May 27, 2005

We were perusing the Washington Post ...

... when we spotted the following headline:

     GOP Tilting Balance Of Power to the Right

We were ready to write a snarky post with a really sarcastic headline of our own, but we figured we should at least read the story first. And we'll be damned, this story by Post staff writer Jim VandeHei is a good short history of how Dubya and the Republicans have taken hold of power in a way not seen before in Washington — at least not within living memory. VandeHei explains how the GOP has turned both houses of Congress and the executive branch into well-oiled machinery for cranking out right-wing legislation and policies, and how the Republicans are now trying to do the same with the federal courts.

Bush created a top-down system in the White House much like the one his colleagues have in Congress. He has constructed what many scholars said amounts to a virtual oligarchy with Cheney, Karl Rove, Andrew H. Card Jr., Joshua Bolton, himself and only a few others setting policy, while he looks to Congress and the agencies mostly to promote and institute his policies.

President Bill Clinton oversaw a transition of government away from strong agencies, which historically provided a greater variety of opinions in policymaking. "On the surface it looks like Bush is doing this better than Clinton, but there is much more going on," said Paul C. Light, an expert on the executive branch.

Light said Bush has essentially turned most of the agencies into political arms of the White House. "It's not just weakening agencies but strengthening political control of the agencies," he said.

Major policies such as Social Security are produced in the White House, while Cabinet heads and their staffs are tethered. After the 2004 election, the White House began requiring Cabinet members to spend as long as four hours a week working in an office near the West Wing.

"The fact they hold close their Cabinet members is a plus -- it makes for less freelancing," said Rich Bond, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Bush has demanded similar loyalty from GOP lawmakers -- and received it. Republicans have voted with the president, on average, about nine out of 10 times. Critics and some scholars charge that the Congress now seldom performs its constitutional duty of providing oversight of the executive branch through tough investigations and hearings.

We just wish the Washington Post and other 'mainstream' newspapers had been publishing more stories like this in the months leading up to last year's election. Hell, we wish one of the 'mainstream' papers had published even one story like this one.

Posted by Magpie at May 27, 2005 12:54 PM | US Politics | Technorati links |

When people talk about the moderate country club type republicans versus the more blue collar social conservative wing of the party it seems to be accepted that the former are taking advantage of the latter's enthusiasm and translating it into economic gain. Looking at enacted legislation there is substance to back this up. However, with the electoral gains the republicans have racked up over the last few years and the inclusion of more and more true believer social conservative types, I suspect we are going to see more legislation playing to the lunatic fringe of the right.

Posted by: andrem at May 28, 2005 08:35 PM

The Suskind book on Paul Oniell foretold all of this three years ago! Unfortunately, I doubt the American public gives a shit. I doubt most of the voting public even grasps the meta-relations between the branches of the U.S. government. As a result, they can't be expected to to comprehend, and be angered by the way the Bush administration has strategically suborned those relations, using fear and greed in the halls of power, and in the American public to facilitate the shift.


Posted by: tres_arboles at June 2, 2005 08:20 AM