Foxes, Henhouses, and the Fashion Police
Just like breaking a leg can take your mind off a toothache, the major traumas the Bush administration has inflicted on the body politic make it easy to forget the lesser damage it's doing. Or, as Ruth Marcus puts in her column in today's Washington Post, "The tornado of disastrous headlines -- a Pentagon that can't take proper care of its wounded, a Justice Department that can't be trusted to follow the law or tell the truth to Congress, a top White House aide who lied to a grand jury-- has been so overpowering that the day-to-day outrages of life in the Bush administration tend get overlooked." Marcus then goes on to helpfully list some of the day-to-day damage caused by "the administration's fox-guarding-the-henhouse personnel plan, the disdain of its appointees for the laws they are sworn to enforce and their spoils-of-war attitude toward the government they are entrusted with overseeing".
· The president's amazing-even-for-this-crowd choice to oversee the federal family planning program, Eric Keroack, resigned after Medicaid officials in Massachusetts, where he had a private medical practice, questioned his billings. Keroack's suitability for the family planning post, in which he was responsible for overseeing the distribution of contraceptives to low-income women? He was director of a group that finds contraception "demeaning to women" and won't distribute it -- even to married women.
· President Bush nominated Michael Baroody, a top official at the National Association of Manufacturers, to head the Consumer Product Safety Commission -- the agency charged with protecting consumers against the dangerous products of, yes, manufacturers.
Perhaps Baroody would be a great chairman, but he's spent most of the past two decades looking out for the interests of manufacturers, not consumers. The manufacturers association recently pressed the CPSC to relax its rules about when manufacturers must report incidents of defective products. (It did.) The group argued, again successfully, against a petition to require makers of cribs, strollers and similar items to include registration cards with their products to be able to help notify consumers in a recall.
· The Interior Department inspector general reported that Julie MacDonald, the official who oversees the Fish and Wildlife Service but who has no academic background in biology, overrode the recommendations of agency scientists about how to protect endangered species. MacDonald also shared internal documents with industry officials and groups that lobby for weakened environmental protections, not to mention an online gaming buddy, the IG found.
An Interior lawyer called MacDonald's involvement in one endangered species matter "the most brazen case of political meddling" he had seen in more than 20 years in government. Nor, it seems, is such politicization limited to MacDonald. "Policy trumps science within the Assistant Secretary's corridor on many occasions," another department lawyer told the IG.
· J. Steven Griles, a coal lobbyist who became the No. 2 official at the Interior Department (in other words, his job description didn't much change), pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about his relationship with lobbyist/felon Jack Abramoff. Griles's then-girlfriend introduced him to Abramoff and ran a lobbying group that received $500,000 in Abramoff-generated funds; in turn, Abramoff sought and received Griles's help on client matters.
· Griles's new significant other, Sue Ellen Wooldridge, who helped him fend off ethics charges when they both worked at Interior, resigned as head of the Justice Department's environmental section. Wooldridge and Griles bought a $1 million beach house with the top lobbyist for the oil company ConocoPhillips; then Wooldridge -- supposedly with the blessing of ethics officials -- signed off on a move to ease up on anti-pollution requirements imposed on ConocoPhillips as part of a settlement.
· Lurita Doan, a GOP mega-donor turned head of the General Services Administration, attended a luncheon on agency premises at which Scott Jennings, a top aide to Karl Rove, briefed political appointees on GOP targets for the 2008 election. According to six people present, Doan asked GSA employees how they could "help 'our candidates' in the next elections." Doan, displaying an Alberto Gonzales-like memory, told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee last week that she had "absolutely" no recollection of that statement.
And while it's true that all this corruption and cheap partisan politicization has impaired the federal government's ability to function, there are certain things the feds still excel at. Things like protecting you from the unspeakable menace of people dressed in basic black. As another story in the Post explains,
A secret FBI intelligence unit helped detain a group of war protesters in a downtown Washington parking garage in April 2002 and interrogated some of them on videotape about their political and religious beliefs, newly uncovered documents and interviews show.
For years, law enforcement authorities suggested it never happened. The FBI and D.C. police said they had no records of such an incident. And police told a federal court that no FBI agents were present when officers arrested more than 20 protesters that afternoon for trespassing; police viewed them as suspicious for milling around the parking garage entrance.
But a civil lawsuit, filed by the protesters, recently unearthed D.C. police logs that confirm the FBI's role in the incident. Lawyers for the demonstrators said the logs, which police say they just found, bolster their allegations of civil rights violations.
The probable cause to arrest the protesters as they retrieved food from their parked van? They were wearing black -- a color choice the FBI and police associated with anarchists, according to the police records.
Wearing black = probable cause. The FBI: the real "fashion police".