2005: Twelve Months Of Hell For The GOP.
January 2005 saw the inauguration of President Bush’s second term. But it wasn’t pain free. Due to widespread reports of voter fraud, Senator Barbara Boxer signed to contest the Electoral College count in Ohio. The House was forced to certify the election, so Bush could get his frat party on January 20th. On that freezing cold day, 10,000 peace activists took to the streets, lining Pennsylvania Ave., forcing the fat cats paying for the party to deal with the People. Some of those fat cats included CheveronTexaco, Exxon Mobil, Occidental Petroleum, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman. Who wouldda guessed?
But the news in January didn’t get better. A Freedom of Information Act request obtained by USA Today found that the Bush Administration paid conservative pundit Armstrong Williams $240,000 to promote Bush’s No Child Left Behind act. Bush’s Secretary of Education, Roderick Paige called the illegal propaganda an “outreach effort.”
The National Intelligence Council for the CIA couldn’t produce good news for the GOP either. They found that Iraq would be the training ground for the next generation of terrorists. Then a 220 paged Pentagon report entitled “Transition To And From Hostilities” said that the Bush administration needed another 350,000 troops in Iraq to bring a proper transition to peace in the nation. Furthermore, the David Kay report found that Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction after all. Opps.
Shortly thereafter, a joint investigation by the Financial Times and the Italian business daily Il Sole 24 Ore found that the United States too was involved in the Oil-For-Food Scandal. It seemed that the Bush administration permitted 7 million barrels of oil be transferred to Jordan so that the nation could build up its reserves prior to going to war with Iraq. The transfer allowed a third of the $150 million dollar sale to go the Saddam Hussein.
A poll by the New York Times found Bush’s approval rating to be 49%, entering his second term with the lowest approval rating of any President in 50 years.
Bush nominated Condi Rice to be our next Secretary of State, which put Rice in the uneasy position of a Senate confirmation hearing. Senator Barbara Boxer was there to prove Rice was a bald face liar, using her own words against her:
“It was a case that said he was trying to reconstitute. He's trying to acquire nuclear weapons. Nobody ever said that it was going to be the next year.” -Condi Rice 7/30/2003It wasn’t long before the Secretary of Defense was on the run too. Rumsfeld was forced to cancel a trip to Germany to avoid being charged with War Crimes in a German court.
“The intelligence assessment was that he was reconstituting his nuclear program; that, left unchecked, he would have a nuclear weapon by the end of the year.” -Condi Rice 10/10/2004
All of this didn’t look good, and it wasn’t long before the Bush administration attempt to push it’s “political capital” and proposing privatizing Social Security, a move so radical that the Republican chair of the House Ways and Means Committee Bill Thomas, and Republican Senator Olympia Snow both publicly opposed the plan. The proposal went steadily down-hill from there.
In February things seemed to be getting better for the GOP. At least until it was revealed by left-wing bloggers that a conservative White House Press Corp “journalist” Jeff Gannon was actually a homosexual prostitute, being paid to throw softball questions to Scotty McClellan.
By March things were looking rougher for the GOP, which meant that the President had to go on vacation again. Looking at their dipping poll numbers, and increasing criticism on the proposed Social Security privatization proposal, Bush cut his vacation short in order to sign into law the Terry Schiavo bill. A “talking points” memo was leaked that the move will rally pro-life America behind the GOP. Polling finds that the overwhelming majority of Americans are disgusted with the move.
By April the fallout of the Schiavo fiasco set even more eyes on House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. Republican Congressman Chris Shays was so disgusted with DeLay that he called on him to resign his post.
But DeLay wasn’t feeling the heat alone. The EPA under public pressure was forced to cancel a program that gave poor Florida families a thousand dollars in exchange for documenting the effects of poisoning their children with pesticides.
In May the GOP saw things begin to crumble. The Times of London published The Downing Street Memo, showing that the Bush administration had fixed the pre-war intelligence to fit their policy of invading Iraq. Vice President Dick Cheney informed the American People that the Iraqi Insurgency was in its “last throws.”
On the lighter side, Alan Colmes talked to Republican anti-abortion activist Neal Horsley on his radio program, who admitted on the air that while he was growing up on the farm in Georgia his first girlfriend was a mule.
By July it was revealed in Newsweek that White House advisor Karl Rove had spoken to Time Magazine reporter Matthew Cooper about Valerie Plame just days before Robert Novak leaked Plame’s identity in a column. The GOP’s response was to release “talking points”, distributed by RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman to discredit Plame’s husband Joe Wilson. Days later, after Wilson was interviewed on Meet the Press, Republican Congressman Peter King said that Tim Russert ought “to be shot.”
In August US forces had seen an average increase of 50% in insurgent attacks from the year prior. A special election in Ohio’s 2nd Congressional District showed that Republicans were in deeper trouble than they thought. In a district that had not sent a Democrat to Congress in 40 years, with the previous Republican always easily winning the seat by 72% or more, the special election proved to be highly competitive. Democrat Paul Hackett, an Iraq War vet, who heavily criticized Bush, barely lost the election with 48% of the vote. The Republican candidate, Jean Schmidt, who barely won the election had spent $300,000 on attack ads against Hackett. It marked her first, but not her last attack on a war veteran in 2005.
In August the bad news kept coming for the GOP, as an AP-Ipsos poll found Bush’s approval ratings had slipped to 38%. As usual, when times are bad, the President responded by again going on vacation. Unfortunately, for him, he had some unwelcomed guests in Crawford, as dozens of military families from Alabama to Arkansas, Georgia to Missouri, New Jersey to Washington joined Cindy Sheehan in demanding an answer to her question: “For what noble cause did my son die for?”
Things grew worse as federal prosecutors subpoenaed the Treasurer of the Republican National Committee, Robert Kjellander on corruption charges involving an Illinois state pension fund and The Carlyle Group. Kjellander, who had headed up Bush’s re-election campaign in three states was paid $3 million by Carlyle to land contracts with the company controlling the pension fund.
But Kjellander wasn’t the only one in legal trouble. Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff was indicted for fraud for ripping off millions of dollars from Native Americans.
But massive fraud wasn’t just happening in the United States. In Iraq investigators discovered that more than $1 billion worth of weapons was embezzled in kickbacks for middlemen. An audit found that at least $500 million in funds for Iraq has disappeared.
And days after RNC Chair Ken Mehlman announced a “zero-tolerance” policy against voter fraud by GOP operatives, the RNC decided to pay $722,000 in legal bills to defend a former RNC official James Tobin who was charged with 4 felonies involving voter fraud.
Things got weirder for the GOP, as the Associated Press found that to keep our nation safe from terrorist attack, infants with similar sounding names to those on the no-fly list were barred from boarding air planes.
And as Cindy Sheehan’s peace protest continued to grow in Crawford, on August 17th one thousand, six hundred and twenty seven individual candlelight vigils were held all over the nation honoring the troops who have died in Iraq, and calling for our brave men and women to be brought home.
Meanwhile America continued to grow even more insecure. The National Counterterrorism Center assembled new terrorist attack statistics showing that 2004 saw a marked spike in terrorist activity world-wide. In 2003 the Patterns of Global Terrorism report cited 208 terrorist incidents, but that number had jumped to 3,192 terrorist incidents in 2004. The Bush administration’s response was to stop publishing the annual report. But Muslims weren’t the only ones carrying out terrorist attacks. The US News & World Report found that in the ten years since the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, 60 terrorist plots have been uncovered and prevented in the United States, plots all planned by extreme right-wing groups. The Bush administration’s response was to spy on left-wing animal rights activists.
And in Ohio the Republican Governor Bob Taft was charged with four ethics violations, marking the first time in Ohio’s history that a governor had been charged with a crime. Taft saw his approval ratings drop to a measly 15%. Mark Rickel, a spokesman for Taft, said, “The governor doesn’t govern by polls.” The Ohio Governor would later in the year be found guilty of those charges.
And then came Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans drowned. And Bush, still on vacation, strummed.
In September, as New Orleans and the entire Gulf Coast was left abandoned by the GOP, revelation after revelation was revealed about FEMA’s gross negligence of the rescue effort, if not intentional abandonment of those in need. Five days after the hurricane struck Mississippi towns had still yet to see any federal aid arrive in areas that had seen 90% of the buildings destroyed. Despite the destruction, President Bush, Condi Rice, Vice President Cheney and White House Chief of Staff Andy Card were still on vacation days after the hurricane hit. On FEMA’s website, the agency listed Pat Robertson’s Operation Blessing as one of the top three charities to donate relief funds to, despite the organization’s checked past of human rights violations in Africa.
International aid offers came pouring in from around the globe. Venezuela’s Citgo Petroleum Corporation pledged a million dollars in aid. Russia offered to dispatch rescue teams and other aid, but was rejected by FEMA. Japan, Canada, France, Honduras, Germany, Jamaica, Australia, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Greece, Hungry, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Mexico, China, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, and NATO all made international aid offers. Israel offer hundreds of doctors, nurses, and trauma experts, as well as field hospitals, medical kits, and temporary housing. None of the aid was accepted. The UK shipped 400,000 rations of food to feed Katrina survivors, rations that the Food and Drug Administration burned, along with additional food aid from Israel, Spain, and Italy.
Meanwhile 2 million people were left without power, tens of thousands remained trapped in New Orleans with no food or water, and corpses littered the streets and floated through the flood waters. The headline in the New Orleans Time-Picayune read “Help Us, Please.”
Meanwhile the USS Bataan sat docked on the port of New Orleans, with doctors, hospital beds, food, and the ability to produce 100,000 gallons of water per day, and the Bush administration refused to give the order to permit the Bataan crew to help the people of New Orleans.
Leaked FEMA memos showed that FEMA director Michael Brown only bothered to dispatch 1,000 Homeland Security personnel to the region, two days after the hurricane struck, and that the employees were not expected to help those in need but to “convey a positive image of disaster operations” to local government officials and to the public.
FEMA’s response went from bad to worse, as they prepared flights out of town for evacuees, sending them to wrong locations. FEMA’s response was so slow that Vancouver-based Canadian rescue teams arrived in New Orleans five days before American rescue units. When FEMA contractors arrived, some of them were arrested for looting in Plaquemines Parish. President Bush made an executive order preventing federal contractors from paying local workers prevailing wages who were attempting to rebuild. Gas prices around the nation soar to $3.00 to $4.00 a gallon and ExxonMobil announced it expected it’s 2nd quarter to be the single most profitable quarter for any company ever, making an average of $4.5 million dollars per hour.
As the nation became increasingly enraged with FEMA and the Bush administration, Republicans played the race card, blaming the African Americans left in the city. House Speaker Republican Dennis Hastert questioned if New Orleans should be rebuilt at all, and Republican Senator Rick Santorum suggested punishing those left behind in the city. Republican Congressman Richard Baker said of the disaster, “We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn’t do it, but God did.” On his radio program, Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh called the New Orleans mayor “Mayor Nager.” Bill Bennett on his radio program said that if every black baby was aborted in America the crime rate would go down. And Louisiana state Senator Republican Craig Romero visited Washington, D.C. to garner support for his run for Congress in the 3rd district of Louisiana. Romero went to drum up support to prevent Katrina victims from moving back home, because he said without New Orleans residents the seat would go solidly Republican.
Meanwhile, the White House’s chief procurement officer, David Safavian was arrested for obstruction of justice, in the investigation of Jack Abramoff. But Safavian was just small fries. Soon the Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist found himself being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission for insider trading. This was followed by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay being indicted on conspiracy charges, and then for money laundering. DeLay was forced to step down as the House Majority Leader, who pushed for Congressmen David Dreier to take his place. But because Dreier is a homosexual, the GOP choose the House Majority Whip Roy Blunt to replace DeLay.
As the summer ended and October came, the GOP began to prepare for Halloween, and in this case didn’t involve tricks or treats, but for calling for foreign leaders of sovereign nations to be assassinated. The Christian Right apparently forgot the 6th Commandment (“Thou shall not kill“), and Pat Robertson called on the democratically elected President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez to be killed. Fox News pundit Bill O’Reilly soon joined Robertson by saying that the US ought to consider assassinating the President of Syria Bashar al-Assad if the country failed to help our war effort in Iraq.
Meanwhile MSNBC reported that when the FBI was using roving wiretaps to spy of suspected terrorists, the FBI may have mistakenly listened in on wrong numbers. A Justice Department Inspector General report showed that the FBI had a backlog of 38,514 hours of conversations. And the Secret Service took a visit to Currituck County High School remove a photo of President Bush with a thumb tack stuck in his head. It seems that the photo was part of a class project in which the students were to demonstrate their Constitutional Rights. It seemed that the Secret Service thought otherwise.
Then Raw Story reported that because of the government no-bid contracts to Halliburton, Vice President Dick Cheney’s stock options soared an astonishing 3,281%.
But the worse was yet to come. As the number of US soldiers killed in Iraq topped 2,000, the White House was looking to make some good PR on the war front. In an event billed as a “conversation with our troops”, President Bush held a teleconference with 10 soldiers with the Army’s 42nd Infantry Division. The event went on without a hitch, that is until the media ran a segment that they had taped showing Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary Allison Barber coaching the soldiers in giving the precise answers the White House wanted to hear. The staged event disgusted the public so much that Bush’s job approval ratings fell to an all time new low of just 29%.
With figures that low, things weren’t looking good for the GOP with several state elections to be held in November. In Virginia Democratic candidate Tim Kaine won the Governorship. In New Jersey the GOP lost another Governor’s race. In Dover, Pennsylvania voters kicked out eight school board members who had been shoving Christian Right “intelligent design” down their children’s throats. Pat Robertson promptly called down God’s vengeance upon the town. And California Governor Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger saw every single one of his ballot initiatives, most targeted against the Nurses’ union, voted down.
Behind the scenes top Pentagon brass, angered over the crippling of US defenses from the war in Iraq, looked elsewhere for a leader to voice their concerns. Knowing the President would silence them, they chose a hawkish Democrat, and Marine vet, Congressman Jack Murtha to disengage from the Iraq war. The move prompted an angered reaction by the GOP. Ohio Republican Jean Schmidt, who had spent $300,000 earlier in the year on negative campaigning against an Iraqi war vet Paul Hackett in order to get elected, came out and called Rep. Murtha a “coward” on the House floor. In less than a week Schmidt was forced to apologize on that very same House floor.
But still problems mounted with the GOP. After years of investigation, Vice President Dick Cheney’s Chief of Staff Lewis “Scooter” Libby was indicted on five counts of obstructing justice in the investigation into who leaked the identity of undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame.
Republicans began to feel somewhat relieved with the indictments, thinking that the worse was behind them. That was until another Downing Street memo appeared in The Daily Mirror of London, showing that Tony Blair had to talk George Bush out of bombing Al-Jazeera in Doha, Qatar. The White House called it “outlandish”, despite that the US military had bombed Al-Jazeera bureaus in Afghanistan and Baghdad in 2001 and 2003. This didn’t come as good news for the Pentagon, as it was further revealed by the Washington Post that the Counterintelligence Field Activity, a little known Pentagon agency was set up to spy on American citizens domestically.
But all the GOP’s woes didn’t come from the federal level. In Kentucky, it was revealed that Republican Governor Ernie Fletcher had hired his personal friend Jimmy Holiday to do nothing but answer phones for the state’s Department of Transportation. The problem came when Holiday refused to do this simple task, despite a handsome salary. The entire incident may never have been noticed if it hadn’t been for that the Governor had run on a platform against “making work for friends”.
And if that wasn’t disgraceful enough, Republican Congressman “Duke” Cunningham was forced to resign his post after admitting he took $2.4 million dollars in bribes from defense contractors in exchange for favorable government contracts.
And to top all of this repugnant behavior off, right-wing pundit Bill O’Reilly said on the air that Al-Qaeda should blow up Coit Tower in San Francisco.
It hasn’t been a good year for the GOP. 2005 has been marked with more scandals, indictments, and guilty verdicts than an elephant can shake a stick at. But with the 2006 Congressional elections coming up next year, 2006 could be remarkably worse.