David Sirota is the Director of Strategic Communications at the Center for American Progress and the American Progress Action Fund. He formerly served as chief spokesman for Democrats on the U.S. House Appropriations Committee.
In 1992, the Republican Party launched a vicious assault against Bill Clinton for traveling overseas and speaking out against his country's foreign policy during the Vietnam War. It was the beginning of a strategy to demean the national-security credentials of the Democratic Party. Now, twelve years later, Vice President Dick Cheney has updated the tactic, hammering those who question George W. Bush's prosecution of the war on terror and impugning John Kerry's commitment to national security. His rhetoric has been so vitriolic, he actually suggested last week that a Kerry presidency would mean "we will get hit again" by terrorists.
For most Americans, the last four years have represented a low point in our economic history. But for the big-business interests financing the Bush campaign, these have been high times. In previous eras, and even under previous Republican administrations, corporate America was one of a number of players in the public-policy arena. But under the Bush administration, big business is both the player and the referee, having finally won its decades-long campaign to eliminate the boundary between executive suite and public office. No longer does the private-profit motive compete in the legislative process with public good; profit now owns the process, and the middle class is left to the vultures.
Fact: Halliburton has overcharged taxpayers for food, accepted kickbacks for oil subcontracts, and spent taxpayer money renting rooms at five-star resorts in Kuwait.
But instead of expressing outrage the government's top watchdog, Pentagon Inspector General Joseph Schmitz, last week parroted the company line, saying he believes Halliburton's problems "are not out of line with the size and scope of their contracts." He then accused the press of overemphasizing the connections between the company and its former CEO Dick Cheney, even though Vice President Cheney still collects hundreds of thousands of dollars in deferred compensation, owns company stock options, and had his office "coordinate" Halliburton contracts in Iraq.
The civics lesson of the Iran-Contra scandal was simple: No matter how powerful or well-intentioned, presidents cannot secretly fund wars without the consent of Congress. But according to Bob Woodward's new book, President Bush apparently never learned that axiom. And now, Congress must demand answers.
Woodward alleges that in July 2002, the president secretly began to finance the war in Iraq with no authorization from Congress. He says $700 million was siphoned from operations against al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and into planning an Iraq invasion. The president allegedly took the money from one of the two supplemental spending bills passed after September 11 and left lawmakers "totally in the dark."