By Their Deeds

It is accepted truth among pundits—those Molly Ivins calls “the chattering classes”—that George W. Bush is a moderate.

It is accepted truth among pundits—those Molly Ivins calls “the chattering classes”—that George W. Bush is a moderate. Appointments like John Ashcroft and Gale Norton, according to this theory, are simply red meat meant to pacify the right wing of the party—those who want to get government out of the boardroom and into the bedroom.


Au contraire. In reality, Colin Powell and Christy Whitman were appointed to pacify the moderates, to deflect our attention from the real powers in this Administration—big business (especially oil and gas interests) and the culture warriors. Examples abound:


·        Bush nominees to the Department of the Interior have included Steven Griles, a mining industry lobbyist; Patricia Scarlet, who has opposed environmental regulation (particularly tougher air pollution standards); and Bennett Raley, who once proposed repeal of the Endangered Species Act.

·        At the FCC, Bush appointee Michael Powell wants to deregulate media ownership, while giving cable companies the right to limit Web surfers’ open access to the internet.

·        At Justice, appointments have largely been drawn from the ultra-conservative Federalist Society to create what has been called the “right-wing dream team.” Thomas Sansonetti, Assistant Attorney General for Environment and Natural Resources, was a lobbyist for coal mining interests. J. Robert Flores has been a strong supporter of internet censorship. The list goes on.

·        Appeals court nominees so far include Jeffrey Sutton, who has worked to limit anti-discrimination laws, Michael McConnell, a pro-life advocate widely considered the intellectual father of the extreme right, and Carolyn Kuhl, a judge who has been severely criticized for her record on civil rights and privacy. (She also supported granting tax exempt status for Bob Jones University despite its racially discriminatory practices. The Supreme Court disagreed 8-1.)

·        Dr. Leon Kass, appointed to head the new National Bioethics Commission, opposes all embryonic stem-cell research. He calls his approach “the wisdom of repugnance.” That is, if you just don’t think something is right, it probably isn’t. (Tell that to the million and a half Parkinson’s sufferers in the U.S.)

·        Of course, we mustn’t overlook the “Enron boys”: SEC Chairman Harvey Pitt, former lawyer for Arthur Anderson and reportedly hand-picked by Kenneth Lay; Timothy White, Secretary of the Army and former vice-chair of Enron Energy; Robert Zoellick, Federal Trade Representative and former Enron advisor.

·        Women have been particular targets of Bush’s culture warriors. In its first hundred days, the Administration closed the White House Office on Women’s Issues; reinstated the “Mexico City Policy” prohibiting use of federal funds for overseas groups that perform—or even discuss—abortion; installed literally dozens of anti-choice appointees in positions critical to the protection of women’s choice; proposed dropping birth control from federal employees’ health insurance; restricted Medicaid patients’ access to RU-486; and cut funding to the EEOC, which protects women’s right to equal pay for equal work.


These appointees are not buffoons—far from it. They are qualified, talented and committed. While American attention is focused on the War on Terrorism, they are focused on changing America.