The terrifying prospect that GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney would put George W. Bush back in the White House, if elected, came a step closer to reality with the public unveiling of his transition team. Bush won’t literally return to the White House under a Romney regime, but the names of the transition team read like a who’s who of the Bush administration.
A tip-off that Bush’s imprint would be all over a Romney administration came even before Romney announced he’d formed his transition team. It came at a closed-door confab for Romney’s fat cat donors back in June. The usual Bush suspects were there, including former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; Bush’s Homeland Security Chief, Michael Chertoff; and Bush political guru Karl Rove. There are more than three dozen ex-Bush officials who have hovered close to Romney in the last year.
The pack of the old Bushites make up the same cast of characters who were the architects of Bush’s failed, flawed and costly foreign policy. The bug Bush planted in Romney’s ear about how to conduct the nation’s affairs is evident on the pet Bush themes, namely a talk-and-act-tough foreign policy, especially on Russia, and a virtually open taxpayer’s checkbook for the Defense Department.
Romney even contradicted his own VP running mate Paul Ryan, who agreed as part of congressional budget negotiations to cut billions from the military budget. Romney publicly and repeatedly declared that not a penny would be slashed from it.
His lambaste of President Obama for allegedly going soft on the anti-American protests in Cairo and his blast at Obama for his alleged tepid response to the murder of America’s Libyan ambassador — for which he was roundly and rightly hammered — further confirmed that the take-no-prisoners mantra of the Bush years would return to the White House with Romney. Bush’s hang-tough stance earned the U.S. the frustration of its European allies, inflamed hostilities with the Arab world and cost the lives of thousands of U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the loss of civil liberties protections with Guantanamo and some provisions of the Patriot Act.
Romney’s transition team conjures up the thought of a Bush Administration return on domestic policy, too. Former positions that Romney’s transition team members held with Bush as agency heads, top administrators, or cabinet holders include the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Health and Human Services, Small Business Administration, the Treasury Department and the Security and Exchange Commission. Coupled with former Bush foreign policy bigwigs that have Romney’s ear, they cover nearly every key area of White House policy-making and department administration.
It’s not unusual for incoming presidents from the same party to lean heavily on former administration officials from their party. Obama tapped several key Clinton former officials. President-elects want to hit the ground running, and not to stumble out of the gate, by bringing on board experienced and seasoned officials who know the Washington ropes. But Romney, if elected, won’t avoid a stumble from the gate. In fact, bringing on Bush’s people almost certainly guarantees it.
Bush’s policy fumbles occurred in nearly every area that Romney would charge former Bush officials with running. The financial collapse, the economic meltdown, the disastrous accelerated deregulation of the financial industry, the soaring budget deficit spurred in large part by the colossal tax cut giveaways to the rich, two costly wars and a housing collapse were overseen by the former Bush officials that Romney wants. They fell asleep at the wheel while the house crumbled.
There’s an irony in the public disclosure of the candidates that Romney proposes to head agencies and cabinet posts in his administration. The law that virtually mandates that presidential contenders plan for their administration immediately after they secure their party’s nomination was signed into law by Obama.
Romney, then, didn’t jump the gun, and isn’t being presumptuous about a White House win. He was the GOP presidential nominee in all but official name back in May, and the GOP convention simply made it official. Under the law he was compelled to make known his transition team and candidates for administration posts.
The good thing is that Romney’s move gives the public the horrifying glimpse of those who will hold prominent places in a Romney administration, and even more frightening, those who would carry out his policy, advise him on policy and potentially set policy.
The even better, and likely, hope is that Romney’s transition team is just a paper exercise and will never see the light of the White House; that is another disastrous Bush White House.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst.