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Decider in Chief
January 29, 2007 9:04 PM   Subscribe

Bush has got a brand new bag - In an executive order signed today Bush created a new oversight position at all regulatory agencies. This position, which will be staffed by someone appointed by the White House, will over see regulatory suggestions and reports to congress.
posted by sourbrew (63 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
IMPEACH!!!
posted by chance at 9:10 PM on January 29, 2007 [7 favorites]


From what I can tell this basically means that Bush now has final say over the implementation of new regulations, and from the article it appears to be an attempt at reigning in the regulatory powers of the EPA and OSHA which could be a jab at preventing new emissions regulations and minimum wage bills from taking effect.
posted by sourbrew at 9:10 PM on January 29, 2007


Yes, I can completely trust the accuracy and impartiality of the Executive Branch overseeing itself. Congreff needn't worry its pretty little head about it any more.
posted by inturnaround at 9:11 PM on January 29, 2007


Cheney et al. continue their assault on the separation of powers. This is very, very bad news.
posted by facetious at 9:16 PM on January 29, 2007


What the shit is this? Why not introduce direct executive oversight in law enforcement offices while you're at it? I read things like this and I just want to ask the man, "Who told you this was a good idea? What person suggested this to you?"

Everything about this article screams "Hide your wallet and cover your ass" to me.
posted by boo_radley at 9:22 PM on January 29, 2007


Also: Oh, shit, this doesn't cover the GAO, does it? I know they're directed by Congress, but they're involved with investigating all kinds of offices and agencies.
posted by boo_radley at 9:25 PM on January 29, 2007


This isn't really separation of powers, since federal regulatory agencies are part of the executive branch. It does mean more consolidation of power and control of policy by the executive branch - but this trend has been happening for a while (the OMB is a good example). Plus, agencies, though supposed to regulate laws passed by Congress, have some legal abilities to create regulations - and it's usually the courts that knock them down, not Congress.
posted by faux ami at 9:26 PM on January 29, 2007



It's easy to see this as a Bush-administration-centered dictatorial tendency, and that if only we replace him and a few people in Congress (including some Democrats) we can turn the country back toward its former semblance of democracy. But I'm finding it difficult not to see a more widespread, irreversible and therefore far more disturbing set of interrelated causes behind this: first, the privatization of government and public life, which is itself (stay with me) the product of the loss of manufacturing, because now you have a denigrated and increasingly uneducated middle class and a large service serf underclass that, in its despair for community and meaning, turns towards radical, fundamentalist, messianic, theocratic Christianity, as well as the idealogical stress posed by America's relative decline as a world power and the very real scenario that a major energy crisis in the future would be the ruin of our civilization as we know it - that, obviously, is why we're running aground in Iraq.

I'm just afraid that Bush is only the beginning, and that a major shock, be it terrorism or war or economic or some distastrous combination, will put in power a demagogue who is even more adept at manipulating the media and will be able to use private security forces like Blackwater and the significant leeway given by Bush's precedent of executive expansion of power to cement control and silence opposition. Nazi Germany was the product of failed democracy, why couldn't our own unique form of fascism (if this isn't already facism - hasn't it been for years for the millions of people rotting in our gulags and domestic prisons?) emerge from that as well?
posted by bukharin at 9:29 PM on January 29, 2007 [7 favorites]


Well, thankfully this doesn't seem that bad compared to some of the other crazy shit he's pulled. It will reduce congress' ability to regulate, and regulation is important, but right now the country and government have much, much larger problems.

I heard recently that a majority of Americans just wish the Bush presidency were "over". I'm certainly one of them.

On the other hand, the worse this gets, the more political will there will be for real reform, to prevent this kind of crazy bullshit.
posted by delmoi at 9:41 PM on January 29, 2007


What the shit is this? Why not introduce direct executive oversight in law enforcement offices while you're at it? I read things like this and I just want to ask the man, "Who told you this was a good idea? What person suggested this to you?"

Um, he's already ahead of you.
posted by delmoi at 9:43 PM on January 29, 2007


If only there were some sort of Government Accountability Office.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:46 PM on January 29, 2007


Where science is concerned — from Iraqi civilian deaths to ANWR data falsification to the FDA to crippling stem cell research to land mismanagement to abstinence voodoo to increased arsenic, mercury and lead pollutant emissions to global warming — the Bush administration has been shameless in using every trick possible to cook the lab notebooks, spread FUD, lie, distort, and ultimately hurt this country and future generations of Americans.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:47 PM on January 29, 2007


Yeah, I'd be more concerned if there weren't already a thick layer of administration-pleasing management on top of every agency. This is nothing compared to what's been going on.
posted by zennie at 10:02 PM on January 29, 2007


Then again, political influence that was under the table is now legitimized as 'good governing.'
posted by zennie at 10:10 PM on January 29, 2007


Q: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
A: This guy!
posted by zamboni at 10:19 PM on January 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


The monarch, as the agent of God on earth, needs the ability to have final say in all matters of law and regulation. He is our ruler, after all.
posted by moonbiter at 10:20 PM on January 29, 2007


Between this and the abrupt AG appointments, well...What's going on here?
posted by Skygazer at 10:24 PM on January 29, 2007


This isn't a separation of powers issue, as faux ami points out. It's designed to politicize the making of regulations coming out of the executive agencies.

Hey, at least they're trying to directly politicize the regulations. Regulations are on the books, and Congress can always pass a new law to override a regulation. It's not like, say, the assertion that the executive can indefinitely detain, and torture. a US citizen captured on US soil without bringing charges or providing access to a lawyer.

It's about keeping lawmaking power out of the hands of experts and in the hands of political appointees, but at least it's relatively transparent politicization. That's nice.

This is yet more bad, but it probably, at first glance, doesn't make the top ten list of Bush administration badness.
posted by ibmcginty at 10:37 PM on January 29, 2007


The more they pull, the more they get away with, and the more inured we get to it. Nothing they do anymore is considered "that bad."
posted by blucevalo at 10:46 PM on January 29, 2007


This is nothing...wait until he has the Secret Service set fire to Congress, blames liberals, and suspends the constitution citing "national emergency." He's being as patient as he can while he waits for rule by decree.
posted by mullingitover at 11:01 PM on January 29, 2007


He probably considers congress a regulatory agency.
posted by washburn at 11:01 PM on January 29, 2007


It is. Or should be. Whatever.
posted by rhizome23 at 11:09 PM on January 29, 2007



Isn't this getting to be like the KGB's old political officers? Their only use was to make sure everyone toed the party line.
posted by IronLizard at 11:13 PM on January 29, 2007


It was a nice experiment while it lasted. Oh well.
posted by nightchrome at 11:15 PM on January 29, 2007


Pass the nachos.
posted by rhizome23 at 11:19 PM on January 29, 2007


So...I hear there's a Superbowl coming up. I'm an interdimensional erotic adventurer of the most deranged sort. We're fucked.
posted by rhizome23 at 11:42 PM on January 29, 2007


The terrifying part is where the White House requires regulatory agencies to demonstrate a "market failure" before intervening. They're turning the working arm of the government into a giant game of Simon Says.
posted by Nahum Tate at 11:48 PM on January 29, 2007


Isn't this getting to be like the KGB's old political officers?

That's just what I was going to say. Bush now requires the EPA to answer to a political commissar. This is totally nuts.
posted by stammer at 11:57 PM on January 29, 2007


it's a dictatorship. at this rate, i'm getting more and more sure we won't have 08 elections at all.
posted by amberglow at 3:04 AM on January 30, 2007


And he's already placed political appointees in charge of the very agencies he's now demanding oversight and vetting of all policies and statements from--this is wholly redundant, besides being wrong. The FDA, the EPA, etc--he's placed his people in every single one of them already.
posted by amberglow at 3:22 AM on January 30, 2007


We can see the thinking in the new fuel economy standards Bush wants: ... Bush is insisting that Congress get out of the CAFE business. Instead, the Bush administration itself will set future standards "based on cost/benefit analysis, using sound science, and without impacting safety." Pardon my cynicism, but this doesn't sound like a way of increasing CAFE standards. It sounds like a way of preempting a newly Democratic Congress from setting strict standards and instead allowing the administration to create toothless, industry-friendly rules with lots of loopholes. "Cost/benefit" and "sound science" are movement conservative buzzwords that are usually pretty reliable indicators that the con is on. ...
posted by amberglow at 3:40 AM on January 30, 2007


It's about keeping lawmaking power out of the hands of experts and in the hands of political appointees,

And that right there captures the craptacular presidential essence of GWB. Its worked great so far right?


Heck of a job there, incompetent political appointee asswipe #1, #2, #3, #4...etc.

.

posted by Skygazer at 5:35 AM on January 30, 2007


You think this is bad news then ponder this:

Nearly half of the voting public in the US voted for the dictator, some of them twice.

But it is easily excused and forgiven, after all IOKIYAR.
posted by nofundy at 5:37 AM on January 30, 2007


"It's OK If You Are Rong" ?
posted by wobh at 7:13 AM on January 30, 2007


Do we have to wait for him to declare a third term for himself before we start calling this motherfucker a tyrant?
posted by EatTheWeak at 7:35 AM on January 30, 2007


I never really understood who so many of my lefty friends hated some of Clinton's policies (which I mostly supported) so much until George W. Bush became President. Then I saw what an incompetent and somewhat ill-intentioned chief executive can do with an already too-strong Executive Branch.

Though, before this goes much further, I would be interested to see one of our Bush supporting MeFites weigh in on this. It really can't be as bad as it seems, can it?
posted by psmealey at 7:38 AM on January 30, 2007


former semblance of democracy

The U.S. is not, nor has it ever been, nor was it ever intended to be, a democracy.
posted by tadellin at 7:42 AM on January 30, 2007


delmoi writes "but right now the country and government have much, much larger problems. "

...which is exactly what BushCo has been saying since 9/11. "There are bigger problems," they say, "so don't worry about all these other things we're doing."
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 7:43 AM on January 30, 2007


Would this position be known as a "political officer"?
posted by mooncrow at 7:48 AM on January 30, 2007


The President appoints the head of these executive agencies, anyway, so it's not as if this is a dramatic departure. This does do away with the quasi-independent type of agency that can protect the administration if the agency does something politically inexpedient (think of the FDA under David Kessler versus Big Tobacco). Reagan, earlier, had put in an administration figurehead at the EPA, but this backfired by harming agency morale - and this probably will, too. Keep in mind that these agencies are run by career civil servants, who have to work under both parties' administrations.

Also, keep in mind that these power games of centralization routinely take place - the executive branch has been consolidating power for years to counteract Congress (which, too, consolidated in recent decades under Gingrich's Congress with more centralized power, less delegation to subcommittees, more control by the Speaker...). It seems that this will be good for business stakeholders, as noted in the article. But, regulatory agencies have been screwed for years, IMO, by strict interpretation of the courts (automobile safety regulations) and some agencies, like the FDA, are partially funded by the very industry that they regulate (Big Pharma)! There's always been much to fret about, folks!!
posted by faux ami at 8:25 AM on January 30, 2007


Yet one more layer of crapolla to the shitpile. Here is a direct quote from Jeffrey Rosen, general council of the White House:
"This is a classic good-government measure that will make federal agencies more open and accountable"
*coff* smaller government*coff*

Personally I see it as a prelude to regulation relaxing for businesses. Bush is a Lame Duck in many areas, but he can do a lot of damage regulation-wise over the next 2 years.
posted by edgeways at 9:03 AM on January 30, 2007


What worries me more about this is that I fear the next president (regardless D or R) wont get rid of these positions because no politician in their right mind gives up power. In other words, we're fucked.
posted by SirOmega at 9:32 AM on January 30, 2007


I heard recently that a majority of Americans just wish the Bush presidency were "over".

Yep.
"[According to the latest NEWSWEEK Poll], [t]he president’s approval ratings are at their lowest point in the poll’s history—30 percent—and more than half the country (58 percent) say they wish the Bush presidency were simply over, a sentiment that is almost unanimous among Democrats (86 percent), and is shared by a clear majority (59 percent) of independents and even one in five (21 percent) Republicans. Half (49 percent) of all registered voters would rather see a Democrat elected president in 2008, compared to just 28 percent who’d prefer the GOP to remain in the White House."
posted by ericb at 10:07 AM on January 30, 2007


Heckuva job, Bushie!
posted by ericb at 10:09 AM on January 30, 2007


The Emperor Bush has spoken! So shall it be!
posted by wsg at 10:09 AM on January 30, 2007


bukharin, you've been reading Jack London, haven't you?
posted by lodurr at 10:24 AM on January 30, 2007


... and fwiw, I have felt for several years now that the likely agents of oppression would be a federalized National Guard, not private security firms. Using Gonzalez-logic, the Guard could "lawfully" be used against American civilians in ways and places that the federal armed forces couldn't.
posted by lodurr at 10:32 AM on January 30, 2007


using sound science,

The problem with this is that this administration has consistently failed to demonstrate that they understand what 'sound science' is. Evolution: just a theory. Global warming: data isn't in yet. Terri Schiavo: capable of being diagnosed via videotape. etc.

This to me, just seems like another way for them to keep the experts from being able to get their voices heard at the highest levels.
posted by quin at 10:52 AM on January 30, 2007


quin, that's exactly it. The administration dismisses inconvenient facts as politically suspect. They just pound people with actual, reality-based knowledge of a situation until they go along out of fatigue.

Ie, "Senior C.I.A. analysts dealing with Iraq were constantly being urged by the Vice-President’s office to provide worst-case assessments on Iraqi weapons issues. “They got pounded on, day after day,” one senior Bush Administration official told me, and received no consistent backup from Tenet and his senior staff. “Pretty soon you say ‘Fuck it.’ ” And they began to provide the intelligence that was wanted."

Hopefully the EPA rank and file is made of sterner stuff than the CIA.
posted by ibmcginty at 11:19 AM on January 30, 2007


“...why couldn't our own unique form of fascism (if this isn't already facism - hasn't it been for years for the millions of people rotting in our gulags and domestic prisons?) emerge from that as well?” - posted by bukharin

Well said. It could. But it shouldn’t. And not merely for idealistic reasons. Highly centralized authority has consistiently proven itself less efficient and less able to deal with disasters. In theory some of that can be obviated by advances in technology (telecommunications speed for one) but given that centralization is predicated on ideology (as you’ve stated) it’s going to wind up at least as systemically neurotic as the Soviet-style political officers (politruk, zampolit, commissar, whatever).
And in essence - that’s what this is. The trappings of it (theocracy, privatization, Bush himself, etc.) are relatively benign (in biological terms) and reversable. Those economic factors, et.al. are a big problem though, and if the system we have in place is this myopic overspecialized political Lysenkoism*, then we are indeed in trouble.
But we shouldn’t let it happen. And there are plenty of very powerful people who should - and do - know better. Just a matter of jabbing them in the ass properly. It’s their necks too.


*It’s instructive to note that while Stalin kept his politcal boot on the necks of the farmers, he did not politicize the equations of nuclear physics, bending absolute political control to survival and the reality in the cold equations. I’ve begun to question whether our leaders have even that modicum of wisdom.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:25 PM on January 30, 2007


C'mon, someone tell me we can do something to stop this fuckwit. There's got to be something the congress, the governors, SCOTUS and everyone in a federal agency can do to stop this shit. When is it time to impeach? If that law wasn't made for this, than when the hell was it made for? I mean WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN BEFORE THEY BEGIN TO TALK ABOUT IT SERIOUSLY?? They have proven over and over again (Bush/Rove et al) they will game the system any way they can, to get what they want, no matter how unpopular or sleazy or dictatorial and unamerican because the twat thinks he's got a mandate from God. So...what are they going to do when that inevitable terrorist hit comes and the 2008 election is called off...
posted by Skygazer at 12:33 PM on January 30, 2007


"Da, Tovarishch Zampolit. The report figures are in line with Politburo expectations. As they always are."
posted by zoogleplex at 12:48 PM on January 30, 2007


smedleyman: *It’s instructive to note that while Stalin kept his politcal boot on the necks of the farmers, he did not politicize the equations of nuclear physics, bending absolute political control to survival and the reality in the cold equations. I’ve begun to question whether our leaders have even that modicum of wisdom.

Well, I won't quarrel with the sentiment, but I will offer this one anecdote.

I had a conversation a couple of years back with a nuclear engineer who was assigned to tiger teams for intelligence assessment. Many many moons ago, he was asked to evaluate a purported soviet design for a nuclear powered aircraft engine. At an engineering level, apparently, the thing was just fine -- all the details were good and sound, and all the equations checked out.

But something bothered him, so he went to his Engineer's Desk Reference. The shielding was spec'd to be made out of some exotic heavy metal -- I remembered it as being Rubidium, but that's probably not right -- and after a tiny bit of research, the engineer ascertained that there was just about enough of this metal to build the shielding for one engine.

In the entire world.

Most of it in the US, where they couldn't get to it.

His conclusion: That the engineers were covering their asses by reporting success, while not reporting the fact that their design could not possibly be built.

So it wasn't exactly Lysenkoism, but in effect, it was just about as bad.
posted by lodurr at 1:15 PM on January 30, 2007


The time to impeach was before going into Iraq, when every sane and aware person knew the naked manipulation of intelligence that was going on to justify our belligerence. As others have pointed out, now the instruments of government have been sufficiently warped that simply removing the chimp and his dirty uncle are insufficient to repair the damage.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:19 PM on January 30, 2007


Does anyone else get the feeling that there is some secret clause somewhere that's going to make all these newly-found and strengthened and otherwise claimed executive powers and their justification magically disappear the moment a Democrat takes the presidency? The way the administration has gone about this stuff makes me wonder what they know about the next election that we don't.
posted by troybob at 1:51 PM on January 30, 2007


Most of the justifications boil down to war powers, so in principle the President could simply declare the war over on the eve of the inauguration.

Seriously, though, I think Rove's public comments and behavior around the last election pretty much expose him as a go-for-broke kind of player. So it's conceivable that he sees this as a "gut move" -- that he'd convinced you have to play like you'll always win. That losers plan for failure. That's assuming Rove is in control, and I think there's good evidence to suggest that he's not, at least not anymore.

OTOH, there's the theory that Bush himself is an irrational gut player. ("Failure is not an option."*) Take what I said about Rove, and remove the calculating vision, and add in an extra helping of defensiveness (lord knows Rove has plenty, himself).
--
*Translation: "We will redefine 'success' as many times as necessary to achieve it."

posted by lodurr at 2:07 PM on January 30, 2007


My first reaction to hearing about this earlier today:

Don't turn around, oh-uh-oh.
Der Kommissar's in town, oh-uh-oh.
You're in his eye
And you'll know why
The more you live
The faster you will die

Alles klar, Herr Kommissar!
posted by sparkletone at 10:56 PM on January 30, 2007


Nitfilter: Alles ist nicht klar, es tut mir leid.

"Der Kommissar" is literally "Commissioner", and it's a reference to a narcotics cop, not a political officer. ("I understand what she wants now. / I think it over, .... / While I continue to smoke....")

But I expect I agree with the intended sentiment wholeheartedly.
posted by lodurr at 5:32 AM on January 31, 2007


crap, damn funky keymappings, I deleted the only part of the quote that I actually needed. Here's the whole thing:
I understand what she wants now. -
I think it over,
Her nose does the talking,
While I continue to smoke...
posted by lodurr at 5:34 AM on January 31, 2007



C'mon, someone tell me we can do something to stop this fuckwit.


I seriously wonder what would happen with arrest warrants and a class-action suit? We can't rely on Congress-they won't impeach. We can't rely on Justices stopping it.

If sheriffs walked up to both Bush and Cheney's offices with arrest warrants, what would happen?
posted by amberglow at 4:06 PM on January 31, 2007


(there are so many possible charges, and they've admitted to some of them in public too)
posted by amberglow at 4:07 PM on January 31, 2007




But I expect I agree with the intended sentiment wholeheartedly.

I am almost, but not quite totally ignorant of German (the one semester of it I took in college between a lot of Latin didn't stick).

So the only thing that went through my head was "Commissars! ... Don't turn around, oh-uh-oh..." I didn't even bother looking up the lyrics or context of the song, just went straight for YouTube.

You have correctly picked up on the intention.
posted by sparkletone at 6:10 PM on January 31, 2007


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