Even his supporters acknowledged that former U.S. Rep. Christopher Cox was a controversial nominee to chair the Securities and Exchange Commission. A former corporate lawyer who had collected millions of dollars from business interests, wealthy CEOS and some of the country's most prominent stock-market manipulators during eight campaigns for the House, Cox arrived with precisely the wrong resume for the head of an agency that is supposed to regulate the corporate sector and Wall Street. As such, his nomination represented a presidential poke in the eye to workers seeking protection of their pensions, small investors worried about being defrauded and consumers.
Of course, conservative Republicans in the Senate were enthused about Cox's nomination. After all, the California Republican was a key player on the supply-side economic team, someone who had in the House sponsored legislation designed to make it harder for shareholders to sue corporations that engage in scandalous practices. He has, as well, been one of the Congress's most ardent defenders of "creative bookkeeping" by the nation's top corporations -- supporting schemes such as the one that allowed corporations that pay employees with stock options to avoid reporting those payments as expenses against their bottom lines.
But how could responsible Republican, Democratic and independent members of the Senate ever approve an SEC nominee who, when he was a securities lawyer in the 1980s, worked for First Pension Corp., a company that was accused by the government of bilking investors, that was sued by the SEC for fraudulent activity and that saw its founder plead guilty to charges of felony wrongdoing? How could any member of the Senate who was not completely in the pocket of the securities industry vote for a nominee who the watchdog group Public Citizen described as "a defender of corporate interests whose legislative record indicates he would not protect investors if he were confirmed"?
This was supposed to be a Sweet Victory post. That's the weekly feature Sam Graham-Felsen and I started last fall. In those grim days after the election, we believed that one antidote to the political darkness was to shed some light on progressive wins--from legislative and electoral victories to successful organizing efforts, protests and boycotts, to the launching of promising new organizations or initiatives. We hoped these stories would serve not only as a source of information but as inspiration.
We plan to continue tracking these victories. And we hope you Nation readers will continue to send us tips about what you think we should be covering. (Click here to send suggestions.) But I have to confess that it was really tough to come up with a sweet victory in this last week of July 2005.
As a friend from DC wrote me late last night: "So this is the week from hell: the AFL-CIO splits, the DLC unveils Hillary as head of its American Dream new ideas committee (god forbid), to be followed by confirmation of Christopher Cox to head the SEC without a fight, passage of a big oil energy bill with massive giveaways to industry, including Halliburton, passage of CAFTA, with 15 Dems on board. Bush declares triumph; hailed as effective. Country takes it in ear. No wonder breathing the air here in DC is officially bad for your health....And as Congress heads to recess, both parties show what they are. Rs are disciplined and utterly corrupt, willing to hijack democracy for their own agenda, and wrongheaded. And Ds still in disarray, divided with too little fight in them."
A couple of months ago, with the help of terrific song suggestions from Nation readers, I put together a playlist for Dubya's iPod. Radiohead's Hail to the Thief, Green Day's American Idiot, Kid Rock's Pimp of the Nation, and REM's The End of the World, As We Know It, all made the Top Ten. Masters like Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs and Frank Zappa (especially his The Torture Never Stops) were also at the top of many readers' lists.
The Rolling Stones' You Can't Always Get What You Want, made it to the top fifty. Now, it seems, the band may be gunning for the top slot with its new single. Britain's New Musical Express reported last week that the next Stones album, slated for release this September, will include a track critical of the Bush gang's foreign policy. Sweet Neo-Con, according to the weekly, "is believed to be an attack on the politics of George Bush and the Republican Administraton." Virgin Records has been telling people the song has "a political message about moralism in the White House."
Jagger giving Dubya morality lessons. I like it. Sympathy for the Devil.
The Central American Free Trade Agreement, which was such a high priority for the Bush administration that the president personally lobbied Congressional Republicans on the issue Wednesday, passed the House by two votes.
Those two votes came from members who can best be described as "Bush Democrats."
The final vote on CAFTA was 217-215 in favor of the deal, the closest margin possible -- as a tie vote would have prevented approval.
Last night, President Bush eked out a very narrow victory on his top trade priority, with the House of Representatives approving a free-trade agreement with Central American countries by just two votes. The House vote was held open for more than one hour to ensure passage. The final tally was 217 to 215.
The White House's victory on CAFTA was achieved through a combination of intense pressure and outright bribery to secure support for the measure, which fostered strong opposition from Democrats and Republicans. As Republican Representative C.L. "Butch" Otter, Republican of Idaho, told the Boston Globe today, GOP leaders promised pork-barrel spending and future legislation to undecided members, with a massive highway spending bill scheduled to be completed this week as a prime location for pet projects. "They're pulling out all the stops," Otter said. "They're either promising or threatening. They've done everything they could." (The Idaho rep. said he opposed CAFTA, despite personal lobbying from Bush at the White House.)
At least the GOP legislators were able to wrest unrelated bribes for their districts in return for their votes. That much cannot be said for the 15 so-called Democrats who voted for the pact and made passage possible.