America's religious right has scored its first legislative victory since George Bush's re-election by inserting a clause into a spending bill to undermine state laws requiring hospitals to provide abortions.
The provision, a last-minute addition to a $388bn budget bill, was approved by Congress without debate at the weekend in one of its last acts of this legislative session. It is expected soon to be signed into law by President Bush.
The passage of the bill caps a two-year campaign by Catholic bishops and anti-abortion organisations to give legal cover to hospitals that refuse to perform terminations, or to even refer women to abortion providers. The country's largest anti-abortion group described the bill's passage as one of its most important legal victories.
The triumph for the religious right was condemned by Democratic senators and women's activists as a clandestine attempt to chisel away at abortion rights. Few members were even aware of the clause when the bill was brought to Congress on Saturday, and by then it was too late to block it.
Suzanne Goldenberg, Congress approves anti-abortion clause, The Guardian, November 24, 2004
With the newly reelected Bush administration backed up by a tighter GOP grip on Congress, the coming political season could become a watershed mark for environmental protection and energy policy. As a result, federal laws and regulations dealing with everything from endangered species and forest protection to air and water pollution to oil and gas drilling, are likely to see a rigorous shaking out.
The administration is eager to achieve things denied it during President Bush's first term: pumping oil out of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), allowing loggers access to millions of acres of roadless national forest land, easing Clean Air Act restrictions on some pollutants, making it easier to extract oil and gas in the Rocky Mountains, and passing an energy bill put together by Vice President Dick Cheney with help from the energy industry.
Brad Knickerbocker, Bush's second-term stamp on environment, The Christian Science Monitor, November 18, 2004
Last week Congressional Republicans voted to change their rule that required an indicted leader to relinquish his post. They were responding to an investigation by the Travis County grand jury into political contributions by corporations that has already resulted in the indictments of three associates of Mr. DeLay, the House majority leader.
Yet no member of Congress has been indicted in the investigation, and none is a target unless he or she has committed a crime. The grand jury will continue its work, abiding by the rule of law. That law requires a grand jury of citizens, not the prosecutor, to determine whether probable cause exists to hold an accused person to answer for the accusation against him or her.
Politicians in Congress are responsible for the leaders they choose. Their choices reflect their moral values.
Every law enforcement officer depends on the moral values and integrity of society for backup; they are like body armor. The cynical destruction of moral values at the top makes it hard for law enforcement to do its job.
In terms of moral values, this is where the rubber meets the road. The rules you apply to yourself are the true test of your moral values.
The thinly veiled personal attacks on me by Mr. DeLay's supporters in this case are no different from those in the cases of any of the 15 elected officials this office has prosecuted in my 27-year tenure. Most of these officials - 12 Democrats and three Republicans - have accused me of having political motives. What else are they going to say?
Ronne Earle, District Attorney for Travis County, Tex, A Moral Indictment, The New York Times, November 23, 2004
Just last week, Republican congressional leaders made three power moves -- just because they could. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist threatened to break decades of tradition, which developed when both parties were in power, and employ a rarely used procedure (called "the nuclear option") to prevent Democrats from mounting a filibuster against any judicial nominations. The GOP has played this whole debate with admittedly masterful cynicism, making the Democrats look like "obstructionists" even though nearly 200 of George W. Bush's judicial nominees have been approved and just a handful have been blocked.
Second, they tossed into a spending bill a provision that would greatly expand an existing law by which hospitals and other health-care providers could deny abortion services to women and still receive federal funding. And third, they tried to sneak into the same bill a provision that would have allowed certain committee chairs and their staffs a carte blanche access to the tax returns of individual tax payer. On this last one, some unknown, eagle-eyed, and probably Democratic staffer caught the provision, buried deep in a several-hundred-page omnibus bill. A few Republicans feigned outrage, and a smaller few actually were outraged. But while Republicans promised to back off this proposal, there's little doubt the effort was deliberate. All this of course comes in the wake of the incredible DeLay rule, which again breaks all precedents and would permit House Majority Leader Tom DeLay to retain his post if he's indicted.
Well, they're the majority. The people elected them, and they're merely reflecting the people's will, right?
Michael Tomasky, Will of the People?, The American Prospect, November 22, 2004
Something stinks in the way intelligence reform died in the House. I can't believe that President Bush, newly re-elected and triumphant, really couldn't get this bill passed, but was thwarted by a couple of non-entity Congressmen worried about their Pentagon pals. Doesn't it make a lot more sense to conclude that the president, who never wanted a 9/11 commission in the first place and initially held its recommendations between his thumb and forefinger as if they were something awful the cat dragged in, doesn't want any changes, and is just letting these two goons do his dirty work?
That way, after terrorists blow up the Golden Gate Bridge, and it turns out information that might have thwarted them kicked around the halls of American intelligence, unnoticed, because all the agency heads were still staring at their thumbs, Bush can pretend his hands are clean.
Neil Steinberg, Intelligence reform meets a mysterious fate, Chicago Sun Times, November 22, 2004
It has now become apparent why Porter Goss, a politician, was named to head the CIA in an administration that already has been accused of politicizing intelligence during the Iraq war: to settle old scores. Many intelligence personnel have leaked embarrassing—and accurate—information to the media about the Bush administration’s missteps in Iraq. Now it’s payback time from the White House.
According to a Newsday article that quotes a former senior CIA official who has close contacts at both the White House and the CIA, Goss is purging the intelligence officials who Bush suspects are disloyal or leaking information. To conduct this purge, Goss has recruited politicos from his congressional staff to fill high positions at the CIA. The politicos are in open conflict with senior career officials, especially those in the CIA’s secret operations directorate, which conducts overseas spying and covert missions. The strife within the agency is the worst it’s been in many years.
Although the CIA’s record on intelligence estimates may point to deep underlying institutional problems at the agency, some heads need to roll at the CIA for recent failures. Lopping them off could cause intra-institutional friction. But those heads work in the part of the CIA that analyzes the incoming information from spies and technical means of intelligence collection, not in the operations directorate. After all, those analysts tolerated, and sometimes actively aided, the administration’s effort to distort and exaggerate intelligence on Iraq’s alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction to justify an unneeded invasion. But of course, they are not the people being ousted. In fact, their career prospects most likely have been enhanced by their willingness to “play ball” with the administration.
Ivan Eland, Politics and the CIA, Antiwar.com, November 6, 2004