The Self Made Pundit
Thursday, October 24, 2002
THE NEW TONE IN WASHINGTON: Today’s Washington Post has good news and bad news about President Bush’s keeping of his campaign promises.
The good news is that Bush is keeping his promise to bring a “new tone” to Washington. The bad news is that Bush is breaking his promise to make that “new tone” a tone of “bipartisanship.”
As the Post reports, Bush is pressuring federal government employees to work on Republican campaigns for the midterm elections, making his presidency probably the most partisan since Herbert Hoover’s. (As reflected by Bush’s economic policies, there’s something about Hoover that makes Bush just love to emulate him.)
President Bush has harnessed the broad resources of the federal government to promote Republicans in next month's elections. ....
More than 330 administration appointees, some of whom were told by White House officials that they needed to show their Republican credentials, have taken vacation time and are being flown by the party to House and Senate campaigns in states where control of Congress will be decided.
Scholars called Bush's partisan use of the government unprecedented for a midterm election, and said the aggressiveness and thoroughness of his politicking approached that of a presidential reelection campaign.
Although the Hatch Act is designed to protect federal workers from pressure to work on political campaigns, the Bush administration is twisting that act for just the opposite effect. In a creative skirting of the edges of the Hatch Act that would have made Enron’s accountants blush, the administration is using the words of the act to flout its spirit:
A recent e-mail to the 6,100 full-time headquarters employees of the Environmental Protection Agency reminded them of the provisions of the Hatch Act, which was designed to protect federal employees from political pressure. But some employees said they were surprised by its emphasis on participating in, not abstaining from, campaign activities. The memo said they “are permitted to take an active part in partisan political management and campaigns,” subject to limitations, and reminded them they are free to “express support for the president and his program” when they are off-duty.
If Bush had been savvy enough only to pressure federal employees into campaigning for Republicans – without himself getting deeply involved in campaigning – his politicalization of the government might have paid off. As discussed in yesterday’s Self Made Pundit, however, I believe that Bush’s heavy politicking at a time when he claims Iraq is an imminent threat is likely to backfire. As the Post notes:
Undeterred by preparations for possible war with Iraq, Bush embarks today on 12 days of barnstorming in battleground states and districts, with a break Friday and Saturday for meetings with world leaders in Texas and Mexico.
I’m glad to see that Bush is going to take a few hours to broaden his horizons on the weekend, when he is taking a break from his job as Republican Party leader. It’s now clear why President Bush practices foreign policy as if it were a hobby, making idle reamarks such as his comment that if a regime changes its policies, that’s regime change. To Bush, foreign policy is a hobby. Watch him at his real job on the campaign trail these next 12 days.