The Bush Files

A sampling of the day’s best independent news, views, and resources on US politics, keeping an eye on the Bush Administration. Updated each weekday.

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Nov. 9, 2001

Revisiting the recount — CBS Marketwatch
After a delay of a month and a half, the National Opinion Research Center has “quietly” released its Florida recount data. According to William Spain, the story is set to break Monday, as agreed to by all of the sponsoring news organizations.

Silent over oil — Alternet
George Bush and Osama bin Laden aren’t talking about the importance of oil in the fight against Afghanistan, even though both sides know the current conflict is also about control of the oil-rich region, writes Michael T. Klare. Despite the many other layers to the struggle, Klare says “it is not possible to fully appreciate the origins and significance of the conflict without considering the historic role of oil politics.”

New war strategy needed — The New Republic
The Bush administration has not established a feasible and defined course for the war in Afghanistan, Lawrence Kaplan contends. Comparing the Afghan conflict to Clinton-era campaigns against Bosnia and Iraq, both of which Bush has criticized, Kaplan says Bush’s team wants to “escalate the war, but not micromanage it.” Kaplan says the White House has given considerable tactical leeway but little strategic guidance to General Tommy R. Franks, the commander of US forces in the Middle East. The White House, Kaplan says, has emphasized an air campaign even after most of the targets have already been destroyed. While this kind of warfare may limit US casualties, Kaplan says the continued strength of Taliban frontline units suggests the US attacks may be accomplishing little.

Nov. 8, 2001

Gore ballots more likely to be tossed out — Tallahassee Democrat
There’s still no conclusive evidence as to whether George W. Bush or Al Gore really won last year’s election, and since Sept. 11 the issue has largely fallen off the public’s radar. But various media outlets continue to crank out new analyses, like this one written up by Nancy Cook Lauer. The Tallahasee Democrat, helped by hired experts, found that ballots from Florida precincts which supported Gore were far more likely to be thrown out on technicalities than were ballots from precincts in which Bush prevailed. In addition, predominantly black precincts had almost twice as many spoiled ballots than the state average.

What if Gore were president? — Reuters
Suppose Al Gore had won the contest in Florida. If so, would he be doing any better at handling the war on terrorism than Bush? Carol Giacomo reports that experts largely agree that Gore would be pursuing a military strategy similar to Bush’s. But those same observers also say Gore would probably be enjoying less public adoration and bipartisan support in Congress. Norman Orenstein of the American Enterprise Institute tells Giacomo that while Bush has had unprecedented support from opposition Democrats, the reverse would not be true for Gore. Orenstein suggests that, under a Gore administration, congressional Republicans would by now be blaming Gore and former President Bill Clinton for not having eliminated Usama bin Ladin when they had the opportunity.

Nov. 7, 2001

Bush told agents to back off bin Ladin’s family — Sydney Morning Herald
Just after George W. Bush was elected president, incoming administration officials instructed the FBI to back off in its investigation of Usama bin Ladin’s Saudi relatives who were living in the United States, according to a British investigative news program. Journalists for the program intimated that the Bush administration was doing a favor for the Saudi royal family, which has ties to US defense contractors and oil companies associated with the Bush family. Documents obtained by the British journalists seem to show that the FBI had been investigating Usama’s brothers, Abdullah and Omar, for suspected ties to an Islamic terrorist group. But shortly after the 2000 election,”intelligence agencies were told to “back off” from investigating the bin Ladin family and the Saudi royals, and that angered field agents,” according to the show, which aired on BBC2.

Rove goes Hollywood — Los Angeles Times
President Bush’s senior adviser, Karl Rove, is headed for Hollywood this weekend for a confab with the entertainment industry’s top executives. Times reporter Dana Calvo says the meeting signals that Bush is taking the media’s role in the ongoing war effort ever more seriously. Only last month, two mid-level White House operatives met informally with a handful of Hollywood producers. Now, Calvo says, there is evidence of a “rising power quotient on both sides.” While White House staff had no comment on Rove’s agenda for the meeting, an invitation to the event, sent to about 40 members of Hollywood’s elite, makes it clear. “The anticipated outcome of the meeting would be an initial plan encompassing several substantive ways we can lend support to our nation’s cause,” the invitation reportedly reads. Calvo reports that, while some industry officials and scholars are urging that the administration’s input be carefully watched, “it is clear Washington is driving the discussions.”

Nov. 6, 2001

White House struggles for coherence — Newsday
Last week The New York Times reported that Bush administration officials were nervous about the “muddled effort to project a coherent, convincing message to Americans about the war in Afghanistan and their safety at home.” Their solution is to put President Bush back in front of the country to deliver a few well-crafted speeches. Newsday’s Robert Reno says the new strategy “sounds suspiciously like we’re being set up for a White House coherence offensive, a spin operation that will make us dizzy if not nauseated.” Reno says the White House appears distracted by concerns it cannot control its image. “Call it incoherence or call it hysteria, the White House’s disposition to cover its own fanny is unseemly at a time when Americans are desperately confused about how to cover theirs,” Reno argues.

A troubling tendency to control information — The American Prospect
On Sept. 11, President Bush met his verbal demons head-on. He was faced with the challenge of comforting a stricken nation and had to do so on live TV with almost no script. The results, John Prados says, “reflected poorly on the President.” So perhaps it should not come as a surprise that the government publication which catalogs the president’s public statement, known as the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, did not appear during the week following the Sept. 11 attacks. Still, Prados suggests that the publication’s conspicuous absence was just the first sign of the Bush administration’s ongoing campaign to crack down on public access to information. Prados suggests that the administration’s subsequent attempts to further control information, “some selfish, others merely reflecting short-term thinking,” are “already threatening the democracy we tout around the world.”

Nov. 5. 2001

George W. gets called out — News Network International (Pakistan)
Taliban Foreign Minister Maulvi Wakil Ahmed Mutawakil has proposed a bare-knuckle brawl to settle the differences between the US and the Taliban, reports Pakistan’s top news network, NNI. Mutawakil would like to see a “one-to-one fight” between President George W. Bush, Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair, and Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar.

Bush’s leadership goes AWOL, again — The New Republic
In the hours after the Sept. 11 attacks, the world wondered where George W. Bush had gone. He may be back in office now, but The New Republic’s Ryan Lizza argues that the leadership Bush should provide is still missing. As the threat switched from hijacked airplanes to anthrax-laced envelopes, Bush seemed unable to address the domestic crisis, Lizza writes. “The only memorable thing the president has said about the topic that has dominated public discussion for the last three weeks is, ‘I don’t have anthrax,'” Lizza says.


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