After only three years in office, the Bush
administration has done a remarkable job of making enemies of its
former employees. The most recent, of course, has been Richard
Clarke, the former White House anti-terrorism adviser under several
presidents, Democrat and Republican. Before that there was Treasury
Secretary Paul O’Neill, who, like Clarke, is peddling a book.
Before them were national security specialist Rand Beers (now on
John Kerry’s campaign) and faith-based initiatives chief John
DiIulio Jr.

Louie Meizlish

It is no doubt troubling for the White House that these former
staffers like to blast the Bush team while he’s running for
re-election, and they will no doubt hurt his campaign.

One of my more liberal friends remarked, “I think
it’s a telling nature of the Bush administration that
long-serving public servants and high-ranking appointees are
dropping like flies and all saying, ‘This guy is fucking
nuts.’ ”

The Bush team has not figured out how to deal with these
allegations, save for trying to tear down the critic.

As competently reported by The New Republic, Slate and yes, even
Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” the response
from the White House has been in three parts:

Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley: Clarke’s
a good chap. We tried to do everything we could for him and give
him the tools he needed to do his job. Darn.

Condoleeza Rice: All this guy wanted to do was talk talk talk,
yappity yap yap. We wanted to get down to business and take out the
terrorists. Don’t know what his problem was.

Dick Cheney: Well, “to be frank,” the dude
wasn’t there with us. I don’t know what he’s
talking about. By the way (nudge nudge, wink wink), remember all
those terrorist acts of the ’90s — the first World
Trade Center bombings, the Khobar Towers, the African embassy
bombings — they all happened on his watch. But, hey, I
ain’t sayin’, I’m just sayin’.

Last weekend I attended a campus journalists’ conference
in New York. One of the featured guests was Ron Hutcheson, a Knight
Ridder correspondent at the White House. Naturally, I asked him
about my favorite show, NBC’s “The West Wing,”
and whether real White House reporters have all the access the
fictional “West Wing” reporters have.

His answer was nope, not at all. Most of the information the
reporters get, he said, is accumulated in the press briefing
room.

The White House is a victim of its own success, so to speak. The
president hates, hates!, unauthorized leaks and makes sure
everybody in the White House knows it. Leaks are usually not
altogether positive or negative. They often describe the tough
deliberations going on, and that doesn’t really hurt. But
almost all the news coming out of the White House is authorized by
press secretary Scott McClellan.

But the public and the media want something more, more of an
insider’s look. By clamping down on those who would provide
mostly innocuous stuff anonymously, the Bush team has vastly
increased the public and press’s demand for tell-all books
like those by Clarke and O’Neill.

But now the White House acts surprised that all the insider
perspectives are provided by disgruntled employees. Lack of
information then leads to rampant speculation, and everyone blames
Karl Rove when something goes wrong.

 

Microsoft Corp. is in trouble with
anti-trust regulators again, but this time it’s the
Europeans, not the U.S. Justice Department.

The European Commission, the administrative arm of the European
Union, is imposing a $613 million penalty on Microsoft for bundling
its program Media Player with versions of the Windows operating
system, freezing out competitor multimedia programs such as the
RealPlayer. The EU accuses the software provider of abusing its
virtual monopoly on the operating-system software.

Remember that this comes years after the U.S. government settled
its anti-trust case against Microsoft.

Does this mean that international companies will have to deal
with more than one team of regulators at a time? I think so.

But rather than rail against this, businesses and policymakers
would be well advised to seek out ways that the United States and
Europe can merge their regulatory functions. This would make it
easier for companies to innovate, and it would save money for both
Americans and Europeans.

Auditors from both governments have already agreed to share
auditing functions to prevent more Enrons and WorldComs, because
failing companies don’t just affect the nation in which
they’re headquartered.

Let’s keep a good thing going. Let’s find more ways
to share regulatory duties.

Meizlish can be reached at
“mailto:meizlish@umich.edu”>meizlish@umich.edu.

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