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Unformatted text preview: 168 Politic: by Other the complex of nonprofit organizations and public interest g m that has developed around federal domestic programs, and the tional news media. The Reagan administration, for example, made a determined’ fort to increase presidential control over cabinet departments . independent government agencies by centralizing authority a the appointment of personnel in the White House and over the suance of regulations in the OMB. By centralizing control appointments, the administration sought to ensure that oflic .1 would adhere to the administration’s priorities rather than those, the agencies for which they worked. By requiring agencies to m, rain OMB approval for all regulations they issued, the admi tration sought to diminish both the influence that congressiow oversight committees exercised over administrative agencies . more generally, the role that the federal bureaucracy plays in Am ican life.52 The number of pages of proposed new federal regu tions published annually in the Federal Register did decline duri the Reagan era. These attempts to subject the federal bureaucracy to great White House control did not go unchallenged.53 Defenders of > . isting practices and programs asserted that the administration ' trying to stack the bureaucracy with right—wing ideologues and interfere with the lawful exercise by Congress of its oversight sponsibilities. One way that federal employees responded to w they perceived as a threat to their agencies’ integrity was to l derogatory information about Republican appointees to Congr and the press. Investigations of Housing and Urban Developme -‘2 Secretary Samuel Pierce and Economic Development administra; ‘ tor Carlos Campbell, among others, were fueled by such leaks. ‘ The national news media—which conservatives regard as liberal. bastions—were also the target of a conservative political offensive. in recent years. Libel suits were one weapon in the conservatives* campaign against the media. (The best known of these was Gen: eral William Westmoreland’s suit against CBS in the early 19805.) These suits were encouraged and often financed by such conserva— lmtimtional C mint 1 69 tive organizations as the Capitol Legal Foundation, the American Legal Foundation, and Accuracy in Media, Inc. When accused of chilling critical journalistic investigations of public officials con- servatives forthrightly stated that this was precisely their intent For example, Reed Irvine, head of Accuracy in Media, asserted that Westmoreland’s legal bills were “footed by contributions from in- dividuals and foundations who believe that CBS deserves to be chilled for the way it treated the general. . . . What is wrong with chilling any propensity of journalists to defame with reckless dis— regard of the truth?“ For their part, Clinton administration offi- crals see nothing wrong with hiring detectives to seek damagin information about their political opponents. g As the newly elected president, George W Bush, organized his administration in 2001, Washington prepared for a new round of political struggle. Democrats vowed to resist Bush’s tax cut school voucher, and privatization plans, all of which threatened key De- mocratic bastions. Republicans sought to strengthen their own in— stitutional base by seeking to expand defense spending. The GOP argued that the nation’s level of military preparedness was inade- quate. Both sides geared up for what promised to be bruisin bat- tle over court appointments. 8 American politics will continue to center on these and other forms of institutional combat as long as contending forces are un— Willing to look to electoral mobilization as the key weapon throu h which to confront their foes. The continuation of this political p:- tern has profound implications for the conduct of government in the United States. ...
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