In The News
Elaine’s shame is also Bush’s
By Dominique Paul Noth
Editor, Labor Press
One thing that keeps attracting me to the Shame on Elaine website has nothing to do with its content. Whenever I visit, not knowing whether to laugh or cry over Elaine's antics, I keep seeing the ghosts of other Bush appointees.
I think of Christine Todd Whitman (environment), Paul O'Neill and John Snow (treasury), John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzales (attorneys general), Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice (state), Donald Rumsfeld (defense), Tommy Thompson (health), Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff (security), Rod Paige (education) - and on and on down the ranks.
I think of the board and judicial appointments he refused to change even after Congress discovered wrongdoing.
I think of the US attorneys fired, of "heckuva job, Brownie" -- of the incompetents and charlatans of political appointment with a smattering of the actually capable, albeit ethically dysfunctional.
Each visit to Shame on Elaine is a backhanded reminder of the loss of American honor in the past seven years, particularly the honor of public service at the top of a federal department or as a cabinet secretary.
The ability to lure top people and assure they would emerge enhanced from the service has been one of the vital strengths of the American democratic experience, and it has allowed each president to find strong and credible names to stand in the line of succession or handle enormous bureaucracies.
In the days of Reagan, Carter, Clinton, even the first Bush, the bulk of these public servants served pretty honorably and left the cabinet with their reputations enhanced. Most moved on to big influence and even veneration in our nation whether you agreed with their politics or not.
Yet the reverse has happened in the two terms of the current Bush.
Think of it. Virtually no one has left the cabinet without their reputation sullied and diminished. All have been, or based on current investigations will be, ruined in the future regard of American historians, either unable to stand up to policies they knew were wrong, or caught lying, or willfully, stubbornly blind.
What does that have to do with Shame on Elaine? Well, this website is an exposure of the behavior and policies of the longest serving member of Bush's cabinet. While some of the others had enough sense to get out, and others had to be dragged out, her seven year stretch alone speaks volumes about her ability to obfuscate, ignore and remain indifferent to the plight of workers.
Elaine Chao is doing just what Bush wants at the helm of the Department of Management, once known as the Department of Labor.
She is also half of the third most powerful GOP coupling in D.C., after the Bushes and the Cheneys. Her husband is Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader from Kentucky.
Talk about job security! There will never be a time for Bush to fire or criticize the spouse of his most powerful and sometime only remaining ally in Congress.
Chao, as ShameonElaine.org details, has done everything she can (except where blocked by career civil servants or by the law) to weaken unions and worker rights. As the site reveals, she has an ego, surrounding herself with images of herself, and a hostility to unions, sinking them deep into paperwork and slow to act on any bureaucratic improvement they recommend. She's turned the DOL into a pitched battleground with working families even as she and her husband have a tag-team arrangement to trade staff back and forth whenever they want.
Speaking up for workers' at the cabinet table? What the original cabinet position was designed to do is the last thing Bush wants to hear and the last she intends to tell him. Her experience for this job was serving on the board of directors for 13 corporations, working for right-wing think tank the Heritage Foundation, raising big bucks as a Bush "Pioneer" and protecting Daddy's shipping company, which seemed the main reason she invoked Taft-Hartley in 2002 to stop a longshoremen's strike.
She has publicly opposed EFCA and supported her husband as he constantly voted against raising the minimum wage.
These two are the poster children of this administration -- glib, personable, hanging defiantly on while failing the citizenry and the Constitution. Both are made for each other and for this administration. And on schedule to fade into history's oblivion.
A look at the Internet’s media dangers and other interesting websites are explored in the May edition of Milwaukee Labor Press.