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Veering Right

Veering Right: How the Bush Administration Subverts the Law for Conservative Causes

Copyright Date: 2004
Edition: 1
Pages: 455
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  • Book Info
    Veering Right
    Book Description:

    In this searing indictment of current administration policy, Charles Tiefer, a distinguished scholar of national legal affairs and former solicitor of the House of Representatives, argues that President George W. Bush methodically manipulates the law to promote right-wing causes. The beneficiaries of these machinations range from frontline pro-weapon and anti-women's rights groups to major industries that profit from lax environmental standards and military intervention in resource-rich regions. Accessibly written, legally rigorous, and meticulously documented,Veering Rightdemonstrates how the administration's already-ample arsenal for accomplishing ideological goals was expanded with weapons such as Attorney General John Ashcroft's social crusades and the polarizing 2004 election campaign. Tiefer lays out a compelling case for how the administration consistently erects barriers to media and congressional oversight that might expose covert motivations to public scrutiny. With an eye on the future, the White House is building a durable and potentially dominant machine for pursuing ideological goals by awarding lifetime judgeships and by exchanging favors for campaign funding. This book presents eye-opening evidence that ultra-conservatives could achieve previously unimaginable successes during a second Bush term. As a former Solicitor of the House of Representatives, Tiefer possesses a wealth of insight gleaned from decades of no-holds-barred investigations and judicial struggles. His wide-ranging perspective takes into account cultural changes, constitutional issues, partisan and electoral developments, and political personalities. The most exhaustive analysis to date of the Bush administration's real agenda, this book provides a rare insider's view of the strategic, devious, and potentially overpowering ways that presidents make ideological use of the law.Veering RightDocuments How* President Bush's secrecy and deception undermined the democratic process by misleading Congress and the public about international and domestic matters ranging from doctored Iraq weapons intelligence to covered-up drugmaker subsidies paid for by seniors * Bush's first term lays the groundwork for even more extreme right wing policies if he is re-elected. This agenda includes tilting the nation's tax structure against the middle class in Democratic states, weakening traditional Medicare by concentrating rising costs on poorer and sicker seniors, and exporting jobs via the trade fast track * John Ashcroft used religiosity and race-baiting to build his political career and, after 9/11, blocked questioning of his abuses-ranging from concealed undermining of the Bill of Rights to promoting the intolerance of the religious right-by labeling it as suspicious and even treasonous * Bush turned the public's reaction after 9/11 away from the logical Saudi suspects and against Iraq in a spectacular double-play to push his agenda in the world's oil patch * Secretary of the Interior Gail Norton and her crew of lawyer-lobbyists ran the public's resources and its pollution controls like a candy store for pariah industries * Bush's domestic legal gambits around big money paid off in 2004 with a historical gross campaign war chest as a quid pro quo for favors rendered * The Bush Administration dismantled international legal regimes ranging from arms control and women's rights to global climate control and international tobacco regulation * Bush's unilateralist alienation of potential support abroad hobbled both the Iraq occupation and the effort against terrorism

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93988-2
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    He secretly started planning the occupation of Iraq from September 17, 2001, manipulated the issue right before the 2002 congressional race, and kept the public in the dark about the price tag until late 2003. His attorney general, John Ashcroft, would not let the FBI investigate terrorist suspects’ gun buys—the NRA wouldn’t like that—but sent out the FBI fifty times to demand public-library patron information. In both cases Ashcroft told his trademark give-no-ground yet highly embroidered fables as cover stories. The president rammed trillion-dollar deficit-financed tax cuts for the rich through Congress using statutory power intended only for...

  5. 1 Getting Ready to Veer Right
    (pp. 9-34)

    The Bush administration’s approach to governance evolved through three stages in America’s two-decade march to the right: the realignment “South” underlying President Reagan, the further realignment “South” underlying the Gingrich-DeLay takeover, and Governor Bush’s development in Austin of his own, even further-out program. Basically it all came down to turning right in 1981, turning hard right in 1995, and in Texas altogether rejecting the steering wheel on the driver’s side and putting one in, special, to steer from the vehicle’s right side. While that account conveys the overall direction, it omits the nuance, particularly the very distinctive groups pushing and...

  6. 2 “Ashy”: The Social Conservative Agenda
    (pp. 35-76)

    By 2004 Attorney General John Ashcroft had succeeded, to a dreadful extent, in advancing social conservative causes and undermining civil liberties in this country. This chapter focuses on social conservative issues; the next, on civil liberties. Ashcroft had pushed far out on right-wing religious and social causes ranging from depriving women of their abortion rights to creating a national personal right to firearms. This chapter starts with the rise of social conservatism as a key Republican base, Ashcroft’s own ascent, and the social issues arising during his tenure. The chapter’s heart concerns how Ashcroft underminedRoe v. Wadeso as...

  7. 3 Flouting Civil Liberties: Libraries or Weapons?
    (pp. 77-103)

    In the aftermath of 9/11, Ashcroft’s assault on civil liberties came hard and fast, with many denials that it was politically motivated. The historical antecedents of this assault warrant some explanation. For many decades now, elements in the Republican Party have often played on public concerns about crime and security. (Then again, Republicans sometimes respond to this criticism by charging Democrats with fomenting class antagonism when they propose taxes on the rich to support popular programs for other classes.) In 1952 the young Republican candidate for vice president, Richard M. Nixon, hit Democrats hard with the demagogic “C3” theme formula,...

  8. 4 Domestic Affairs Veer Right
    (pp. 104-127)

    In his first year in office, President Bush abused the Budget Act to enact a trillion-dollar regressive tax cut, followed by another, even more regressive cut in 2003. After he rolled back President Clinton’s popular legacy initiatives, he mounted from November 2002 through 2004 an anti-environmental campaign, including secrecy aspects discussed in a later chapter. Bush also bent campaign finance to his service, with the anticipated yet still record scale of his 2004 fund-raising providing the engine and the discipline for his whole program.

    Most astonishing, President Bush pushed the domestic agenda with little or no popular mandate to do...

  9. 5 The Corruption
    (pp. 128-156)

    Bush’s acumen and system in raising money have been truly extraordinary. As governor and then president, Bush took campaign fund-raising to new extremes (to Heaven or to Hades, depending upon one’s perspective). He sought not only to fuel his own campaigns but also to advance two portentous conservative causes: strengthening ideological discipline within the Republican ranks and drawing lifeblood funds away from Democrats. His fund-raising efforts continued the cunning strategy started by the Gingrich-DeLay leadership of the House of Representatives in the early 1990s.

    Gingrich and DeLay had developed an approach, carefully kept as far from public notice as possible,...

  10. 6 Going It Alone
    (pp. 157-188)

    As of 1992 the United States followed multilateral approaches respecting established international institutions and law and earned grudging respect from the world. By 2004 President Bush had changed that, putting his unilateralist stamp—a conservative partisan stamp—on the conduct of international affairs.This chapter begins with the evolution of conservative causes in the 1990s and describes how the incoming president defined his ideological approach in part by the choices he made for his team, epitomized by Vice President Cheney and two legal lieutenants: Undersecretary of State John R. Bolton and U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick. I address the Bush...

  11. 7 Veering from Riyadh to Baghdad
    (pp. 189-236)

    President Bush wielded power far beyond that of his two centrist predecessors to lead the country by means of the sense of urgency he created, secrecy, and his legal redefinition of America’s enemies and foreign commitments. After 9/11 he used his legal doctrine of preemptive war, which seemed a nice fit with his party’s goals in 2002 and 2004 but a poor one with international law and world consensus. And the results mattered; his early approach shaped the international and local terms of the occupation of Iraq, and these in turn shaped ensuing international relations and the situation in Iraq....

  12. 8 Blindfolding the Public
    (pp. 237-295)

    President Bush needed to blindfold the public, and he succeeded. He ran the most secretive presidency since Watergate, thirty years ago: secretive as to both foreign and domestic affairs, secretive about matters that lie outside the scripted presidential “message” prescribed for Congress and the public, and particularly secretive about plans for achieving conservative political and ideological goals.¹ Along with formal uses and manipulations of law—such as secrecy policies, concealment measures, invocations of privilege, and strategies for fending off lawsuits for information and stalling or disabling congressional probes—also comes brilliant stage-managing. The formal and what we might term “informal”...

  13. 9 If This Goes On
    (pp. 296-320)

    What does President Bush’s approach to governance in his 2001–2004 term tell us about the future? We can measure those prospects against the standard of his apparent goal: consolidating a national power structure under the dominance—for the foreseeable future—of his party’s most conservative wing despite the public’s opposition or indifference to its policies. In many ways, the unprecedented speed and intensity with which Bush implemented his agenda from 2001 to 2004 can be expected, barring major upsets, to lock in many aspects of that agenda for at least the next two presidential terms (through 2012). But the...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 321-396)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 397-422)
  16. Index
    (pp. 423-442)