Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Sunday, May 09, 2004

The common theme is oversight (or lack of it)

If there is a common theme to the Bush administration it is that they have managed to avoid the normal amount of oversight that the other two branches of government exert over the executive in the United States. The key to this ability is the Bush administration's use of "the war on terror" rhetoric.

So what is the role that suppressed oversight plays? As George Will (the prominent conservative pundit) said on what I still think of as This Week With David Brinkley on ABC (paraphrasing what I remember he said on TV today): when you have no consequences for failure you get a lot of failure, and we've seen an awful lot of failure from this administration and very little in the way of consequences.

George Will's point is that oversight has been lacking. The Bush administration has been able to weather a series of policy disasters (pre-9/11 intel botches, no WMDs in Iraq, the torture scandal etc) with no major resignations, and a remarkably few trips to Capitol Hill by cabinet members. Will implied that this allows officials to take unreasonable risks with little forethought and planning.

Why are there no consequences? With respect to the Judiciary, I suspect it is the result of the Republican partisan sympathies of a core group in the Supreme Court. But in defense of the Judiciary, the relevant cases are only now reaching the highest level. I'll leave it to Law Talking Guy to disagree, agree and/or elaborate on that.

With Congress there are two factors. First, the Republican party has majorities in both houses of Congress. The Republicans are easily capable of blocking anything the Democrats might want to do.

Second, to make matters worse, Republicans used 9/11 as a political tool very early on to silence Democratic criticism of the Bush administration's policies with regard to terrorism and the middle east in general. Consider the Chambliss (R-GA) attack ads against Max Cleland (former D-GA) that prominently featured pictures of Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein and with the statement that Cleland opposed the Homeland Security Act (which Cleland opposed because it dramatically reduces oversight mechanisms).

A friend (the other political scientist) who we know visits this blog but has yet to contribute told me that he's tired of hearing about blind support for "the troops" because he believes that it is this tendency to avoid holding the military accountable that has led to these problems. In other words, the "support the troops" mantra is preventing needed oversight of the military. If I got that wrong, he should correct me in a comment or posting. nudge nudge.

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