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Posts Tagged ‘George W. Bush’

Supreme Conservatives Drag U.S. Ceaselessly into the (Jim Crow) Past

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013



“Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.”

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, dissenting opinionShelby County v. Holder

Re-Legalizing Electoral Racism; Red State Republicans ‘Free at Last’

June 25, 2013, will go down in infamy as the day when a radically conservative majority of the Supreme Court ripped the guts out of the historic protections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, “the crown jewel of the civil rights movement” that was so proudly signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Congressman John R. Lewis, who was beaten nearly to death by state troopers in the famous “Bloody Sunday” civil rights march in Selma, Alabama, in March 1965 (see photo below), declared the decision “a dagger in the heart” of the Voting Rights Act.

What the 5–4 decision, signed by Chief Justice John Roberts, does, nearly 50 years after its signing, is declare unconstitutional the single most important part of the Act (section 4), which identifies the states and counties that must submit to oversight (or preclearance) by the Justice Department before changing “any voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure with respect to voting” in any “covered jurisdiction.” In effect, the conservative majority struck down section 4 as a sneaky way of nullifying section 5, without actually ruling on the constitutionality of section 5. As the New York Times’s Adam Liptak explains:

The majority held that the coverage formula in Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, originally passed in 1965 and most recently updated by Congress in 1975, was unconstitutional. The section determined which states must receive clearance from the Justice Department or a federal court in Washington before they made minor changes to voting procedures, like moving a polling place, or major ones, like redrawing electoral districts. . . .

The decision did not strike down Section 5 [which sets out the preclearance requirement], but without Section 4, the later section is without significance—unless Congress passes a new bill for determining which states would be covered.

These jurisdictions that were required to seek preclearance include the very states—mostly in the Old Confederacy—that were the worst offenders against minorities seeking the right to vote. Indeed, it is no accident that it was Shelby County, Alabama—i.e., Birmingham—that brought the suit against the U.S. Justice Department. In the 1960s it was the Justice Department, very often backed up by the National Guard, that was on the front lines of protecting southern blacks against discrimination, vicious racism, and murder.


In “An Assault on the Voting Rights Act,” the New York Times editorial board declared the decision “damaging and intellectually dishonest,” and that was just in the first sentence. In a Times op-ed, Richard L. Hasen, author of The Voting Wars: From Florida 2000 to the Next Election Meltdown, writes:

The court pretends it is not striking down the act but merely sending the law back to Congress for tweaking; it imagines that Congress forced its hand; and it fantasizes that voting discrimination in the South is a thing of the past. None of this is true.

In the Shelby decision, we see a somewhat more open version of a pattern that is characteristic of the Roberts court, in which the conservative justices tee up major constitutional issues for dramatic reversal. First the court wrecked campaign finance law in Citizens United. On Tuesday it took away a crown jewel of the civil rights movement. And as we saw in Monday’s Fisher case, affirmative action is next in line . . . 

John Roberts, who has long sought to weaken the Voting Rights Act, wrote in the majority opinion that because voter registration among black voters is higher than it was at the time the Voting Rights Act was passed, the protections afforded by the Act are no longer needed. (Click here for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s scathing dissent, in which she wrote, “Hubris is a fit word for today’s demolition of the VRA. . . . The court errs egregiously by overriding Congress’s decision” to reauthorize the Act.) As though mere registration is the same thing as actually being able to vote, or your vote actually being counted. Ask the citizens of counties in Florida and Ohio in the contested elections of 2000 and 2004, or those who were forced to wait in interminable lines in 2008, 2012. The New Yorker’s Amy Davidson points out:

Ginsburg quoted an F.B.I. investigation of Alabama legislators who referred to black voters as “Aborigines” and talked about how to keep them from the polls: “These conversations occurred not in the 1870’s, or even in the 1960’s, they took place in 2010.”

The United States Senate approved an extension of the law in 2006 by a  98–0 vote, and the House by a 390–33 vote; 33 Republicans (all white men, except one white woman, from North Carolina) voted against it. Former President George W. Bush, who nominated Roberts as chief justice, said many fine words about the importance of the Voting Rights Act in a ceremony at the White House. If you watch the videotape he sounds sincere; perhaps he was. Had the Voting Right’s Acts provisions been truly observed and enforced in the election of 2000, however—and had a similar 5–4 Supreme Court decision not ruled that Florida’s recounting of votes be stopped—George W. Bush would not have been in the White House.


Bush White House Ignored 9/11 Warnings

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

The Deafness Before the Storm


Briefly noted, highly recommended:

Kurt Eichenwald, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and a former reporter for the New York Times, wrote a strong but restrained op-ed piece for the Times yesterday describing in more detail than is generally known how the George W. Bush administration ignored repeated CIA warnings of an imminent attack on the U.S. by Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda—an attack expected to be of major proportions. The administration was focused on Saddam Hussein and did not want to hear about Osama bin Laden.

Eichenwald’s account matches the testimony of Richard A. Clarke, chairman of the White House’s Counter-terrorism Security Group (1992–2003), as well as key findings of the 9/11 Commission. As Clarke details in his book Against All Enemies, he tried from Bush’s first days in office till 9/11 itself to get a meeting with the president and vice president Dick Cheney and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, but was repeatedly rebuffed.

Before we post a few excerpts below, let us note that despite receiving all these increasingly urgent presidential briefings before and throughout August 2001, George W. Bush remained on vacation until September 4. (Just imagine a Democratic president doing this—or not being impeached afterward.)

Let us also point out that Mitt Romney’s foreign policy team is mainly staffed by former Bush administration “neocons.” Mr. Romney, who did not mention the war in Afghanistan even once in his nomination acceptance speech (transcript here), has said that Russia “is without question our number one geopolitical foe.” Russia, really? So, how seriously would Romney take similar warnings?

From “The Deafness before the Storm” by Kurt Eichenwald:

The direct warnings to Mr. Bush about the possibility of a Qaeda attack began in the spring of 2001. By May 1, the Central Intelligence Agency told the White House of a report that “a group presently in the United States” was planning a terrorist operation. Weeks later, on June 22, the daily brief reported that Qaeda strikes could be “imminent,” although intelligence suggested the time frame was flexible. 

. . . the White House failed to take significant action. Officials at the Counterterrorism Center of the C.I.A. grew apoplectic. On July 9, at a meeting of the counterterrorism group, one official suggested that the staff put in for a transfer so that somebody else would be responsible when the attack took place, two people who were there told me in interviews. The suggestion was batted down, they said, because there would be no time to train anyone else. 

Could the 9/11 attack have been stopped, had the Bush team reacted with urgency to the warnings contained in all of those daily briefs? We can’t ever know. And that may be the most agonizing reality of all.

Read “The Deafness before the Storm” in full here.


Quick question: Would the U.S. be at war today in Afghanistan 11 years later—or ever—if the Supreme Court had not stopped the counting of votes in December 2000? Afghanistan and Pakistan and Yemen and all the other places where the War on Terror(ism) is ongoing? (Richard A. Clarke served as counterterrorism security adviser in the White House from the 1980s to 2003, serving under president Ronald Reagan through George W. Bush.)


Kurt Eichenwald is also the author of 500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars, just published. See his Sept. 12 interview with Democracy Now! here.


More about September 11 at Levees Not War: 

Is Katrina More Significant Than September 11? (9/11/10)

We’re Not Forgetting (9/11/11)

Anti-Islamic Furor Helps al Qaeda, Endangers America: On the proposed Islamic cultural center in lower Manhattan (Aug. 23, 2010)


BP Oil Flood Brought to You by U.S. Supreme Court?

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

[cross-posted at Daily Kos]

Let’s play what-if: Would the BP Oil Flood have happened if the Rehnquist Supreme Court in its Bush v. Gore ruling had not stopped the state of Florida’s vote-counting? We think maybe not. We think it’s not too far a stretch to say that the BP Oil Flood is a direct consequence of the Supreme Court’s 5–4 ruling in Bush v. Gore, about which dissenting associate justice John Paul Stevens lamented:

“Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year’s Presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear.”

Even though the Clinton administration was not noted for its environmental activism, we can be sure that if Al Gore had gone from vice president to president—which he nearly did, at least by a half million popular votes—he would have been a tougher regulator of the oil and energy industry than George W. Bush. The Bush administration in effect was the oil and energy industry, with either direct or close ties (including substantial investments) held by the president, vice president, defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, national security adviser and later secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, energy secretary Spencer Abraham, EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman, commerce secretary Donald Evans, and on and on. The Bush method of cabinet selection—a sharpened version of the usual Republican way—was to appoint as secretary a person who came from the industry that would be overseen by the department in question, or disagreed with the department’s reason for being. For example, energy secretary Spencer Abraham, when he was a senator from Michigan, in 1999 had cosponsored a bill (S.896) to abolish the Energy Department and transfer the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to the Defense Department.


“Kill the Bill” vs. “Stop the War”: A Tale of Two Protests

Sunday, April 11th, 2010

[cross-posted at Daily Kos]

Has anyone besides us found it kind of odd that there’s been so much “fire and brimstone” about the health care reform bill compared to Bush’s Iraq War?

The first thing we’ll say about the violence and threats following Congress’s passage of health care reform—officially the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—is that right-wing politicians and radio/TV “hate-spewers” have stoked outrage among their followers and are still fueling the flames. They thrive on conflict; it boosts ratings and fund-raising. The second observation, which we find more intriguing, is that there is a shocking disparity between the opponents of Obama’s health care reform and the anti-war protesters who opposed Bush’s drive to invade Iraq. Both presidential “initiatives” have been controversial, but the temperament and character of the public protests of each are different in the extreme. It is more than a little disconcerting that a push to expand public access to health care is more violently opposed than a determined march to a war of choice. Look at the aims, the purposes underlying the two initiatives, and think about which warrants the more passionate support, and which the stronger opposition.

Maybe the different responses are not so surprising, though, when you consider the traditional American readiness to wage war (as long as we personally don’t have to fight it, or have our taxes raised to fund it), and our reluctance to spend money on (rather, to be taxed for) public health, education, or other social programs. The Pentagon has the credit card.

“Break Their Windows. Break Them Now.”

In recent weeks millions of Americans have been alarmed by the death threats and bricks through office windows of Democratic members of Congress, the spitting and ugly slurs at the Capitol when the House of Representatives was debating the health care bill. Americans have been troubled, too, by the silence of the Republican leadership, who have opened their mouths only to say that “the American people have a right to be angry”—then to claim the Democrats are to blame for the threats and violence against Democrats. (This is akin to Iowa Rep. Steve King’s combining a near-justification of Joseph Stack’s flying his plane into a Texas federal building in Austin in February with self-promotion of his own calls to abolish the IRS. If only we’d listened!)


The Destroyer

Friday, December 7th, 2007

“I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of
President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability,
preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

LNW_Bush.2001.swear-in.CNNIf a president recites this oath, is he legally bound to take care of the nation itself, or only to ‘preserve, protect and defend the Constitution’ of the United States (however White House legal counsel may interpret that clause)? Does he have some ‘wiggle room’ here? (Does the oath pertain only to duly elected chief executives?)

Although he has (twice) placed his hand on a bible and spoken the words, George W. Bush has never been serious about protecting the United States—not on Aug. 6, 2001, when he was shown a Presidential Daily Briefing titled ‘Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.,’ and not on September 11, when the nation’s defenses were suspiciously slack. He disregarded his duty when for a year after 9/11 he opposed the establishment of a department of homeland security. And then there was Katrina .