White House chutzpah

The administration that came to power talking about humility has become gallingly arrogant and drunk with power.

Topics: Environment, George W. Bush,

Remember how the Bush administration ambled unassumingly into office — downing Texas-size helpings of humble pie at every meal?

“I hope I’m viewed as a humble person,” the president said just before moving into the White House. And on his first day on the job, he counseled his senior staff members to “be an example of humility and decency and fairness.” White House chief of staff Andy Card echoed the sentiment, telling would-be staffers: “Be among the most humble people in Washington.”

Well, those days are certainly long gone. Forget tiptoeing. Team Bush now stomps down the halls of power like Godzilla trampling the streets of Tokyo. Humble pie is no longer being served at the White House — instead, it’s being shoved in our faces.

When describing the administration at midterm, the words that come to mind are “arrogant,” “cocky,” “galling” and “drunk with power.”

Almost every day brings fresh evidence that Bush and his crew believe that they can get away with just about anything — no matter how shocking, offensive, corrupt, underhanded or in-your-face the transgression. The prevailing motto seems to be: “Our way or the highway. If you don’t like it, you can just move to Canada.”

The latest example of Bush’s “screw you” mind-set was the stunning appointment of coverup cover boy Henry Kissinger to head the 9/11 commission. I mean, what was he thinking? Was he deliberately trying to select the one person in the world least likely to get to the bottom of the foul-ups that preceded Sept. 11. Was Prince Bandar too busy reining in his wife’s charitable impulses to take the job?

The only thing more ludicrous than naming Kissinger to head this inquiry, would be picking somebody who thinks “pollution is a right” to head the Department of the Interior or selecting a guy who made his name fighting to undercut the authority of the Securities and Exchange Commission as its chairman. Oh, wait a minute — that’s right, Bush already did both of those things, too. It’s only a matter of time before Rush Limbaugh is tapped to be Chief of Protocol.

But the Kissinger appointment is merely the pointy tip of the chutzpah iceberg. In the last few months alone, the White House has shown its disdain for public opinion — and indeed the public interest — in an exceptionally wide variety of areas. Here are just a few of the more blood-boiling cases:

On the environment: Not satisfied with just gutting the Clean Air Act, the White House chose to announce its polluter-friendly decision in the most dismissive, least accountable way possible, delivered not by the president or EPA head Christie Whitman but by a low-level administrator, on a Friday afternoon leading into a holiday week, and with no cameras allowed. In your face, people who like fresh air!

You Might Also Like

On stealing from the poor to give to the rich: In an act of reverse Robin Hood effrontery, the president helped defray some of the cost of his nonstop campaigning with an accounting trick that allowed him to dip into the coffers of the Office of Family Assistance by piggybacking campaign appearances onto trips ostensibly made to talk about welfare reform. That’s right, money meant to assist poor families was used to help elect politicians who believe that, even with all the problems facing this country, cutting taxes for the rich should be job No. 1. These, of course, are the same Scrooges who did nothing to stop the unemployment benefits of 800,000 workers from expiring during the midst of the holiday season. Ho, ho, ho, poor people!

On sucking up to special interests: I guess that the back-channel passage of that tailor-made — and White House-approved — amendment to the homeland security bill protecting Eli Lilly, maker of the questionable vaccine preservative Thimerosal, from billions in potential lawsuits just wasn’t enough of an insult to democracy. To pour salt in that fresh wound, the administration has asked a federal claims court to block public access to documents unearthed in over a thousand Thimerosal-related lawsuits. Take that, suffering parents of autistic children!

On political patronage: At the same time the White House was moving to scale back pay increases for career federal employees, it was also secretly doling out big-buck bonuses to political appointees — a practice banned during the Clinton presidency because of abuses during the last Bush administration. Who was it again who was going to restore integrity to the White House?

On fighting the war on terror: A majority of Americans have a negative view of Saudi Arabia. As well they should, given the desert kingdom’s two-faced attitude, the money that ended up in the pockets of 9/11 hijackers, its telethons for suicide bombers, its refusal to let U.S. planes targeting the Taliban take off from Saudi soil, and the not insignificant fact that most of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi, as are most of the suspects being held in Guantanamo. In spite of all this, the White House continues to treat the spoiled princes of the House of Saud as bosom brothers, welcome at the Crawford ranch anytime they’re in the mood for a little down-home cookin’.

In your eye, American people!

Arianna Huffington is a nationally syndicated columnist, the co-host of the National Public Radio program "Left, Right, and Center," and the author of 10 books. Her latest is "Fanatics and Fools: The Game Plan for Winning Back America."

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 13
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    Young Daya has yet to become entirely jaded, but she has the character's trademark skeptical pout down pat. And with a piece-of-work mother like Aleida -- who oscillates between jealousy and scorn for her creatively gifted daughter, chucking out the artwork she brings home from summer camp -- who can blame her?

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    With her marriage to prison penpal Vince Muccio, Lorna finally got to wear the white veil she has fantasized about since childhood (even if it was made of toilet paper).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    Cindy's embrace of Judaism makes sense when we see her childhood, lived under the fist of a terrifying father who preached a fire-and-brimstone version of Christianity. As she put it: "I was raised in a church where I was told to believe and pray. And if I was bad, I’d go to hell."

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    Joey Caputo has always tried to be a good guy, whether it's offering to fight a disabled wrestler at a high school wrestling event or giving up his musical ambitions to raise another man's child. But trying to be a nice guy never exactly worked out for him -- which might explain why he decides to take the selfish route in the Season 3 finale.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    In one of the season's more moving flashbacks, we see a young Boo -- who rejected the traditional trappings of femininity from a young age -- clashing with her mother over what to wear. Later, she makes the decision not to visit her mother on her deathbed if it means pretending to be something she's not. As she puts it, "I refuse to be invisible, Daddy. Not for you, not for Mom, not for anybody.”

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    We still don't know what landed Brooke Soso in the slammer, but a late-season flashback suggests that some seriously overbearing parenting may have been the impetus for her downward spiral.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    We already know a little about Poussey's relationship with her military father, but this season we saw a softer side of the spunky fan-favorite, who still pines for the loving mom that she lost too young.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    Pennsatucky had something of a redemption arc this season, and glimpses of her childhood only serve to increase viewer sympathy for the character, whose mother forced her to chug Mountain Dew outside the Social Security Administration office and stripped her of her sexual agency before she was even old enough to comprehend it.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    This season, we got an intense look at the teenage life of one of Litchfield's most isolated and underexplored inmates. Rebuffed and scorned by her suitor at an arranged marriage, the young Chinese immigrant stored up a grudge, and ultimately exacted a merciless revenge.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    It's difficult to sympathize with the racist, misogynist CO Sam Healy, but the snippets we get of his childhood -- raised by a mentally ill mother, vomited on by a homeless man he mistakes for Jesus when he runs to the church for help -- certainly help us understand him better.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    This season, we learned a lot about one of Litchfield's biggest enigmas, as we saw the roots of Norma's silence (a childhood stutter) and the reason for her incarceration (killing the oppressive cult leader she followed for decades).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    While Nicki's mother certainly isn't entirely to blame for her daughter's struggles with addiction, an early childhood flashback -- of an adorable young Nicki being rebuffed on Mother's Day -- certainly helps us understand the roots of Nicki's scarred psyche.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>