In the haze that envelops the Bush White House many missteps and deceptions are overlooked because of its egregiously flawed undertaking in Iraq. But much of what the administration does at all levels of government is every bit as damaging as its larger policy mistakes. Directed by ideology that extends well beyond normal partisanship, its efforts to install religious zealots in decision-making positions inconsistent with their abilities and expertise, and to appoint corporate-favoring advocates to the Supreme Court, environmental agencies and energy oversight agencies have produced disastrous results.
And much of this agenda has been structured in the guise of running government as if it were a business, a large corporate enterprise whose macro policies often ignore the needs of those who might be called the little people, a group that includes not just the impoverished but a middle class increasingly challenged in terms of wages and job opportunities. Occasionally, however, the administration is jolted by realities both in Iraq and at home.
Right up until the final days before the November elections, Karl Rove and the president kept insisting that Republican majorities would prevail in both the House and the Senate. Then came some big democratic wins in the Senate with Sherrod Brown knocking off Mike DeWine, Claire McCaskill defeating Jim Talent and Jim Webb winning over George Allen. But what Rove, Bush and others seem not to have considered were the dozens of smaller contests around the nation that turned the House over to the Democrats.
Suddenly, the genius of Karl Rove began to be questioned even though it had become obvious that the electorate was less consumed by Republican-induced fear of another terrorist attack than by a seemingly endless war and Republican corruption. In any event one has to wonder how brilliance came to be associated with dirty tricks – – push-polling that triggered negative responses, annoying, repetitive phone calls purporting to be from democratic candidates, clogged phone lines engineered to prevent Democrats from getting out their voters, eligible minority voters deluged with deceptive information about election schedules and polling places.
And while Alberto Gonzales was not forthcoming when questioned in Congress, it is said to have been just another measure of Rovian genius that registered letters would be sent to voters in heavily Democratic areas, especially minority voters who were either in the service or likely to have moved, and when the letters proved undeliverable, such voters could be struck from the rolls. Other witnesses have said as much about the practice known as “caging”, but claims of executive privilege were used to prevent many ‘brilliant’ administration operatives from testifying about this and other matters. No-one has ever described politics as a squeaky-clean process; these folks, however, have taken sleaze to a whole new level yet are described not as bottom feeders but rather as brilliant political strategists.
But over time, administration tactics and incompetence began to surface. A lot of eyes were opened in the wake of Katrina when many “little” folks languished on the tops of roofs or in the Convention Center and it became obvious that political appointee Brown had neither the experience nor the ability to deal with something of such enormity. While Republican candidate Ron Paul might maintain that it is not the role of the federal government to deal with regional upheavals, most people understand states and localities are incapable of coping with something as devastating as a Katrina, especially with their National Guard units and equipment dispatched to Iraq. The same deficit of trained manpower for the same reasons was apparent after the recent tornado in Kansas. Local governments may be equipped to handle general emergencies but are simply overwhelmed by extraordinary events combined with the depletion of their reserves by Washington.
What should taxpayers expect from a president? Some would say the role of government should simply be to build a strong military and protect the country from attack by foreign powers. But, when our bridges fall down and our mines collapse innocent people still die and we become terrorized by our own inattention. After the bridge failed in Minnesota widespread concern was expressed about the country’s crumbling infrastructure, a problem that has been ignored for many years. But when Congress tried to find new funding for the remediation of these conditions, the president blithely remarked that legislators should redistribute monies already in the transportation bill, you know “prioritize”.
The president’s offhand approach to such matters is a distressing trait of this man, who seems to lack the insight and knowledge to contend with profound national concerns. Typical of his mindless intransigence was his choice of Richard Stickler to be Mine Safety and Health Administrator, yet another appointee whose interests and loyalties trend to the side of management. Stickler’s appointment had been held up because of concerns about his questionable record on and views about mine safety. The president, as he so often does, waited until Congress left town and made a recess appointment of his man.
As we have seen diminished inspection schedules, fewer inspectors and inadequate oversight have exposed miners to dangerous conditions and practices. The country’s millions of “little” people may not be invisible to this president as Senator Clinton has said, but they have without question been disregarded in favor of political cronies and corporate interests.

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