Connecting the Dots–Some More

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Rahm Emanuel’s office has put out excerpts of the speech that he plans to give at Brookings this morning, one that is being touted as the first shot in the Democrats’ effort to put the various Bush Administration scandals into broader–and darker–context. These are themes you are likely to be hearing a lot:

…I’ve also always recognized that there is a balance; that we should never allow the basic functions and solemn responsibilities of government to be subjugated to or take a backseat to politics or party interests.

President Bush came to the White House with an entirely different understanding.

Not since the days of Watergate, when our judicial system and intelligence community were deployed by the White House in the service of partisan politics, have we seen such abuses. And in many ways, what we have seen from this administration is far more extensive than that scandal.

Partisan politics has infiltrated every level of our federal government – from scientific reports on global warming to emergency management services to the prosecutorial power of the federal government itself. Even the Iraq War – from our entry to the reconstruction – has been thoroughly politicized and manipulated.

The Bush Administration has redefined the famous challenge of President Kennedy’s inaugural address. Instead of “Ask not what your country can do for you,” it has become “Ask what your government can do for our party.”

Recently, even those who had become somewhat inured to the intense partisanship of this Administration were shocked by the political manipulation of our U.S. Attorneys. And we have just begun to feel the impact of this scandal. Just as Hurricane Katrina exposed the issue of incompetence, the U.S. Attorney scandal has placed a spotlight on the Administration’s pattern of always placing the Republican Party’s interests before the public interest.

Now, the U.S. Attorney scandal will be to public corruption what Hurricane Katrina was to incompetence in the Bush Administration.

And the scandal has created a new context for viewing and evaluating scandals in the Bush Administration. Americans have learned just how the Bush Administration works and are discovering that under President Bush, no function of the federal government is free from the influence of politics.

And this is no accident. It’s all by design. The incidents I will list today are not a laundry list of one offs or isolated cases of corruption. There is a common denominator. Instead of promoting solutions to our nation’s broad challenges, the Bush Administration used all the levers of power to promote their party and its narrow interests.

Principals and supporters of the Bush Administration have taken to attributing its myriad failures to mere incompetence.

In his appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales denied politics was involved in his firing of eight U.S. Attorneys. Instead, he suggested that the dismissals were just “poorly handled” or a PR failure. The Attorney General could offer no coherent explanation for the fiasco, because to do so would unveil the guiding principle at the core of this White House — insinuating partisan politics into every aspect of government and bringing politics into what used to be a political-free zone – the Justice Department.

Even today, after three months of interviews and investigations and public discussion we still do not know who drafted the list of U.S. attorneys to be fired. We have been left with only three logical explanations for their dismissal:

1) the names of 93 U.S. Attorneys were thrown in a hat and eight were selected at random; or

2) the eight U.S. Attorneys were incompetent, a notion that has been dismissed by the Justice Department’s own rankings; or

3) a White House fearful of public corruption cases further weakening their hold on power concluded that attorneys leading public corruption cases were not “loyal Bushies” and had to go.

They had a plan. They carried it out. And now America is paying the price.

Let’s begin with the biggest issue facing our nation: the war in Iraq. We now know that when the CIA and other intelligence agencies failed to find evidence to justify the President’s rationale for war, the Administration browbeat the CIA to tailor its intelligence. Vice President Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld even set up their own intelligence arm to provide the desired evidence.

And when former-ambassador Joseph Wilson cast doubt on the Administration’s contention that Saddam was trying to obtain uranium in Niger for a nuclear weapon, Cheney’s chief of staff, “Scooter” Libby, embarked on a smear campaign by leaking the identity of Wilson’s wife, an undercover CIA officer.

Once the Iraq War was launched, we all knew how important the reconstruction would be to securing the peace. But politics extended to that country’s reconstruction and the examples are truly shocking:

The person chosen to oversee Iraq’s health care system was the community health director for the former Republican governor of Michigan. The man he replaced was a physician with a master’s degree in public health and post-graduate degrees from Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth and UC-Berkeley and taught at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health where he specialized in disaster response.

A 24 year-old with a background in commercial real estate was hired by the Authority to reopen and manage the Iraqi stock exchange.

The daughter of a prominent neoconservative was tapped to manage Iraq’s $13 billion annual budget.

Nothing was free from political influence.