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Monday, July 28, 2008

All in the Family

Ken Kerr Bio

I was in the Elk’s Club last Tuesday. This is a place that one would think is pretty secure Bush Country. There are several flat screen TVs above the bar and several are usually tuned-in to Fox News. However, this evening all were tuned to the local DC news broadcast.

President Bush appeared on the TV and was reassuring the American Public that we are just fine, the economy is growing, gas pricing are falling and things are looking up. The kind of thing the Elk’s Club crowd would usually buy in to.

A few barstools away, a man said—intending for all of us to hear—“Sure, he’s gonna be fine. He’s a multi-millionaire. He got what he wanted—he’s rich. The hell with the rest of us.”

I looked around—sure enough, I was still in the Elk’s Club. And I thought, “What has happened to the base?” My, my, how times have changed.

I remember when Al Gore won/lost the 2000 election. I tried to rationalize it over Thanksgiving dinner and told my conservative Republican brothers and sister that maybe this was a good thing. I predicted, in November of 2000, that four years of a Bush presidency, combined with a Republican Congress, was all American would need to see that the Republicans-left unchecked, could not be trusted to look out for the average American.

All the blustering about family values, fiscal responsibility, and lower taxes, would reveal themselves to be a cruel hoax. Just lies they told people to gain and abuse power. After four years, America would be so disgusted with the Republican excess and lies and abuses and secrecy and arrogance and contempt that we’d have the Democratic Party in power for the next 20 years.

Soon after inauguration, my prediction was coming true. For the first 8 months of Bush Inc., all went according to plan: 6 hour work days, long weekends, even longer vacations. Bush showed himself to be kind of lazy, completely incurious, and a divider—not the uniter he promised to be.

Let’s take a look; shall we?

In January 2001, Bush suspended implementation of most of former President Clinton's late-term executive orders regarding the environment, including the continued use of snowmobiles in Yellowstone National Park. Bush’s EPA lifted air-pollution standards and former Sen. Spencer Abraham—who tried to abolish the Energy Department while in Congress—was approved as Energy secretary.

In February 2001, Interior Secretary Gale Norton sought to "adjust the boundaries" of Clinton-designated national monuments while Bush planed to cut funding for environmental policy enforcement by 7 percent. The Republican-controlled Senate introduced the now-infamous bill that would allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge-- the cornerstone of Bush's energy policy.

In March 2001, Bush reversed a campaign pledge and announced he will not order mandatory reductions of carbon dioxide emissions from the nation's electrical plants. He also withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol. Mining industry lobbyist, J. Steven Griles was nominated for Interior deputy secretary.

In April 2001, Bush broke another campaign promise and abandoned plans to invest $100 million a year for rainforest conservation. Bush’s Assistant secretary is Bennett Raley, who once testified that the Endangered Species Act should be repealed. And Vice President Dick Cheney met with Enron executives to write the administration’s energy policy.

By May of 2001, Bush and company placed a freeze on new proposals for the national park system. James Connaughton, who defended General Electric in Superfund fights with the EPA, was nominated as the chair of his Council on Environmental Quality. Bush released his super-secret energy plan, devised in super-secret fashion by a super-secret task force headed by super-secret Vice President Cheney.

Then the first cracks in Carl Rove’s Permanent Republican Majority began to appear.

In June 2001, Vermont Sen. Jim Jeffords, disgusted by Bush’s environmental policies, abandoned the Republican Party to become an Independent. This gave nominal control of the Senate to the Democrats. Unperturbed, Bush nominated former timber lobbyist, Mark Rey, as Undersecretary of Agriculture for natural resources and environment.

In July of 2001, the administration announced it will open 1.5 million acres of the Gulf of Mexico to oil drilling -- but not near Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's shorelines. The U.S. is conspicuously absent at Kyoto Protocol climate talks in Bonn, Germany.

The Justice Department indicated, in August 2001, that it wanted to overturn a federal court order blocking oil and gas exploration off the California coast. Another crack appeared when the General Accounting Office sent a letter to Bush demanding the release of documents relating to the deliberations of the super-secret Cheney-led Energy Task Force. Citing executive privilege, Bush refused to reveal with whom Cheney met.

By this time, I was patting myself on the back. My prediction was way ahead of schedule. Bush’s approval ratings were in a freefall.

And then September . . .

Maybe I was wrong. Maybe there was something to this man. The world was with us. Here was an opportunity for greatness. Maybe, just maybe, he was a man for our time. . . Nah.

There were two spikes in Bush’s approval ratings: when the war began and when Sadam was captured. Aside from that, Bush was right back to where he was in August of 2001. It took two years for the confusion of 9/11 to begin to clear. Too late, however, for a frightened America to deny him a second term of excess—I mean office.

My prediction was back on track—it just took a two-year break.

This Thanksgiving, I’ll remind my brothers and sister of my 2000 prediction. Let’s hope they have the opportunity to try and make a similar prediction on a Democratic Whitehouse and Congress. I welcome the challenge. My 2000 prediction has 20 years to go.

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