Connecting the Dolts

3/12/2006

News that Dubya’s top domestic policy advisor was arrested this week for swindling suburban DC department stores out of $5,000 in merchandize was enough to slap the Muse out of a four-month slumber. It’s the latest in a series of jarring White House developments that give credence to the axiom that “you just can’t make this shit up.”

Claude Alexander Allen, President Bush’s point man for domestic policy, was picked up by Montgomery County, Md. police and accused of a scam in which he’d buy an item, return to the store with the receipt, pluck an identical item off the shelf, take it to customer service, and return it as if it was the original. The cops have surveillance tapes and credit card records. Allen says these were simply 25 “misunderstandings.”

In fairness to Bush, I seriously doubt he knew he’d put a grifter in charge of domestic policy. He doesn’t know much of anything. Of this we can be sure.

Yet Allen had a heck of a portfolio. A quick check of Nexis shows the guy spoke for the Administration on Katrina response, stem cell research, aging policy and abstinence.

Allen actually tendered his resignation a few weeks ago to “spend more time with his family.” The abrupt departure might have generated more curiosity from the intrepid White House press corps, but they were understandably distracted because the Vice President had shot a man in the face.

Allen’s wasn’t the only family-friendly departure from the Bush crew in recent weeks. Friday, Secretary of Interior Gale Norton told Dubya it was time “to leave this mountain you gave me to climb, catch my breath, then set my sights on new goals.”

No doubt foremost among those goals is to steer clear of the octopus-like scandal that is Jack Abramoff, whose tentacles are grasping at her inner circle. Perhaps Bush has learned it’s best to push Abramoff casualties out the door before the heat comes down.

The president is a quick study. You’ll recall that when David Safavian, the man Bush put in charge of a few hundred billion dollars in federal procurement, was arrested for lying and obstructing a criminal investigation into Abramoff, he was still on the federal payroll. Messy, that.

Speaking of soon-to-be-infamous Bush cronies, remember Katherine Harris? The “impartial” Florida arbiter of elections whose other title was co-chair of the Sunshine State’s 2000 Committee to Elect Bush? Well, she’s all grown up now and running for the Senate. But she was forced to go underground last week when word got out that the same defense contractor who pleaded guilty to bribing jail-bound Republican Congressman Duke Cunningham had plied favor from Harris as well.

So what’s one to make of all this? The totality of corruption, cronyism, deceit, incompetence and arrogance wrought by the Bush years defies explanation. It should have come as no surprise that this outfit would be dumbfounded by the public backlash against their greenlighting an Arab nation to take control of six key U.S. ports, or that we the people might just have a passing interest in knowing that Dick Cheney shot someone.

You must assume that they arrived in Washington contemptuous of and ill-suited to the task of governance and figured it would all work out because they had better bumper stickers than the Democrats and prayed harder.

It is telling that the only guy who seems to have gotten out of the Bush White House with his reputation mostly intact, former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, described our leader as a “blind man in a room full of deaf people.”

A very astute assessment Mr. Secretary. And to validate it, you just have to have to connect the dolts.

Where you been Muse?

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