An increasing number of observers are reaching the conclusion that the Bush administration covertly backed the recent attempted military coup in Venezuela. As Josh Marshall points out, there is "something odd and perplexing about the drifting accounts being provided by administration officials. Every day there's a new detail.
In the aftermath of the failed coup against populist Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, Bush administration officials have admitted that they "met several times in recent months" with leaders of the coup "and agreed with them that he should be removed from office." Those meetings, and the haste with which the White House proclaimed its support for the military-installed regime, have prompted suspicions that the U.S. helped instigate the coup.
The U.S. Interior Department's web site features a video prepared by the Patton Boggs lobbying group to promote exploration for oil and gas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Its distribution of the video violates a law forbidding federal agencies to engage in PR activities "designed to support or defeat legislation pending before the Congress." The Interior Department is becoming "a cinema house for lobbyists," says Massachusetts Congressman Edward Markey.
While formulating its national energy policy, the Bush administration's Energy Department met with 109 representatives of the energy industry and its trade associations from late January to May 17, 2001, but gave environmental groups less than 48 hours to review and comment on the policies.
Richard Reeves, author of an acclaimed work on President Kennedy, has joined other leading historians in criticizing President Bush's executive order last fall that tightened access to presidential records of previous administrations. Currently working on a book about President Reagan, Reeves held up an index of government documents that he has been prohibited from seeing. "There's great determination to prevent these papers from ever becoming public," he said.
Though President Bush says he envisions a world that settles disputes with "reason and good will," he is deepening U.S. ties with countries that commit human-rights abuses. "But Bush's coalition against terrorism is deepening U.S. military ties with countries that ... commit human-rights abuses that are well documented by the State Department," writes Frida Berrigan. "Last month, the department released its annual 'Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.' It lists 52 countries that are receiving U.S. military training or weapons as having 'poor' or 'very poor' human-rights records."
PBS has applied its "conflict of interest" guidelines to refuse programming that receives sponsorship from unions, lesbians or battered women, on grounds that these groups have a "vested interest in the subject matter of the program." When it comes to corporations, however, the network follows a different standard. Currently the network is premiering a six-hour series about the global economy which was sponsored by major corporations that have a clear interest in the show's content.
When Spozhmai Maiwandi, who ran the Pashto service of the U.S. government's Voice of America, aired remarks made by Taliban leader Mullah Omar not long after September 11, the Bush administration got upset. Maiwandi lost her job. Frank Smyth writes for TomPaine.com that "unfortunately the VOA case is only one of many examples in which Bush officials have manipulated the press, particularly since 9/11. The administration has demonstrated a callous disregard for journalism, truth and transparency.
George Bush likes to insist that he governs "based upon principle and not polls and focus groups." In reality, writes Joshua Green, "the Bush administration is a frequent consumer of polls, though it takes extraordinary measures to appear that it isn't." In 2001, the administration spent close to $1 million for polling, using political advisors like Jan van Lohuizen and his focus-group guru, Fred Steeper. "Policies are chosen beforehand, polls used to spin them.
President Bush's attempts to "rebrand" the United States are doomed, according to Naomi Klein. Klein analyzes of the strategy developed for the U.S. by Charlotte Beers, the advertising executive hired by the State Department as undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs. One of the problems, Klein notes, is that Beers' strategy of "branding" is itself in conflict with her attempt to equate Americanism with democracy and diversity.