Democratic Underground

It's Always 180° at Shrub's White House — But is it Shady?
May 8, 2001
by Susan Sigandres

What gives with all these retractions by the junta? Since the installation, we have witnessed a most incredible series of about-faces, turnarounds, switcheroos, and flip flops. I cannot imagine a more thankless job than one in the White House Office of Damage Control (ODC). No one there seems to be able to get a grip on how to handle policy matters. I must say that the only thing the ODC has succeeded in doing so far is hiding its own turnover rate, which has got to be stratospheric (or is that hemispheric?).

The pattern of reversals began almost immediately, when Shrub retracted the story put out by the ODC that President Clinton and his guests had stolen items from Air Force 1. Then Andy Card's announcement that the AIDS and race relations offices would be shut down had to be reversed. Then things got really bad.

During one hellish period in March, Shrub's linguistic incompetence, foreign policy ignorance, and unfamiliarity with domestic events combined with Powell's loose lips and Whitman's flapjaw to send the ODC into a tailspin. Bush mistakenly said he was against the death penalty, when he isn't; that the U.S. had more than one current agreement with North Korea, when it doesn't; and that efforts to get moving on the euphemistically termed "office of faith based initiatives," weren't stalled, when they were. On top of that, the ODC had to reverse two public statements by the Secretary of State, on Iraq and North Korea, and one by the EPA chief, the now infamous decision to shrug off the campaign pledge to limit carbon dioxide emissions.

Moving right along, there was a reversal of the decision to stop salmonella testing of beef served to school children through the federal school lunch program. Shrub also backpedaled on his insistence that his education program include vouchers. Then the ODC told Paul O'Neill to reverse his decision not to divest himself of his sizable Alcoa holdings. Then there was the backtracking during the China incident, when the ODC changed its mind about having Shrub talk tough and instead had him call poppy's buddy Skowcroft before things got so out of hand that the US would be cornered into apologizing.

Well, it looks like now it's Rummy's turn to do a turnaround. A Pentagon spokesman announced that Rummy decided to suspend all US military relations with China. Then this announcement was - you got it - reversed. Of course, the folks at the ODC don't like to 'fess up to 180° turns, but they sure are running out synonyms for "clarification." They didn't even bother looking one up for Rummy. The ODC's script for a different Pentagon spokesman later in the same day said flatly "that was not his intention." I guess that's progress of some sort on the ODC's part.

At first glance, all this bungling may strike one as highly amusing. A second glance may evoke the thought that the junta's corporate credentials are showing - the dipsy-doodling is undeniably reminiscent of how executives go about doing things. However, let's look beyond the obvious to find the even more obvious. Shhhhhh. Don't look now but the ODC is most likely deliberately planning these reversals in a devastatingly clever attempt to keep us all off balance as to what the junta has in store for next.

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