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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

For the week of January 14 - 20, 2004

Opinion Column

Is Bush ‘president’
in name only?

Commentary by Pat Murphy

Republicans and Democrats who voted for George W. Bush should ask: Is Bush really in charge?

This isn’t a frivolous question, but one that begs discussion as the full portrait of the 43rd president is pieced together, tidbit by tidbit.

A large chunk of the puzzle is provided in a book liberally quoting former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, who was fired by the White House for singing off key with the rest of the Cabinet chorus.

Republican spinners are in full attack, denouncing O’Neill as bitter, disloyal, vindictive.

Interestingly, however, the White House doesn’t refute contents of "The Price of Loyalty," by former Wall Street Journal reporter Ron Suskind, or O’Neill’s statements on CBS’ "60 Minutes."

Two O’Neill revelations are key:

First, how Vice President Dick Cheney and White House political adviser Karl Rove literally overrode President Bush’s reluctance to enact a second tax cut after Bush seemed befuddled about who benefited from an earlier cut. And, second, O’Neill’s description of Bush presiding over Cabinet meetings "like a blind man in a room full of deaf people."

Some history. In the 2000 campaign, Bush admitted he was 40 years old before abandoning heavy drinking (he’s now 57). Neither had he taken an interest in public affairs. All his business ventures were literally handed to him because of his name and three generations of kinfolk with successful business pedigrees. Today, he admits he only reads newspaper headlines and doesn’t watch much TV news.

So, the president lacks depth and experience and relies on a view of the world from a quick daily briefing by aides who decide what to tell him.

Enter Karl Rove, who indisputably masterminded Bush’s Texas governorship, and Dick Cheney, a clever, experienced Washington hand (former White House aide, ex-congressman, ex-Defense secretary, multimillionaire ex-Halliburton CEO) who operates in the shadows from an "undisclosed location," avoids media, and speaks only to friendly audiences.

It was Cheney who stealthily and quietly assembled tens of millions of dollars in a political war chest prior to 2000 to create the Bush presidency. Cheney insisted on weapons of mass destruction as President Bush’s raison d’être for attacking Iraq. Cheney, not the president, fired Paul O’Neill and presumably keeps order in the Cabinet. Cheney operates from "an undisclosed location" for security, one can presume, because his safety is more vital than the president’s. Cheney goes to Capitol Hill to help shape administration policies. Cheney tapped the "neocon" ideologues who’re driving U.S. policy of preemptive military action to democratize the world. And it was Cheney who presided over the controversial secret summit of energy titans to shape White House policies toward corporations.

Except for being deceived about who’s really in charge, Bush followers presumably don't mind who shapes the nation's direction from behind the scenes.

It’s a mechanism that President Bush’s close Texas crony claims. Enron chairman Kenneth ("Kenny Boy") Lay claims he didn’t know that corrupt subordinates and book-cooking auditors were plundering his firm.



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