Bush Administration: What, Me Ethical?
By Scott C. Smith
It was a great day for America. On Jan. 20, 2001, George
W. Bush was sworn in as the 43rd President of the United States.
Bush promised a new era in Washington, with an administration
dedicated to meeting high ethical standards. On Jan. 22, 2001,
Bush urged his new staff to avoid "even the appearance of
impropriety" and to conduct themselves with humility and civility
"at all times." According to United Press International, Bush
assembled his staff to tell them he expected his White House
staff to meet the highest ethical standards. "We must remember
the high standards that come with high office…this begins
careful adherence with the rules. I expect every member of
this administration to stay well within the boundaries [that]
define legal and ethical conduct," Bush said, in remarks reported
by United Press International on Jan. 23, 2001.
The road to hell is paved with good intentions, right, George?
Apparently some staffers either missed the pep talk or decided
to ignore it entirely, when two "senior" Bush administration
officials revealed to columnist Robert Novak the name and
assignment of a CIA operative in 2003. In his July 14, 2003
column, Novak named the operative, wife to Ambassador Joe
Wilson. The outing was apparently in retaliation for a column
Wilson wrote for the New York Times about his mission
to Niger in 2002 to investigate whether or not Iraq had attempted
to purchase uranium. Wilson's column appeared in the July
6, 2003 New York Times. Wilson wrote, of his trip to
Niger, "Did the Bush administration manipulate intelligence
about Saddam Hussein's weapons program to justify an invasion
of Iraq? Based on my experience with the administration in
the months leading up to the war, I have little choice but
to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq's
nuclear weapon program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi
Novak's column came a week later.
Revealing the name of a CIA operative is a felony, by the
way. Not exactly behavior to stay "well within the boundaries
[that] define legal and ethical conduct," as Bush demanded.
Did heads roll following this leak? Nope. The White House,
in fact, ignored the leak entirely for two months - that's
how committed the Bush administration was to adhering to such
high ethical standards.
Richard Clarke is now feeling the wrath of the ethical Bush
administration. Clarke dared to speak out against intelligence
failures that, had they been addressed, may have prevented
the 9/11 attacks. Clarke's comments, and his book Against
All Enemies, has raised the ire of most of Bush's cabinet.
A civil servant with three decades of service, as well as
service to Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton,
is now the target of right-wing character assassins. Does
anyone actually address the issues Clarke raises about intelligence
failures? Of course not.
Some would argue Clarke to be disloyal to his employer, the
United States government. But as Clarke told Tim Russert on
NBC News' Meet The Press March 28, there came a point
for Clarke that working on terrorism was too frustrating.
"I asked in June of 2001 to be transferred from the terrorism
job, I did and my chief of staff, Roger Cressey, did, because
in June 2001, we were so frustrated with the administration's
lackadaisical attitude toward terrorism that we no longer
wanted to work on the issue. As obsessed as I was with going
after al-Qaeda, I felt I had to get out of the terrorism business
because I couldn't work for an administration that was treating
it in such an unimportant way."
There is a pattern here, one that is not rooted in ethics,
to slam or intimidate anyone on the Bush staff or cabinet
that doesn't parrot the "official" party line. Richard S.
Foster is the Administration's chief Medicare actuary. When
the Congress passed the Medicare prescription drug bill, the
tab, they were told, would be approx. $400 billion over ten
years. Foster had the real numbers: $500-$600 billion over
ten years. According to the March 24 edition of Time
Magazine online, Foster had been threatened by Medicare's
administrator, Thomas Scully, with firing if he revealed the
real cost of the prescription drug benefit. The inspector
general of the Department of Health and Human Services is
investigating the charge.
One could say everything is politics as usual. Perhaps. Is
this an administration founded on the ideals of ethics and
morals? The answer is yes, if the definition of ethical behavior
is committing felonies, engaging in character assassinations
and acts of intimidation. Under that definition, the Bush
administration is the most ethical administration in history.
Scott C. Smith is a freelance writer based out of Beaverton,
Oregon. Scott writes for his web magazine, What's In Scott's