While the press talks about what Obama will do in his first 100 days, I am watching Bush do his damage in his last 100. Since during his reign, the constitution has been shredded, the environment befouled at will, the economy flushed down the toilet by deregulation, what else is there for him to do?
He’s not done with us yet! Only today he decided to make it easier for health professionals to refuse to give care to some unfortunate souls based on their religious beliefs.
The proposed rule would prohibit recipients of federal money from discriminating against doctors, nurses and other health care workers who refuse to perform or to assist in the performance of abortions or sterilization procedures because of their “religious beliefs or moral convictions.”
It would also prevent hospitals, clinics, doctors’ offices and drugstores from requiring employees with religious or moral objections to “assist in the performance of any part of a health service program or research activity” financed by the Department of Health and Human Services.
Bush also gave the go ahead for the oil companies to rape public lands for oil-shale.
Firing off another decision that is angering environmental groups, the Bush administration has issued new regulations to develop oil shale deposits straddling almost two million acres of public lands in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming.
It is not the first time this month that the Bush administration has sought to make the best of its last days in office. Earlier this month, the Bureau of Land Management expanded its oil and gas lease program in eastern Utah to include tens of thousands of acres on or near the boundaries of three national parks.
The Bush administration seems intent on taking full advantage of a regulatory window that is about to close at the end of the week. In 1996, the Republican-controlled Congress passed the “Congressional Review Act,” which gives lawmakers a 60-day window to repeal new rules issued by executive agencies. The law was intended to prevent outgoing administrations from passing “midnight” rules in their waning hours.In practice, Mr. Book says, this means the Bush administration has until Thursday, Nov. 20, to issue regulations.
And what else has he done in his last 100 days? Since October 10th, he has
ignored Congressional statutes requiring privacy disclosures by his Department of Homeland Security and non-discrimination in hiring by faith-based groups receiving federal funds. In twice turning his back on the rule of law, Bush again resorted to his favorite executive power-grabbing tools, the signing statement and “interpretation” by the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel.
Last month, Attorney General Michael Mukasey rushed out new guidelines for the F.B.I. that permit agents to use chillingly intrusive techniques to collect information on Americans even where there is no evidence of wrongdoing.
Agents will be allowed to use informants to infiltrate lawful groups, engage in prolonged physical surveillance and lie about their identity while questioning a subject’s neighbors, relatives, co-workers and friends. The changes also give the F.B.I. — which has a long history of spying on civil rights groups and others — expanded latitude to use these techniques on people identified by racial, ethnic and religious background.
The administration showed further disdain for Americans’ privacy rights and for Congress’s power by making clear that it will ignore a provision in the legislation that established the Department of Homeland Security. The law requires the department’s privacy officer to account annually for any activity that could affect Americans’ privacy — and clearly stipulates that the report cannot be edited by any other officials at the department or the White House.
The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel has now released a memo asserting that the law “does not prohibit” officials from homeland security or the White House from reviewing the report. The memo then argues that since the law allows the officials to review the report, it would be unconstitutional to stop them from changing it. George Orwell couldn’t have done better.
The administration has been especially busy weakening regulations that promote clean air and clean water and protect endangered species.
Mr. Bush, or more to the point, Vice President Dick Cheney, came to office determined to dismantle Bill Clinton’s environmental legacy, undo decades of environmental law and keep their friends in industry happy. Mr. Bush’s secretary of the interior, Dirk Kempthorne, has recently carved out significant exceptions to regulations requiring expert scientific review of any federal project that might harm endangered or threatened species (one consequence will be to relieve the agency of the need to assess the impact of global warming on at-risk species).
In coming weeks, we expect the Environmental Protection Agency to issue a final rule that would weaken a program created by the Clean Air Act, which requires utilities to install modern pollution controls when they upgrade their plants to produce more power. The agency is also expected to issue a final rule that would make it easier for coal-fired power plants to locate near national parks in defiance of longstanding Congressional mandates to protect air quality in areas of special natural or recreational value.
Interior also is awaiting E.P.A.’s concurrence on a proposal that would make it easier for mining companies to dump toxic mine wastes in valleys and streams. The interior department also has been rushing to open up millions of acres of pristine federal land to oil and gas exploration. He should not.
So what else can we look forward to? Pardons for all his criminal buddies. He could pardon himself if he wanted. But apparently it is hard to pardon people without spelling out what they are being pardoned for and then you have a handy list for future prosecutions. Possibilities: Jack Abramoff, Scooter Libby, Cheney, Rove, and all the rest of the thugs that helped him rip apart our civil liberties. He’s been stingier than most Presidents with the pardons, but it is a last chance to thank all those who helped him so much.