Friday, April 07, 2006

The Administration of Dorian Gray

Somewhere in the recesses of the White House, there is a portrait of the Bush administration that shows, in vibrant color and realistic detail, a truly competent, merit-based, talented, honest, selfless, scandal free and hard working group adorned with beatific smiles, strong chins and self assured demeanors.

Unfortunately, we have to contend with the non-pictorial kind. The inversion of Dorian Gray's picture in all its decrepit and rotten putridity. From the rampant cronyism (Harriet Miers), emphasis on ideological purity over acumen (see, ie, the CPA), installation of lobbyists in vital regulatory roles (EPA, Interior), persistent incompetence (Heckuva Job) and relentless attacks on science (censoring of NASA officials on global warming), to the dereliction of duty (Rumsfeld, et al vis-a-vis Iraq), the politics over policy ethos (raging deficits, reckless, tax cuts, Medicare debacle), scandal (Libby, Rove), law breaking (FISA, Plame, Claude Allen), constitutional assault (Gonzales and the unitary executive) and other assorted nastiness (justifications for torture, etc.) - this Administration is a fetid mixture of bad governance.

The recent news on the various child sex crimes implicating several employees of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) really is just too bizarre - and yet also strangely indicative of the general decay. I'm not saying that Bush is necessarily to blame for all of this, mind you, and I know that I'm bordering on the hyperbolic (perhaps over the border), but these revelations nevertheless contribute to the overall impression that the corpus white housis is dropping flesh from bone before our very eyes. Check this out:

The arrest of a Department of Homeland Security deputy press secretary on charges that he used a computer to seduce and send pornography to a child has triggered a congressional inquiry into hiring practices and security clearance policies at the department.

Brian J. Doyle was chatting online with Polk County, Fla., detectives Tuesday night when investigators arrived at his Silver Spring house with an arrest warrant. He thought he was corresponding online with a 14-year-old cancer survivor, Florida police said.

It was a key night in their relationship because the "girl" had agreed to pose nude for him on a Web camera, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said yesterday in an interview.
Then there's this about Frank Figueroa, an employee of the DHS at the time of his arrest and former head of Operation Predator - the DHS's program to thwart child sex criminals.

The man who headed the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Tampa has pleaded no contest to charges he exposed himself to a girl in a mall food court and ran away from security guards.

Rachel Wright, the 16-year-old who reported the incident, said Figueroa pulled up a leg of his shorts, exposed himself and masturbated for about 10 minutes.
Deeply, deeply disturbing. And here's the third strike:

A third DHS employee now appears to have criminal sexual tendencies involving children.

For a Dateline NBC segment on sex predators, Southern California police set up a sting: A decoy pretended to be a 12- or 13-year old online at home, alone. Sex predators found the decoy on the Internet and arranged to meet. When they showed up, the police arrested them.

Caught in the net was Michael Burks, 30, a former La Verne, Calif. police officer who was a DHS "agent," according to a Jan. 14 Los Angeles Times article.
What's next? Seriously?

I don't know what's behind these lapses. I do know, however, that, generally speaking, the current mindset in the GOP is so hostile to "government" that their distaste has affected their ability to govern wisely and competently. Or at least their contempt for the process has led to a callous disregard for the upkeep of the vital organs of the state. Appointing someone like Michael Brown to head FEMA post-9/11 is an indication of this lack of concern. Populating the CPA in Iraq with inexperienced yet well connected ideologues and partisans is another. And further still, the reliance on industry insiders and lobbyists to oversee the very industries from whence they came (and inevitably return after their regulatory stint) is yet another sign of the lack of respect for the process.

So maybe this same mixture of hostility and crony-fueled incompetence is somehow behind DHS's questionable hiring practices. Maybe not. It could just be unfortunate happenstance. An accidental synergy.

But either way, it is impossible to shake off the effects of the steady drum beat of bad news, shocking displays of incompetence and myriad examples of bad faith and conflicts of interest plaguing the White House. It's as if the White House were imploding in not-so-slow motion before our very eyes. And I can't help but marvel at the fact that we are actually going to have to endure three more years of this. With his poll numbers hovering in the 30s (even in the Fox News poll) can you imagine the Bush-fatigue come 2008? Sorry Jeb. Not this time. Maybe not ever.

I apologize for the rant. But sometimes this stuff just shocks me.

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