The Bush fire sale

If you want to know whether a piece of legislation sponsored by the Bush administration is just plain bad or phenomenally awful, all you need to do is look to see how desperately they’re trying to sell it. The worse the bill, the shriller their hard sell — ratcheting up the pressure like a sweating real estate swindler while screaming “Buy now! Or else!” This week, we’re seeing the hard sell in all its frantic pathos, as the Republicans make an anxious push for their proposed economic stimulus package and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) legislation.

First, there’s the stimulus package. After seven years of tax cuts, budget-busting wars, and non-existent oversight of the financial sector, President Bush suddenly decided last week that the nation needed billions of dollars in tax rebates THIS MINUTE. As a responsible, deliberative branch of government, Congress should carefully assess how best to use its powers to kick-start the moribund Bush economy — yet the administration desperately bleats that it “would be a mistake to delay or derail this bill.”

Then there’s the FISA bill. Democrats want to extend the current wiretapping rules for 30 days so the Senate can properly debate the best ways to protect our nation. Yet the president has threatened to veto the extension, demanding final legislation — including amnesty for telecommunications companies that enabled domestic spying — to be on his desk by Friday. Bush’s claim that this legislation is critical for our nation’s survival doesn’t jibe with his blustery threat to veto the extension, and leave the nation theoretically unprotected, unless he gets his way on telco immunity.

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This is democracy without deliberation or consultation — which is to say, not true democracy at all.

Of course, the Bush hard sell is nothing new. This past November, when he wasn’t getting the emergency war funds he demanded, Bush threatened layoffs of Pentagon civilians if Congress didn’t respond on his timetable — even though he had $459 billion from the regular defense budget to draw on.

In the fall of 2006, when Sens. John McCainJohn Sidney McCain The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation Biden's debate performance renews questions of health At debate, Warren and Buttigieg tap idealism of Obama, FDR MORE (R-Ariz.), John Warner (R-Va.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamBolton exit provokes questions about Trump shift on Iran The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation Graham: US should consider strike on Iranian oil refineries after attack on Saudi Arabia MORE (R-S.C.) fought to force the administration to follow the Geneva Conventions, Bush threatened to order the CIA to stop all interrogations until the senators submitted to his demand, holding the nation hostage to get his way. A “compromise” was reached as Bush’s deadline loomed, and a signing statement nullified the legislation anyway.

Perhaps the most lasting example of the Bush hard sell came a mere two weeks after the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

When the Senate Judiciary Committee wanted to consult experts about the constitutionality of the sweeping grants of executive power the president was demanding, Attorney General John Ashcroft warned, “The American people do not have the luxury of unlimited time in erecting the necessary defenses to future terrorist acts.” The din of similarly ominous threats from the White House provided the soundtrack to the rushed passing of the Patriot Act.

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From Social Security — which was supposedly in imminent danger of insolvency — to gay marriage — which Bush declared in need of outlawing by constitutional amendment “promptly” in 2004 — it seems there hasn’t been an idea (or a war) too ill conceived, divisive or destructive to America that he hasn’t been willing to push with a high-pressure panic pitch.

In fact, there appears to be a clear-cut inverse correlation between the actual merit of a Bush idea and the urgency with which he attempts to foist it on the nation. It’s worth keeping that in mind these final 12 months of this presidency.

When Bush demands immediate action, it’s time for Congress to slow down.

Moulitsas is founder and publisher of Daily Kos (www.dailykos.com).