From: Independent Media Centers - Web Cast News - Dec. 3, 2000
"Why are there so many articles like this NOT in US newspapers? This
one comes from the British "Observer". The author describes the new
Republican politics in D.C. as one "stamped with a familiar brand name,
the Bush family. 'It will be,' says one senior White House aide,
'the restoration of the aristocracy, motivated by revenge and greed.' "
Published on Sunday, December 3, 2000 in the Observer of London
The network of big business interests that is now waiting to reap its rewards
from an administration that may stand for little but revenge and greed.
by Ed Vulliamy
The ominous joke in Washington is that George W. Bush is learning how to
pronounce the word 'inaugural'.
The city that has for eight years filled its cappuccino bars with the staff
of a reforming presidency is bracing itself for change: an influx of Texan
Stetsons and Cuban heels - and a politics stamped with a familiar brand
name, the Bush family. 'It will be,' says one senior White House aide,
'the restoration of the aristocracy, motivated by revenge and greed.'
The Bush Transition Office has just opened across the River Potomac
from the leafy, liberal streets of Georgetown in McClean, Virginia, where
heavy-hitting lobbies of the conservative Right fill the phone directory.
From here, where workers are rewiring to make way for more phone lines,
Bush's presidency-in-waiting will take shape, even though the election
result remains contested.
The question the capital is asking is the one posed by White House
communications director Sidney Blumenthal on Friday: 'If Bush wins,
who is the President?'
That is a question more and more Americans are raising as Bush's grip
on the White House strengthens by the day. Just what does 'Dubya'
stand for? The answer seems to be: not much. The more you look at
Bush the less you see. For every clue as to what kind of President he
would make, there is a question; for every pattern, a glitch.
The clues are among the entourage, either packing for Washington or
else already here, planning the next four years while Bush bides his
time - relaxing, apparently - at his ranch. If there was ever a President
defined by his donors and patrons, it is Bush. Like a player in a baroque
allegorical drama, he is not really a person, more a personification of interests.
They come from three overlapping spheres of influence: his father's
ancien régime, the clique of political operatives with which 'Dubya'
has governed the nation's second biggest state, and - most formidably
- business interests behind the Republican Party that have waited eight
long Clinton years for this moment. For all of them, another Bush
administration is payback time.
A network controlled by George Bush Snr first opened the floodgates
for the funds that bought 'W' the election. 'The old man's network,'
says Bush's cousin, John Ellis, 'is probably 50,000 people, and I think
they were looking for some kind of vindication. I don't think you can
possibly overrate the hatred of Bill Clinton in the Republican Party'.
The old guard falls into two categories. The privy council of the last
Bush administration is led by Dick Cheney, getting down to the
unfinished business of 1992 while 'Dubya' is out of town. It includes
General Colin Powell, former Secretary of State James Baker,
Pentagon official Paul Wolfowitz and National Security aide Condoleeza
Rice. From his father's domestic team, Bush has former Federal
Reserve appointee Lawrence Summers, and faithful soldier Andrew
Card to be his Chief of Staff - of whom one aide said: 'At least he's not a
Then there is the overlapping circle of investors and corporate barons
made rich by Bush's father, collected into the Carlyle Group, a
cabalistic, Washington-based merchant bank chaired by Ronald
Reagan's former Pentagon chief, Frank Carlucci. Carlyle is a financial
club for Bush Snr's intimate circle and can expect to enjoy political
clout in the White House.
Bush Snr is one of the bank's paid emissaries. Among the partners are
his economic adviser Richard Darman and Dubya's front man in Florida,
James Baker (Bush Jnr has his own connections with Carlyle).
From this ancien régime comes talk of bipartisanship, conciliatory
gestures to a riven nation and Congress, and even recruitment of
pro-Bush Democrats into the Cabinet. But behind the figureheads are
other faces - the hardline Texan managers of the most disciplined and
lavishly funded political campaign in recent history.
And behind them are the real power brokers, hands to guide the White
House from within the world of business and industry with whom Bush
has worked for years, who wield awesome power in American society
and owe no debt to compromise.
In the capital, the point man works both on stage and behind the
scenes. When the Supreme Court convened on Friday, Bush was
represented by Theodore Olson, a high-profile attorney and former
partner of Kenneth Starr.
But, backstage, Olson is the Washingtonian who has kept the
right-wing candle burning on the capital's dining circuit during the
Clinton years, along with his socialite wife, Barbara. It is intriguing that
Bush should have appointed the man who accepted some $2.4 million
from the ultra-conservative donor Mellon Scaife for what became
known as the Arkansas Project - the conspiracy to launch the Paula
Jones lawsuit, to detonate the fruitless Whitewater 'scandal' through
paid operatives in Little Rock, and ultimately to force the impeachment
of President Clinton. Now Olson has become ambassador inside the
Beltway for the state of Texas.
To most Washingtonians, Texas - with its 1.4 million children without
health insurance, squandered surplus, appalling pollution record,
exaggerated school standards, housing crisis and execution factory -
is not an alluring model for America.
But Bush has, from the beginning, pointed to Texas as the validation of
his presidential collateral. And the Bush power base - of his own
generation, at least - lies in his fiefdom, in whose image he would
forge the nation.
Most obviously, Bush will continue to lean on the so-called 'Iron
Triangle' of his closest aides throughout his political career. The most
visible of these is spokeswoman Karen Hughes, whom CNN's Charles
Zewe says 'treats the media like a covey of quail that can be rounded up'.
'Bush,' says a Texan Democrat consultant, 'is the boy in the bubble of
infotainment.' Hughes, an army brat born in Paris (France, not Texas),
with size-12 shoes and Texan-sized voice, will be the woman to make
sure the bubble does not burst, like the boil on Bush's cheek the week
after he first thought he was elected.
The second point of the triangle is the buzz-cut Oklahoman Joe
Allbaugh, quiet enforcer of the governor's will. He would be the White
House 'thought police', with a further role to mediate friction that
exists, hidden, between Hughes and the apex of the Iron Triangle, Karl
Rove goes back nearly 30 years in Republican politics, 25 of them with
the Bush family. He moved to Texas to work for the then Congressman
Bush in 1973. Talking to him is like meeting a robot; it is hard to detect
any sign of feeling other than devotion to and control over his current
master, for whom he has fought every political campaign. Even Tom
Paulen, former chairman of the Texas Republican Party, calls Rove 'a
Rove was Bush Snr's emissary to his own son. He had the idea 'Dubya'
should run 'some time during the 1995 session', he told The Observer -
and in this he is more than a political strategist. Rove does not only
form part of the Iron Triangle; he welds it to other scaffolding in the
Bush political edifice. He is the centre of a nexus that connects not only
the gubernatorial machine to Bush Snr, but to the business and party
interests that sought out George W. Bush (rather than the other way
round) to win back the White House at, literally, any cost.
'I never dreamed about being President,' says Bush, 'All of a sudden,
people started talking to me about the presidency'. Karl Rove organised
the meetings in 1998 that began the Republicans' courting of this real-life
Forrest Gump - for a reason.
Clinton was regarded as an illegitimate President because he gave
certain quarters of American power a hard time - characterised by a
new term in the Wall Street lexicon during the aftermath of the
election: 'Bush stocks'.
'There's been a sigh of relief,' said Larry Smith, an analyst with Sutro in
New York. Bush's proclaimed victory was greeted by a sudden leap in
the share value of big pharmaceutical companies, big insurers of
health care, and the big oil and tobacco companies.
While Rove was masterminding Bush's gubernatorial victory of 1994 in
Texas, he himself had another job with one of these companies: a paid
political intelligence operative for the Philip Morris cigarette company,
reporting to another Bush aide, Jack Dillard, ubiquitous tobacco lobbyist.
Unlike that of Clinton, Bush's record on tobacco does not displease the
industry; he decreed it impossible for the civil lawsuit against tobacco
companies to proceed in Texas. 'The prospect of Bill Clinton gone and a
Bush presidency makes the tobacco industry almost giddy,' says Martin
Feldman, an analyst of the industry for the consultants Salomon Smith
Corporate delight at the prospect of a Bush team heading for Washington
stems from the core political philosophy Bush brings from Texas to
Washington, which is also Rove's principal achievement. In Texas
legalese it was called 'tort reform'; in Washington it translates as
grand-scale deregulation of business, services and industry.
Even if a full-blooded Bush agenda is partly clipped by the pall of
illegitimacy and the narrowness of his official victory, this is the Texas
manifesto the newcomers to Washington will be determined - and
likely - to accomplish.
It was described to The Observer this last week by a senior White
House aide as 'bringing the business special interests into politics so
they can take over the regulatory bodies of government and regulate
themselves'. For example: the Environmental Protection Agency, the
fair trade agencies, the health, safety and 'human resources' executives,
the regulation of industry, education, guns, medicine and land use.
And so, behind the political 'Iron Triangle' is the real 'Iron Triangle'
also lying in wait with Bush - the businessmen.
Foremost among these is Don Evans, the rainmaker. Evans, an oil
executive from Bush's home town of Midland, Texas, goes back three
decades with the governor, who was his childhood friend and
confidant. Evans became his presidential campaign chairman, filling the
biggest political war chest of all time.
He is now tipped by one Republican insider for 'any job he wants' in the
White House. Whatever that is, he will be among the most influential
politicians in America. The word among Republicans is that Evans may
have his eye on the chairmanship of the party's National Committee.
Evans represents the industry in which Bush himself began his career,
which propels the economy of Texas and was crucial to both his and his
father's victories - oil.
No industry has a higher stake in 'tort reform' than the drillers of black
gold, and few look forward to a deregulating Bush administration more
than the executives of the oil industry, which has already been promised
almost unfettered exploration and drilling rights.
But there are other interests too, and two of them - urban development
and health care - combine with oil in another mighty figure in the
background of a Bush administration. If he must thank his father for
his name, Bush must thank Richard Rainwater for his money.
Last year, as he prepared to run for President, Bush liquidated a blind
trust he created to hold his assets - many of them in oil, real estate,
health care and other companies owned by Rainwater, a contributor to
Bush's campaigns and with whose money Bush aquired his windfall
stake in the Texas Rangers baseball team.
Rainwater is a billionaire buying into beleaguered companies at discount
prices and reselling when everyone wants in. But he is also involved in
companies, including oil firms, that are heavily regulated with hundreds
of millions in government contracts.
One, hospital chain called Columbia/HCA, is the subject of a federal
investigation into Medicare fraud. Another, Charter Behavioural Health
Systems (in which Bush held investments), is subject to regulatory
scrutiny, while another - Crescent Real Estate, which operates mental
hospitals - has its multi-million-dollar government input under federal
investigation. Rainwater is not himself accused of any misdemeanour,
but in each case, the prospect of Bush's promise to privatise and
deregulate the health system is a tempting one.
Rainwater is most famous for investing the oil wealth of the third point
of Bush's business Iron Triangle - the Bass Brothers, builders of the
metropolis Fort Worth. He turned the $50 million they invested with
him in 1970 to $5 billion in 1986, mainly through timely investing in
Texaco oil and Disney.
This is how the wheels go round in Texas: in 1997, Governor Bush
supported a tax reform Bill aimed to cut, among other things, school
property taxes. The reform saved Rainwater's Crescent Real Estate
In 1999, Bush rushed through an emergency tax relief package to help
independent oil producers as prices slumped. According to state
records, the biggest beneficiary was the Pioneer Natural Resources oil
company, with a $1m tax break. Filings with the Security Exchange
Commission show Rainwater to own 55m shares in Pioneer.
The scale model for this entwinement of political and commercial
interests was the inclusion of the oil companies in drawing up Texas's
clean air regulations last year. The rules were devised by Bush's office
in collaboration with Marathon Oil and Exxon, and left companies to
set their own standards voluntarily.
But while the governor was waiting to sign the new 'self-regulatory'
Bill into law, the town of Odessa, Texas, was covered by a pall of black
smoke so thick that drivers had to switch on their lights during
Odessa, said Dr David Karman of the Texas Natural Resources
Commission, 'was like having an open incinerator in your backyard.
Only this incinerator is burning a very large soup of toxic chemicals'.
In bringing the politics of Texan non-government into national
government, Bush is in perfect harmony with two of his most powerful
lieutenants in Congress: Dick Armey, leader of the House, and Tom
Delay, the Republicans' feared chief whip.
Delay, who led the impeachment of President Clinton and whose office
mobilised the baying crowds bussed around Florida last month, is seen
as the coming man and leader of the extreme Right, with which Bush
must deal. Delay has called the Environmental Protection Agency the
'Gestapo' of government.
Armey has likewise attacked what he calls 'government shackles on
enterprise'; both men have sworn absolute loyalty to Bush.
And as it happens, both men, like George W. Bush, come from Texas.
Another Iron Triangle.
© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2000