Molly Ivins

101 Days and Counting


What a great idea: Let’s write about George W.’s first 101 days in office. Are we media people creative and original, or what? We can’t really call it pack journalism; wolves are predators, not sycophants. There’s something bovine about it: It’s herd journalism. The Supreme Court appointed President Billy Bob Forehead, and everyone in Washington stood around for 100 days peering at him and then announced, “Gosh, there are some really interesting colors in that.”

I am forced to admit, it does have some interesting colors, but is anyone going to mention that it stinks?

“But the polls show His Bushness has an approval rating of 57 percent.”

“Does that mean he doesn’t stink?”

“No one else is saying what you’re saying. Don’t you think you’re a little out of step?”

OUT OF STEP! Oh no! Anything but that. Naturally, I’m terrified not to agree with everyone else, but the only reason I’m giving El Chico even a C-minus is because I figure he’ll get worse, and we’ll need the lower grades.

Not being terribly interested in the efficacy of the Bush public relations operation, or even in his marital fidelity, I’m grading him on what he’s actually done. Let me know if any of this makes you healthier or more secure, or improves the environment or your personal finances:

His first act was to cut funding for international family planning groups that so much as mention abortion, presumably because he thinks the Third World needs more unwanted children.Bush repealed Clinton’s “last minute” (10 years in the making, with countless studies) rules on ergonomics, which means “preventing workplace injuries of the kind that cause constant pain and eventually cripple you.”He named as chief law enforcement officer of the United States John Ashcroft, a man who, by his own record, does not respect civil rights, abortion rights, or human rights, and who built his career opposing school desegregation.He also repealed Clinton’s “last minute” (eight years in the making) lowering of the 1942 standard for arsenic in drinking water by 80 percent. In 1999, the National Academy of Sciences recommended the reduction, since the current standard “easily” carries a one-in-100 risk of causing cancer.Bush’s move was done at the request of the mining and wood-finishing industries. However, it turned out to be unpopular with moms and others, so the administration has asked the Academy of Sciences for an “expedited review” of its own work, thus demonstrating-according to Forehead’s spinners and our more credulous media-that he is enviro-friendly after all.Bush pays no attention to scientists on the subject of global warming, the most serious threat to our national security. He broke a big, fat campaign promise to cut CO2 emissions from power plants and then gratuitously went out of his way to pronounce the Kyoto Treaty dead. This horrified our European allies and many others. It was done at the request of the energy industry.He repealed another “last minute” (years of work) Clinton rule against public subsidy of logging roads in the remaining unspoiled national forests. This is the system under which taxpayers have to help pay for the destruction of their own national forests. Done at the request of the timber industry.He pushed for the $1.6 trillion tax cut he campaigned for because the economy was so hot. Then he said he needed the cut because the economy was so bad. A group of billionaires even came out against repealing the estate tax. How pathetic can you get? He also did his best to kill the McCain-Feingold reform bill, which outlaws “soft money” and unreported, unlimited campaign donations, also known as bribes.Bush has cut funding for programs to help abused and neglected kids, and funding for child care for low-income parents (making it even harder for mothers to get off welfare). He cut 100 percent of the money for Reading Is Fundamental, the effective program championed by both his wife and his mother. Leave no child behind.To prove he was “engaged” during the 11-day standoff with China over the spy plane, his own staff reports His Bushness personally inquired, several times, whether the captured American crew had Bibles.He needlessly and uselessly angered South Korea through ignorance of North Korea. He blew the chance to negotiate a missile build-down and now says the United States must build a National Missile Defense shield at an underestimated cost of $60 billion because of North Korea.He needlessly and uselessly enraged the Chinese through ignorance of Taiwan policy. His staff later brazenly claimed this misstep was deliberate.

On the plus side, after his first meeting with Prime Minister Tony Blair of Great Britain, Bush said, “We both use Colgate toothpaste.” The Brits spent weeks trying to decipher the meaning of that remark.

Molly Ivins is a nationally syndicated columnist. Her book with Louis Dubose, Shrub: The Short But Happy Political Life of George W. Bush, is out in paperback.