The Bush Cabinet's Cult of Personality
As President Bush's approval ratings continue to plummet, the White House has upped the ante in politicizing virtually every Cabinet department. That's the clear lesson from today's news that HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson cancelled contracts previously awarded to critics of the President. That revelation came only 24 hours after the Washington Post reported that Department of Agriculture required its public spokesmen to include pro-Iraq war talking points in each speech.
The Dallas Business Journal and later Reuters reported the Jackson incident, who may have well broken the law. During an April 28th event, Jackson told the tale of his response to an advertising contractor critical of President Bush:
"He didn't get the contract. Why should I reward someone who doesn't like the president, so they can use funds to try to campaign against the president? Logic says they don't get the contract. That's the way I believe."
As ThinkProgress reported this afternoon, Jackson's partisanship may have violated the Federal Acquisition Regulations and Competition in Contracting Act. By the end of the day, Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey and Representatives Barney Frank (MA) and Henry Waxman (CA) called for an investigation.
Jackson's patronage machine at HUD is just the latest example of the Bush cult of personality within the Bush cabinet. On Monday, the Washington Post revealed that career employees at the USDA are being forced to regurgitate White House talking points in every speech, including platitudes such as "President Bush has a clear strategy for victory in Iraq." In a May 2nd email, USDA speechwriter Heather Vaughn wrote:
"Please use these message points as often as possible and send Harry Phillips , USDA's director of speechwriting, a weekly email summarizing the event, date and location of each speech incorporating the attached language. Your responses will be included in a weekly account sent to the White House."
It should come as no surprise that the veneration of President extends to the homeland and national security leadership as well. On August 3rd, 2004, then Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge famously proclaimed "we don't do politics in the Department of Homeland Security." Yet only two days earlier, Ridge kowtowed before George W. Bush, declaring that "we must understand that the kind of information available to us today is the result of the President's leadership in the war against terror." And only last Friday, outgoing CIA Director Porter Goss praised the man who metaphorically just slit his throat:
"I honestly would report to you, sir, that we are safer for your efforts, your leadership and for the men and women in the community that are working so hard and doing so well."
Apparently, 31% of Americans agree with him.