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    Inside U.S.A.: A Lame Duck Can Be Dangerous
    Posted on Tuesday, July 19 @ 19:10:48 UTC
    Topic: Bushwacked
    BushwackedBy Gerald Rellick, civillibertarian.blogspot.com

    To call George Bush a lame duck may be an understatement. After just six months into his second term, George Bush's "political capital" is nowhere to be found as the president finds himself effectively blocked and stymied on a host of policy matters.

    The country is clearly unhappy with Bush's Social Security privatization scheme and Congress has taken note. According to the Nation, House Speaker and Bush stalwart, Dennis Hastert, indicated that he will not proceed with a vote on a Social Security plan "anytime soon"--despite Bush's wishes.

    A month ago, the House defied Bush on a key provision of the USA Patriot Act, which, according to a story in the Los Angeles Times, "would have enabled terrorism investigators to check out the reading habits of patrons of libraries and bookstores." An amendment to block the provision, introduced by Rep. Bernie Sanders, passed by a vote of 238 to 137. Just a week before the vote, Bush campaigned in Ohio alongside Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to put his personal touch on the Patriot Act legislation.

    On the matter of stem cell research, Bush is finding that the issue is not so controversial after all. The reality is that a sizeable majority of Americans support expanded stem cell research for the hope if offers to treat a wide range of deadly diseases. And in accord with the public view, the House recently passed bipartisan legislation that would remove the restrictions Bush had placed on federal funding for stem cells. The legislation is now before the Senate where Republican antiabortion Senators Orrin Hatch and Gordon Smith are leading the way. Bush has threatened his first veto ever but one has to ask: Would Bush would opt for a showdown that would expose him standing in defiance of Congress and the country's wishes with only the Religious Right at his side?

    On a lesser known front, the Bush administration had sought to reduce or eliminate five antidrug programs, for a saving of $1.6 billion, in favor of more money for the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration. However, a congressional group known as the Congressional Caucus to Fight and Control Methamphetamine defied the White House and GOP congressional leadership by leading the effort to restore $10 million in antidrug funds for police programs - on top of $350 million they had won through negotiations. Steve Bodzin of the Los Angeles Times writes that "The group, which has more than 100 House members, is waging an increasingly effective fight to counter the president's proposed budget cuts and to funnel more money - not less - into domestic law enforcement." This action is particularly significant because, as Bodzin writes, "The bipartisan caucus has grown from 21 mostly West Coast and Rocky Mountain legislators to include lawmakers from 35 states, including Republicans from some of the country's most conservative areas - western Utah, rural Iowa and exurban Missouri - who would normally be strong supporters of the administration's security agenda." [emphasis added].

    The list on the domestic front goes on and on, but here is my favorite. As Bush tries to cut domestic spending to pay for his massive tax cuts to the rich and the $5 billion-per- month cost of the Iraq war, one of the biggest ticket items being targeted is Medicaid, the $329-billion-a-year program jointly funded by federal and state governments that serves 53 million Americans on a broad range of health issues. Bush's original proposal for cuts of $60 billion was reduced by Congress to $10 billion. While this was might have been enough of a victory for the states, it turns out that the governors may have sensed Bush's weakness. With Medicaid rolls and per person costs both growing, the governors are now challenging Bush on the $10 billion cut. The governors' plan is complex, calling for a major restructuring and modernization of Medicaid with greater responsibility going to the states. But here is the kicker: All 50 governors have formally endorsed the proposal. When was the last time anyone heard of all 50 state governors agreeing on a single issue-except for plague and pestilence-and challenging the federal government in the process? But the governors' plans are being taken seriously. Both Senate and House committees with Medicaid oversight will be working with the governors through the summer months.

    On the foreign policy front, matters are equally grim for the Bush administration as the Iraq war grinds on relentlessly, but now in the face of a majority of public disapproval. On the international scene, outright hatred of the United States' polices, particularly as concerns the Iraq war, is unprecedented. Consider that Italian authorities recently issued warrants for the arrests of 13 CIA operatives who abducted Abu Omar, an Egyptian cleric, off the streets of Milan in February 2003 and flew him to Cairo, Egypt, for interrogation by Egyptian authorities. Omar was released after 14 months, but has again disappeared and is presumed to be back in custody in Egypt. Omar was under investigation by Italian authorities for terrorist-recruiting activities.

    The actions by the Italian government can be seen as "enough already"-a reaction not only against the Bush administration's bullying tactics with its allies, but also its ineptness in the war on terror. Omar had been under intense investigation since early 2003, and according to the LA Times article, "The abduction of Abu Omar forced Italian authorities to abort an extensive case they were building against him. His arrest had been imminent, they said, and formal charges against him are pending." In the same Times article, one of the Italian prosecutors in the case, Armando Spatoro, is quoted as saying, "Kidnapping Abu Omar was not only a crime against the state of Italy, but also it did great damage to the war on terrorism. We could have continued the investigation and found evidence on other people."

    What's a Lame Duck to do?

    What might we expect from George Bush if he views himself heading for lame duck status and the junk pile of history? Although Bush may be blocked on the home front, this is the age of "presidential war" and in his capacity as commander in chief he does not need congressional approval to act.

    George Bush has already demonstrated his recklessness as president -- his contempt for the truth, the law and the Constitution. And we know the administration's Nuclear Posture Review of 2001 states that nuclear forces are to be part of new global strike capability to deter and preempt security threats wherever they may arise. The longstanding U.S. position to treat nuclear weapons as a deterrent force has now given way to a new reality and a new precedent, namely, that nuclear weapons might be used in a first-strike against threatening nations or organizations as part of the war on terror.

    During the period of collapse of the Soviet Union, there was concern that the Soviet's loss of conventional forces would make them more likely to rely on their nuclear capability. The first president Bush and his foreign policy team of James Baker and Brent Scowcroft deserve great credit for effectively handling this transitional period. But now the roles are reversed. With 140,000 American troops pinned down in Iraq and no military draft in the works, it is the United States that has a weakened conventional force. Would a weakened and desperate George Bush feel compelled to play the nuclear card if faced with a serious military or terrorist threat from Syria, Iran or North Korea? Might this be the real price the U.S. and the world pays for Bush's folly? A leading Republican critic, Senator Chuck Hagel, is clearly concerned with what he sees as leaderless confusion in the White House. Hagel remarked recently about the Iraq war that, "The White House is completely disconnected from reality. It's like they're just making it up as they go along."

    Perhaps Bush's ship of state, searching the world for terrorists, can be likened to the Nantucket whaler Pequod as it searched the seas obsessively for the White Whale-both ships under the command of a captain who, to use Senator Hagel's words again, "is completely disconnected from reality?"

    Gerald S. Rellick, Ph.D., worked in the aerospace industry for 22 years. He now teaches in the California Community College system.

    Reprinted from:

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