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Media swoons over the Bush gang's victories in Congress
Spinmasters and lapdogs

August 17, 2001 | Page 3

WITHIN A few days in early August, the Bush administration went from the gang that couldn't shoot straight to cool political pros at the top of their game. At least that's how the media saw it.

The Bush spinmasters and their media lapdogs couldn't stop trumpeting President Bush's victories on the Patients' Bill of Rights bill and his formerly comatose oil-and-nuke energy plan. Both passed the Republican-dominated U.S. House just days before Bush departed for his monthlong vacation in Texas.

The Philadelphia Inquirer called Bush's victory "dramatic," and the Los Angeles Times marveled at how he traded in his "velvet glove" for a "clenched fist" to win support among lawmakers.

While Bush and his flacks sold the House-passed bill as a solid "compromise" that the president would sign, it's nothing of the sort. Essentially, the Bush gang strong-armed a Republican cosponsor of the legislation, Rep. Charles Norwood (R-Ga.), into making concessions on the right of patients to sue their HMOs, and then painted the result as the middle ground.

The original bill, passed by the Senate in May, was extremely limited to begin with, but the Bush compromises contain almost nothing that HMO bosses could object to. Democrats and even some Republicans denounced the Norwood-Bush stitch-up and vowed to fight for a "real" patients' rights bill when Congress reconvenes in September.

But a week into Bush's vacation, we've heard few Democrats talking about stronger patient protections--on an issue where they have the upper hand in public opinion. In fact, this is par for the course for congressional Democrats.

With Bush's tax cut for the rich already draining the federal surplus and causing a budget crunch, the standard Democratic complaint is that the tax cut is imperiling the military budget. If this is all the Democrats have to offer, Bush should feel pretty good.

No matter how out-of-touch and right wing he is, the Democrats don't seem to want to take advantage of it. And no wonder. They get campaign contributions from the HMO bosses, too.

Even liberals who support the Democrats are getting fed up with their party's spinelessness. As Robert Kuttner of American Prospect magazine put it, Bush may be "a fool[but can] we count on Bush just to collapse of his own weightlessness? Maybe not. What keeps him going is the power of the dominant ideology and its business allies in both parties."

No Washington politician from either party is going to mount a serious challenge to Bush. Only a movement from below can take on the corporate-dominated politics that allow Bush to emerge victorious again and again.

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