler? What could be also vaguer? – The moment you reflect what the 18th Century meant by “establishment” for instance.
So many words have changed their meaning drastically since the 17th and 18th centuries – much of the Bible, much more of Shakespeare, is not understandable without explanatory footnotes.
To the Founding Fathers who wrote it “establishment” meant a religious sect.
What a pity they didn’t write the sentence the other way round: “Congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion. Oh but by the way, we’re not going as a nation to have a preferred sect, it’s too late for that, it would lead to endless dissension between the Congregationalists of Massachusetts and Connecticut, the Catholics of Maryland, the Quakers of Pennsylvania..
“So, to be clearly understood, gentlemen, let’s make it plain: we shall not have a national religion like the Church of England.
“That being so it must be made equally plain that no law of Congress can prohibit any man or woman practising his/her own religion freely, everywhere – in church, in the street, in Congress, at home, away – freely.”
For 150 years this reading was simply assumed by most people. As a learned history of the Supreme Court tells us: from the founding era at the end of the 18th Century, well into the 20th Century, religion was thought to be a significant and legitimate component of American public life.
By the 1940s, however, American public life had become largely secular.
One short, offhand sentence covers a tremendous fact: the decline of religious belief in the general population of the Western nations, deeper still in Europe.
In France in 1960 one family in three were weekly churchgoers. Today it’s one in eight.
In England today only six people in a hundred claim to be devoutly religious. In the United States the comparable devout figure is 65%.
But there’s been a dramatic increase in the Americans who don’t want religion to appear in any shape or form in public life.
Hence these continual appeals to the courts, from keeping religious symbols of any public building, all the way to banning the use of the word god in political speech.
To put it more formally, the atheists have gone bananas in the extent to which they misinterpret the first amendment – as you’ll see from the final appeal of this young father who wants “under God” taken out of the pledge of allegiance.
Well, let’s go back to the pledge and its invention.
It was composed by an ex-minister and published in a magazine called The Youth Companion.
When? That’s the point – 1892.
The Congress leapt at a happy idea. Since the upcoming 12th October marked the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s discovery of America, that would be the perfect day to introduce the chanting of the pledge as a daily ritual in the elementary schools.
And so it was. But no mention of under God. “One nation under God” did not appear until 1954.
Why 1954 I wondered? I never saw a story explaining why. I thought some digging was necessary and it’s turned out that a little digging produced a load of pay dirt.
In early 1954 at a conference of the four allied powers occupying Germany, the United States, Britain and France were all for reunifying Germany under one government.
The Soviets were absolutely opposed and had in Europe armies five times the size of the combined allied armies. So that was that.
Far away in French Indochina the French were collapsing against Vietnamese guerrillas fighting to be independent.
The French begged President Eisenhower to help with American troops. Eisenhower said no troops.
But he made an impassioned public assertion that the defeat of Communism in South East Asia was vital. That if one country went Communist the neighbours could fall too, like a row of dominoes.
This was a pressing fear in Washington at that time, fears for Malaysia, Indochina, for Burma and India.
Also 1954 was the heyday of a middle western senator who, after a high State Department official had been convicted of passing papers to the Soviet Union, launched an immensely popular campaign to root Communists out of American government.
He gave us alarming numbers but he never actually came up with a positive Communist who had not declared himself.
Nevertheless, such was the fear of the time that from Moscow to Asia “godless Communism” might prevail.
President Eisenhower, many public men and women, used that phrase over and over.
And it was by executive order on Flag Day 1954 that President Eisenhower ordered the pledge now to read “I pledge allegiance to the flag” and so on, “and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God indivisible.”
So far as the young protesting father’s concerned, the villain of the peace is not – as most people think – the Congress of the United States but the late, great Ike, supreme commander of the invading forces in Europe and later president of the United States.
If the young father wins surely somebody will then mount a crusade to have erased from all dollar bills of every denomination the sentence printed in brazen capital letters: “In God we trust”.
And if he wins that will entail destroying every bill and totally reprinting the United States currency.
It would cost the Treasury – the taxpayer, that is – well, it’s been figured maybe $7-8bn.
But what’s that to the average taxpayer? He’s already going to have to find 20 billions for tidying up Iraq.
A recent visitor from Europe remarked at some point how often in daily conversation here he had heard the passing phrase “just before 9/11″, or “about a month after September 11″, or “Oh, 11 September changed all that.”
I tried to explain to him how we felt personally outraged, what a traumatic event it was and perhaps one you could not feel if you saw it on television from 3,000 miles away.
To have had this feeling and find it still there deep inside, since we were never told that American intelligence agents had foiled plotted atrocities as large and murderous as the bombing of the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.
How I wish I had read two years ago a piece I came on the other night when I picked up one of my standby bedtime books, Mark Twain’s Life on the Mississippi.
He’s writing about a recollection of life in the South where he’d spent so much time of his youth.
This passage, however, is about a sharp distinction between social conversation in the North and the South in the decade after the end of the Civil War. I imagine this piece must have been written about late 1870s or 1880.
“In the North one hears the war mentioned in social conversation once a month, sometimes once a week but as a distinct subject for talk it has long been relieved of duty.
“Given a company of six gentlemen, four possibly five were not in the field at all. Add six ladies and you will have added six people who saw little of the dread realities of the war and ran out of talk about it years ago.
“The case is very different in the South. There every man you meet was in the war and every lady you meet saw the war. The interest in the war is still vivid and constant, it’s what AD is, elsewhere they date from it.
“Things happened ‘since the war’ or ‘during the war’ or ‘about two years after the war’.
“You can’t talk pale, inconsequent matters when you’ve got a crimson fact in your head that you’re burning to fetch out. This gives the inexperienced stranger better than anything else the sense of what a vast and comprehensive calamity invasion is.”
Invasion is the key word. We felt that the bombing of the Towers and the Pentagon was an invasion of this country.
We came, as perhaps Europeans could not, to feel that this was the beginning of a war, of the Third World War and an alarming novelty of war: one against a worldwide enemy who is invisible
“In 2000, Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore, seen here campaigning in Miami Beach, won more votes nationwide than his opponent, George W. Bush.”
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Is the Electoral College, America’s quirky system of choosing its presidents, on its way to extinction?
Americans do not vote directly for president. They vote for slates of electors in each state.
Collectively, the electors are called the Electoral College. Each state gets a number of electors equal to its membership in the House and Senate. (The District of Columbia gets three.)
Minnesota, for instance, gets 10 electors. If Republican candidate John McCain wins the most votes in Minnesota on Nov. 4, the slate of 10 Minnesota McCain electors is chosen.
All but two states (Maine and Nebraska) use the winner-take-all system. This means that the candidate who gets the most popular votes in a state gets all of its electoral votes.
The next president will be the candidate who gets at least 270 of the total 538 electors.
The system can be idiosyncratic. Four times in the nation’s history, the winner of the largest number of popular votes did not win the largest number of electoral votes, and therefore did not become president.
It happened in 2000, when Al Gore got more popular votes, but lost the election to George W. Bush.
It also happened in:
1824, when popular vote winner Andrew Jackson lost the presidency to John Quincy Adams.
1876, when Samuel Tilden lost to Rutherford B. Hayes.
And 1888, when Grover Cleveland lost to Benjamin Harrison.
A relic of the early republic
The system is a relic of the early days of the republic when electors were supposed to be independent agents exercising their judgment in choosing a presidential candidate from a list of several contenders.
Today, electors are party loyalists who almost always vote for their party’s nominee.
On Friday, a group of legal scholars, political scientists, and systems specialists gathered at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for a conference on the Electoral College. Their focus? How to better engineer the system.
Scrapping the electoral vote system would likely require a constitutional amendment since the Constitution itself created the electoral system (Article II, section 1).
But a group called National Popular Vote says it has found another way.
So far, it has persuaded four Democratic-controlled legislatures (in Maryland, Illinois, Hawaii, and New Jersey) to pass a law which commits those states to give their electoral votes to whomever wins the national popular vote.
The accord takes effect once states with a combined 270 electoral votes agree to it.
The states would pledge to award their electoral votes to the popular vote winner even if he or she had not been the majority choice in their state.
Take Maryland as an example. Say 80 percent of voters in that state cast their ballots for the Democratic presidential candidate. But if a Republican candidate wins the national popular vote, under the state law, Maryland’s 10 electoral votes would go to that candidate.
The Guilty-Speak: Too bad it takes retirement to give someone the balls to speak out and up about things , they too did, that must change!! No wonder Obama had to go overseas– it is clear that ANYONE in the political arena evidently must play the game dictated by the ‘Party’ or they end up sitting on the bench only allowed to voice their opinion and stand. ie: Dennis and Ron.
Putting Government Back To Work
For more on money and politics, let’s go now to a man who saw first hand how the city’s money chase has crippled and corrupted Washington.
His name is Ernest ‘Fritz’ Hollings, and he spent 38 years in the United States Senate – a long and colorful run during which he made a name for himself as a passionate advocate for the hungry, a champion of balanced budgets, and a fighter for jobs in the textile industry. He called it quits four years ago and went home to South Carolina. But he was back in town recently, to see old friends and sign his new book, MAKING GOVERNMENT WORK. I talked with
at a Senate office building on Capitol Hill just before his book party. Why did you write this book now?
I wrote the book because I could see what was wrong. I was raising money. I wasn’t running for reelection.
As a senator in your last term.
As a senator in the last two or three years that’s all I was doing was raising money. And working for the campaign and for the party. The hardest working people in the world are the congressmen and senators. We work from early morning ’til late at night and all weekend and everything else. But we are working now, not for the country, but for the campaign.BILL MOYERS:
What do you mean?
All the time is fundraisers. All the time is money, money, money, money. In 1998, ten years ago, I ran and had to raise 8 an a half million. The record is there. Eight and a half million is 30,000 a week. Every week for six years. Each and every week for six years. Oh Dick Russell of Georgia-
He says, “Now a senator is given a six year term rather than a two year term. He’s given six years, the first two years to be a statesman. Then the second two years to be a politician. His last two years a demagogue.” We use all six years to raise money. That’s why I wrote the book. To try to get the government off its fanny and cut out all the politics and let’s work for the country for a change.
What do you mean, it’s not working? You say you can’t get anything done in Washington anymore. What’s not getting done?
Legislation. Anything meaningful. They fill up the tree both sides, it’s nothing wrong with Harry Reid or Mitch McConnell, they’re durn good leaders and they’re doing what the senators want done. And they’re all smart senators and they’re all responsible people. But they’re playing the game and the media hadn’t exposed. That’s why I wrote it. I’m trying to expose-
The game? What’s the game?
The game is money. I got to get the money to heck with constituents, I gotta get contributors.
I’ve talked to the senators; you ask ‘em, they know they’re not gettin’ anything done. And they grown men and they’re conscientious women and everything else, they’re outstanding. But they know that all they’re doing is on a money treadmill. That’s all it is.
You write, “When I first came to the Senate 40 years ago, Senator Mansfield,” he was the majority leader then.
“Had a vote every Monday morning to make sure”
To get a quorum.
“To get a quorum. And we worked until five o’clock on Friday every week.”
That’s right. We didn’t go home on the weekends. We tried to get out Thursday afternoon or night or at least early Friday morning to go to the West Coast for fundraisers. That’s why Hollywood and that’s why Wall Street has got that much influence. I’m not going to South Carolina. They got no money for a Democrat. I have to travel all over the country.
Years ago, you write, “On Washington’s birthday, a freshman senator would read the farewell address at 12 o’clock noon and then we’d have votes in the afternoon.”
We’d have votes. Now we have merged Lincoln’s birthday with Washington’s Birthday and take ten days off in February for fundraising. We have St. Patrick’s Day, ten day break for fundraising. Easter, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, the month of August, Labor Day, Yom Kippur and Columbus Day that’s ten days gone in October. September, October, is fundraising. Everything is attuned for the campaign, the hell with the country.
A constant permanent campaign.
That’s exactly what it is.
Commercial television is the big winner in this because that’s where so much of the money goes.
That’s right; the rich have got all the speech they want. The poor got lockjaw. He can’t articulate out onto the television. And-
The poor can’t. They have no voice.
Yeah, and that’s the trouble. They tell you, don’t go waste time and don’t go see people and everything. Get on television and get a little tricky television and everything else like that. All these artists have got all kinds of different ways and different things like that to bring up and tricks to play.
The clear message is money has a stranglehold on our democracy.
You gotta untie that money knot and then begin the government will begin to work.
So, you conclude therefore, if we limit the money, Congress will have time to work for the country, rather than–
The campaign. That’s exactly right. They can talk to each other, they can deliberate. There’s no, you fill up the tree with amendments; the leaders know– legislation is made down on K Street. They tell you when to vote, when they got the votes.
The leader brings it up, he knows where it’s going. And it’s not going anywhere, but he’s goin’ to get a vote, to make ‘em embarrassed about immigration, or about energy or about sub-prime mortgages. The votes are made for the campaign. It’s not to get anything done, bah humbug. You can forget about that. They’re not doing anything up here. And the senators and congressmen know it.
What do you make of the fact, as you point out in your book, three days before the first presidential primary in Iowa; The New York Times listed the positions of all the candidates on eight important issues. Not one of them on trade or outsourcing of jobs.
That’s right. And they came way out. We had, in South Carolina, since President George W. Bush has been in; we have lost 94,500 manufacturing a net loss. We’re getting’ some more jobs in BMW in Spartanburg, but a net loss. And they never mentioned it in the early Democratic primaries. They’re-BILL MOYERS:
Because they gotta get the money.
And who gives them the money?
Wall Street, the banks, and business
Yeah, you say presidents negotiate trade agreements not to open markets, but to protect corporate America’s foreign investment. That’s how you see it.
Well, I know it. I mean look at the Congress. Under article one, section 8, the Congress shall regulate. Not free-
Congress regulates trade both domestic and foreign.
And you say in your book that Congress is not doing that.
They can’t do it because they’ve gotta get the money. You put in a trade bill and down on your head comes THE WALL STREET JOURNAL and the big banks and The Business Round Table and The National Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufactures they’re not for domestic. They’re for Chinese and Indian manufacturer even The National Chamber of Commerce is not worried about Main Street, Peoria, Illinois; Main Street, Shanghai. You see, Henry Ford built up the middle class along with organized labor. He said I want the fellow making the car to be able to buy the car. So, he doubled the minimum wage. He put in health care and retirement costs and everything else of that kind, benefits. And so we had a good working relationship between labor and that– now, all of these trade agreements for the investors to protect their investment in China and India, but, uh-uh forget about labor.
Your country and mine, that’s the United States of America, is going out of business?
Oh yeah. What hasn’t been outsourced is being bought with that cheap dollar. Vodophone is gone to the Germans. Bell Labs is gone to the French with all their research and everything else. Westinghouse Nuclear with all of their research and technology and everything, is going to Toshiba, Japan. And Anheuser-Busch, the Belgians. Anheuser-Busch is beholden to the stockholders but nobody’s beholden to the people other than the congressmen and senators. And they’re not doing their job.
But they’re voting for NAFTA. They’re voting for these trade agreements.
Yeah, we’ve gone to an outright trade war and globalization and that’s were we’re AWOL. The way to get free trade is raise a barrier to a barrier and remove them both. Then you got free trade.
But when you were chairman of this very powerful Commerce Committee, here in the Senate, you’d make these cases.
They would call you protectionist, they would call you–
Yeah, I am a protectionist. You– you got Social Security to protect you from the ravages of old age, Medicare to protect you from ill health. You got food and drugs and clean air, the water we drink, the food we eat, antitrust to protect the openness of the market and everything else. Before I open up Moyer Manufactory, you gotta have clean air, clean water, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, plant closing notice, parental leave, safe working place, safe machinery, antitrust. You can go to China for 58 cents an hour. They’d get you the plant, they own the workers, and you don’t have any investments so you don’t have to worry about it.
You say all we need to do to make the country work, is follow the lead of the forefathers to compete in globalization. To build the country’s economy Washington, Hamilton, Jefferson, and Madison, made sure the first bill to pass the Congress in its history on July 4th 1789–
Seventeen eighty nine.
Protectionist bill, tariff bill on 60 articles. We financed the country’s development with tariffs. That’s how we–that’s the Treasurer’s Building is the best building here in Washington. The best building in Charleston is the custom house. The best building in Brooklyn is the custom house. Treasury had the money. Teddy Roosevelt said, “Thank God I am not a free trader.” Oh, Lincoln, everybody says, I’m either for Roosevelt, I’m a Lincoln Republican. He was a big protectionist. Oh, he raised tariffs. They were gonna build a transcontinental railroad on the Abraham Lincoln. And they said we could get the steel cheap from England. He said, ah – wait a minute, we’re gonna build our own steel mills, and then we’ll have not only a steel capacity, but we’ll have the railroad. And so he was a builder. Everybody was a builder. Eisenhower, he protected oil. Jack Kennedy, I went to him, and he protected textiles. Ronald Reagan, he protected computers and Harley Davidson. He saved it. I saw George W. the other day about three weeks or a month ago, he was at the Harley Davidson plant, but protectionism saved it. That’s why they were making money at Harley Davidson. Oh, he got–
That’s because of–
Voluntarily restraint. Reagan got on steel, computers, machine tools, and automobiles. He got voluntary restraint and that’s the only way to do it. Sober up
Do you take any hope on this issue on money in politics? From McCain and Obama? Are they saying anything that or doing anything that–
I happened to hear and I don’t know, but the finance chairman for Obama was just told to get up 300 million for the rest of the campaign till November. Also, get up millions for the Denver convention. And that’s all they’re doing is raising money.
You and John McCain sat on the same committee. You were chairman of the Commerce Committee–FRITZ HOLLINGS:
He was a member of the committee–
We were good friends. And I love him.
And how does he–
I know him, yeah.
And he used to be thought of as being an advocate of campaign finance reform.
Exactly right. And he was an advocate against these tax cuts. But now they’ve taken the maverick McCain and trying to make him the Christian right and the money raiser and everything else like that. They’re trying to make him an ordinary Republican. And you can tell he’s ill at ease. He, John McCain is not happy campaigning right now. I can tell you that. He’s– the media loves him. He had a room up there by the commerce committee with donuts and coffee and all and the press wouldn’t go to the press gallery. They’d go to McCain because they could get a statement out of him. And he was honest. He’d tell you how he felt. So, the press loves him and everything else. But they’re disappointed in him now, because they’re trying to change him over to qualify him as a Republican.
What would you do about the power of the press in our society today?
Tell them that by gosh, tell the truth. You know the debate between Walter Lippman and John Dewey. And Walter Lippman said, what we oughta do is get the experts in finance and defense, and education and the various elements of government, and let them determine the company’s the country’s needs, and give it to the Congress and let ‘em pass it. John Dewey, the educator said, no, no, let the free press report the truth to the American people and the needs will be reflected, to the congressmen and senators in Washington. And he was right. But they’re not telling the truth anymore. They all were doing the headlines rather than headway. They’re all getting by with perceptions; they’re all getting by with pollster politics. They’re not talking about the needs. The country is ready, willing, and able to work, the government’s not working.
And the book is, MAKING GOVERNMENT WORK. Senator Fritz Hollings, it’s been good to see you again.
Good to be with you.