Anatomy of a Bush Administration Scandal
By: Daniel Clark
The New York Times reports that President Bush regularly holds clandestine gatherings among his hand-selected cronies, who devise federal policy in secret, as a sort of “shadow government.”
The White House issues a press release, explaining that those gatherings are merely cabinet meetings, that every administration has them, and that the cabinet secretaries have all had their nominations confirmed by the Senate.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid complains that the president did not consult the Democrats before holding any of these so-called “cabinet meetings,” and therefore that he’s violating the constitutional separation of powers. He adds that none of the secretaries was confirmed while the Democrats controlled the Senate, and argues that their nominations should all be resubmitted.
Sen. Dick Durbin appears on Hardball, where he likens the meetings to the activities of the Third Reich, which also conducted government business in secret. Host Chris Matthews wonders aloud whether Hitler belonged to the Skull and Bones.
The Washington Post reports that, according to well-placed anonymous sources, Dick Cheney regularly attends these so-called “cabinet meetings,” raising the specter of Big Oil pulling the strings of government.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi points out that the White House made no mention of Cheney when it referenced the secretaries. She accuses Bush of deliberately concealing the VP’s role, and demands an investigation.
Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel says that President Bush should apologize for his ill-conceived shadow government scheme. News anchors express shock that the president has lost the support of such a trusted congressional ally. Fellow Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham defends the president’s right to convene cabinet meetings, but criticizes him for not being more forthcoming.
On ABC’s The View, Rosie O’Donnell declares the president’s secret meetings with Dick Cheney to be a crime against humanity, and says that Saddam Hussein was shot over a lot less. Elisabeth Hasselbeck points out that Saddam was hanged, and not shot. O’Donnell responds by throwing a shoe at her.
Sen. Hillary Clinton says she can’t recall whether there were any cabinet meetings in her husband’s administration, but insists that if there were, they wouldn’t have been corrupted by Big Oil. In an interview with CNN’s Larry King, former president Bill Clinton says that he never attended a cabinet meeting with Dick Cheney, and that he never met secretly with anybody in the White House.
Sen. Reid announces plans to subpoena all the cabinet secretaries, along with Vice President Cheney and Karl Rove, to appear at congressional hearings. White House press secretary Tony Snow says the president will not allow his cabinet to testify, citing executive privilege. Sen. Ted Kennedy seizes upon this to accuse the president of catering to the privileged few, at the expense of working families.
A Gallup poll says that 64 percent of Americans disapprove of the president’s handling of the cabinet meeting scandal.
The Boston Globe cites anonymous sources who complain that Cheney’s prominence at the meetings intimidates some of the cabinet secretaries, and leaves them “feeling bullied.” Thus, the report concludes, the president and vice president are “trampling minority rights.”
Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean charges that the Bush cabinet meetings are racist, because they are exclusive, secret gatherings of privileged white men. A reporter informs him that there are actually five non-white members of Bush’s cabinet, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Dean quibbles with the characterization of Rice as non-white, saying, “A black chick with a Ph.D.? And who’s the Secretary of Defense, the Great Pumpkin?”
In his first public statement regarding the scandal, President Bush seeks common ground with his detractors, by agreeing in principle that nefarious plots are bad. He maintains that a president has every right to meet with his own cabinet, but concedes that the matter has been handled poorly.
In a joint press conference, Sen. Reid and Speaker Pelosi demand that since the president has admitted wrongdoing, he must honor their subpoenas and cooperate with their hearings. Republican Sen. John McCain praises Bush for having the courage to admit his mistakes, even if it ultimately leads to his impeachment.
With Rev. Jesse Jackson at his side, Dean apologizes to anybody who misunderstood his remark about Secretary Rice. Jackson says that if President Bush hadn’t been holding controversial secret meetings, then Dean would have had no reason to discuss the cabinet, and so he would never have made the offending statement.
Kevin Bacon demands President Bush’s resignation. The president fires White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten in an effort to quell the ensuing media frenzy. Sen. Reid says that the dismissal is evident of endemic corruption in the executive branch, and demands that every administration official who had been in contact with Bolten be forced to testify before Congress.
Mahmoud Ahmedinejad says that the cabinet meeting scandal shows the world that President Bush cannot be trusted. Sen. Barbara Boxer cites the Iranian president’s statement as proof that Bush has lowered America’s standing in the world.
Republican senators openly spar over the growing controversy on Meet the Press. Sen. Arlen Specter calls the cabinet meetings “an exercise in dictatorship,” and vows to help the Democrats put an end to “this imperial presidency.” Sen. Orrin Hatch characterizes Specter’s remarks as “not helpful.”
On This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Sen. John Kerry says, “Mister Bush claims to be a uniter and not a divider. If that’s true, then why are we out to destroy him? It’s time for Mister Bush to stop lying, and come clean with the American people.”
60 Minutes broadcasts previously unreleased tapes of Richard Nixon’s cabinet meetings, and reminds viewers that Nixon was subsequently forced to resign.
President Bush invites Sen. Reid and Speaker Pelosi to the White House to negotiate a compromise. The agreement they reach stipulates that the president will resubmit the nominations of all his cabinet secretaries for consideration by the new Democrat-controlled Senate, and that any future nominees must be selected from a list of pre-approved candidates. It also requires cabinet meetings to be held in the presence of a nonpartisan, blue-ribbon panel of journalists to ensure transparency, and forbids anybody from speaking without first being recognized by the panel chair, Helen Thomas. In exchange for these concessions, the Democrats agree not to subpoena any cabinet secretaries, or to begin impeachment proceedings, unless they feel they are compelled to do so by “extreme circumstances.”
With Reid and Pelosi by his side in the Rose Garden, President Bush hails the agreement as a triumph of bipartisanship, and thanks the Democrats for helping to bring a “new tone” to Washington.
Daniel Clark is a Staff Writer for the New Media Alliance. The New Media Alliance is a non-profit (501c3) national coalition of writers, journalists and grass-roots media outlets.
Daniel Clark is a writer from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He is the author and editor of a web publication called The Shinbone: The Frontier of the Free Press, where he also publishes a seasonal sports digest as The College Football Czar.