The Bush Administration has developed a number of ugly tactics for discrediting respected institutions, particularly institutions that act as checks on Executive power, or that serve to safeguard the interests of low-income Americans. But their most effective is also their least subtle: flood the institution in question with partisan loyalists, who visibly politicize the operation, thus throwing its credibility — and ability to function — into serious doubt.
Two examples surfaced yesterday, both in the Times. Note the eerie similarities.
Example One: The Food and Drug Administration
The FDA’s decision to ban the “morning-after pill” by ignoring the scientific data, and throwing out all established guidelines and best-practices, set off alarm bells at the Government Accounting Office (the same people who uncovered “covert propaganda” at the Education Department, remember):
“Top agency officials were deeply involved in the decision, which was ‘very, very rare,’ a top F.D.A. review official told investigators. The officials’ decision to ignore the recommendation of an independent advisory committee as well as the agency’s own scientific review staff was unprecedented, the report found.
“The report suggested that it quickly became apparent that the agency was not going to follow its usual path when it came to the pill. ‘For example,’ it said, ‘F.D.A. review staff told us that they were told early in the review process that the decision would be made by high-level management.’
Now, having been caught substituting politics for science, the Bush-appointees then have recourse to their final strategy: the nanny-nanny boo-boo defense.
“Top agency officials denied many of the report’s findings, including its conclusion that the top officials’ involvement was unusual and that they had decided to reject the application before the agency’s own scientific review was concluded. Julie Zawisza, an F.D.A. spokeswoman, said the agency stood by its rejection of the morning-after pill application.
‘We question the integrity of the investigative process that results in such partial conclusions by the G.A.O.,’ Ms. Zawisza said.”
In other words, when caught politicizing simply accuse the Inspectors General, or the GAO, or the Independent Prosecutor of politicizing themselves. This is the strategy in a nutshell: If everything is dirty, filthy politics, then the American people can’t know right from wrong.
Example Two: The Corporation for Public Broadcasting
Kenneth Tomlinson, a GOP hack of long standing and Bush-appointee, now faces possible criminal charges for aggressively subverting the federal laws governing his agency:
“Investigators at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting said on Tuesday that they had uncovered evidence that its former chairman had repeatedly broken federal law and the organization’s own regulations in a campaign to combat what he saw as liberal bias.”
And so, as with the FDA, Tomlinson launches confidently into full-on nanny-nanny-boo-boo mode:
“In a statement distributed with the report, Mr. Tomlinson rejected its conclusions. He said any suggestion that he had violated his duties or the law was ‘malicious and irresponsible’ and that the inspector general had opted ‘for politics over good judgment.’
“Unfortunately, the inspector general’s preconceived and unjustified findings will only help to maintain the status quo and other reformers will be discouraged from seeking change,” said Mr. Tomlinson, who has repeatedly defended his decisions as part of an effort to restore balance to programming.”
It’s enough to drive you stark-raving mad, if you begin piecing together the broader pattern. It’s clear that the idea is to destroy these institutions, or failing that, to turn them into their mirror opposites. Why do you think we have a New York Post, and a Washington Times? These papers were conceived and launched as mirror opposites that would specifically seek to undercut the reputation for objectivity at the New York Times and the Washington Post. Washington Post, Washington Times, Rupert Murdoch suggests, aren’t they both really just partisan rags?
And these are only a handful of examples. There are others even more egregious: what the Bush administration is attempting still to do with Social Security, with the science on global warming, etc. This from the man who said the only regret he had about his first term was that he’d been unable to unite quite as much as he would have liked.
But it’s worth reminding yourself, and those around you, that it isn’t all politics, everyone is not corrupt or a kool-aid-drinking ideologue, or willing to deny that any objective standards exist by which to guide policy. And those who are will be slowly but surely driven out of office by the toxic fumes of their own politics.