WASHINGTON — In a banner headline on Friday, The Washington Post blared:
"Shadow Government Is at Work in Secret." The article said President Bush had assembled
a cadre of officials to operate under the radar, out of the sunlight. This is news?
The president did that on Jan. 20, 2001.
But it turns out that after Sept. 11, wanting to make sure that everything wouldn't collapse if there was a nuclear attack on Washington, he did it again. He formed a secret government within a secret government. A shadow of a shadow.
It suits this administration to a T- ball, reflecting its twin obsessions with secrecy and self-perpetuation.
The president realized that Dick Cheney couldn't govern all by himself
after an Armageddon, so he set up a
pre-post-apocalyptic staff, sending about 100 midlevel officials to two subterranean locations outside the capital.
Now Mr. Cheney is Lord of the Rings, ruling over his very own Moria, an underground kingdom of bureaucratic hobbits and orcs.
"Officials who are activated for what some of them call `bunker duty'
live and work underground 24 hours a day, away from
their families," The Post reported.
The hidden administration is known as Continuity of Government, or C.O.G.,
while the one at 1600 Pennsylvania is known
as C.O.D., or Continuity of Dynasty, a project designed to keep the Bushes in the White House until 2008 and beyond.
In the bunker, the Bush-Cheney dream of ruling without justifying their
actions is beautifully realized.
The administration-in-waiting features only the executive branch.
Continuity does not require checks and balances. Sixty feet under, the
vice president will never be sued by the General
Accounting Office. Executive privilege is safe when the only branch is executive.
The Senate majority leader, Tom Daschle, said on Friday that he hadn't even been told about the existence of a shadow government, much less offered a cranny or a cot in case of a nuclear attack.
"We have not been informed at all about the role of the shadow government or its whereabouts or what particular responsibilities they have and when they would kick in," Senator Daschle said drily. First he'll have to figure out which administration to pry the information from — the secretive one or the really secretive one.
The Bushies probably need Mr. Daschle's space for Karl Rove, a.k.a.
King C.O.D. And by keeping out the legislative and
judicial branches, the atomic government can continue to do what it's already done: set up a long mahogany bar with
single-malt Scotch for Pioneers, out-of-gas Enron chieftains and other corporate sycophants.
Down there, they won't have to heed the nagging of Senator Robert Byrd, who last week threatened to stop writing "blank checks" for the military if the administration could not explain its war plan.
The Bush bunker does not bother with bipartisanship or even the pretense of it. It is all about blank checks and carte blanche.
If Washington gets whacked, C.O.G's mission is to maintain "essential government functions."
C.O.G. will implement the I.R.S. dictum that in the event of nuclear
attack, tax collection will continue (from the poor and
the middle class, not the rich). It will undoubtedly figure out how to keep up those arsenic levels after the E.P.A. is flattened
and commence drilling in Alaska after the Energy Department is gone.
Without Democrats or journalists, the underground executive branch can operate the way the real executive branch would like to, and frequently does — without a lot of second-guessing, Freedom of Information Act requests, complaints from civil libertarians and attention to the rights of Marin County hot-tubbers.
Nothing will be transcribed. So there will be no reason to clean up
the language in President Bush's transcripts, as the
White House has done routinely since 9/11.
The government Down Under won't need a press secretary, even one who
is as opaque as Ari Fleischer. It is universally accepted there that all
the world's woes can be traced back to Bill Clinton, and there is no need
to apologize for simply stating