The early reviews are in on the new George W. Bush administration.
It has all the elements of the classic horror story: a predictable
plot, familiar villains and an unshakable sense of déjà
vu. On the following pages, we take a look at Bush's nominees and
appointments, a diverse cast of characters in every way but ideology.
Left to their own devices, this collection of unrepentant cold warriors,
anti-choice extremists, Wise-Use desperados and corporate shills
(as well as a couple of reasonable old-fashioned conservatives)
could make for a harrowing next four years.
Can the forces of good thwart this evil plan? Well, as
In These Times went to press, thousands of townspeople were taking
their torches to Washington to protest Dubya's inauguration, making
one thing clear: There will be no honeymoon!
If the "president-select" were seeking an accomplice in his bid
to transport the federal education agenda across mainstream lines,
he found his man in Rodney Paige.
While Bush's designate to head the Department of Education is expected
to sail through the Senate confirmation, the 67-year-old Houston
superintendent and former football coach is under fire from gay
activists for allowing anti-gay harassment to go unchecked in the
200,000-pupil system whose board he sat on from 1989 to 1994, and
which he has helmed for the past six years.
The Houston area has seen a spate of anti-gay hate crimes--including
anti-gay murders, some of them involving local teens--stretching
back to the late '80s. A 1997 report by the Gay,
Lesbian and Straight Education Network flunked Houston schools
on its handling of discrimination and harassment of gay kids. GLSEN
also faults district leaders for failing to implement a 1999 report
aimed at dispelling anti-gay prejudice in schools and issued by
the very federal department Paige is slated to head. GLSEN is now
leading a letter-writing campaign to Paige urging that he address
the concerns of gay students and their parents when he becomes education
Paige's endorsement of school vouchers is also worrisome. At Senate
hearings on January 10, Paige showed that he would keep step in
a GOP retreat from support for public schools. Paige noted that
he forgoes the term "vouchers" because of its icky ideological baggage,
opting instead to promote "federal funds" for "nonpublic schools."
Sen. Edward Kennedy
read between the lines and warned the nominee not to "abandon our
schools." But even Vermont Republican James Jeffords, who in previous
sessions has thwarted conservative bids to pass voucher schemes,
joined a generally adoring chorus. Fellow senators, Jeffords said,
would all "just run out and declare your victory right now," were
it not that Paige still needed to pass an up-or-down confirmation