Bush's New Year Devolution

We're two weeks into January, and already George W. Bush is hitting the wall. The president's military commanders have been widely quoted as being against the war he'd so love to wage in Iraq. UN arms inspectors say it could take a year to finish their work—and then only if Saddam Hussein cooperates. The UN Security Council won't give in until the results are in. Even Bush's one staunch ally, British prime minister Tony Blair, is dragging his feet, asking that the inspectors be given more time.

Now come reports of a revolt within the Senate Republican establishment. Led by John Warner of Virginia, senators at last week's GOP retreat lashed out over Bush's "arrogance." It's payback time for an administration that has at best ignored lawmakers and at worst deliberately kept them in the dark.

Warner is quoted by Bob Novak as having ripped into White House chief of staff Andrew Card: "I will not tolerate a continuation of what's been going on the last two years." Warner was quickly backed up by Kansas senator and former Marine officer Pat Roberts. Senator Kit Bond of Missouri even asked Card to explain the connection between Iraq and al-Qaida.

Bush's troubles within his own party are playing out as the economy remains in the doldrums, with no sign of relief in sight save Bush's nutty dividend taxation plan—another sticking point for GOP senators—and a wacko new policy aimed at replacing unemployment insurance.

Envisioned as a sort of bootstrap fix, the $3.6 billion Personal Re-employment Accounts scheme would provide some unemployed workers with $3,000 to spend on training and "supportive services," with leftover money becoming a cash "re-employment bonus."

Dan Mitchell, the Heritage Foundation's freewheeling, libertarian-minded economic expert, says the plan would be better than the current system, which he says pays people not to work. "On the surface," Mitchell says, "these accounts just look like the government giving out money. They are actually the precursor to future reform."

But Bruce Meyer, an economist with Northwestern University's Institute for Policy Research, argues the accounts have the makings of yet one more government rip-off. Meyer says a third of all eligible people don't file for benefits, believing they won't be out of work long enough to collect more than a few hundred dollars. "Now, if someone is suddenly eligible for $3,000 when they show up at the unemployment office, a lot more people are going to be willing to do it," he says.

Matt Hale and his creepy little racist World Church of the Creator have lately been depicted as the potential source of some gigantic terrorist plot. Hale, who was arrested on Jan. 8 for allegedly conspiring to kill a federal judge who had ruled against the church, is actually a nonentity.

Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center counters the received wisdom on this self-styled patriot. "It is simply untrue that the group has thousands of members," says Potok, or that it is rapidly growing. As Potok points out, Hale's church has been falling apart for more than a year. Its leader claims a membership of 80,000, but the real number is more like 150. Now the feds appear to have hard evidence for allegations that Hale threatened the judge who decided against the group in a copyright case.

The racist right has suffered one body blow after another over the past few months. The Aryan Nation is defunct. William Pierce, the most important supremacist and head of the National Alliance, died on July 23, making his grand exit with a deathbed speech in which he lambasted his own skinhead followers. David Duke, who ran a hard-nosed Klan in the 1980s and got more than 40 percent of the vote in races for the Louisiana state senate and governorship, is facing more than a year in federal prison for mail and tax misdoings. And Mark Cotterill, head of American Friends of the British National Party, has been deported.

Last week, frightened men from Pakistan and other Muslim countries began lining up to register as required by the Justice Department. What practical purpose can these registrations possibly serve? They're unlikely to turn up terrorists. But they would prove very useful should the government decide to round up Arab immigrants.

Think mass internments couldn't happen again? Consider the experience of Japanese-Americans during World War II; as the Museum of the City of San Francisco chronicles at, they went from being a vital part of West Coast society to spy suspects to prisoners.

•Dec. 7, 1941: The Japanese military attacks U.S. forces stationed in Pearl Harbor.

•Jan. 4, 1942: General John DeWitt meets with the chief of the War Department's Aliens Division to define strategic areas from which enemy aliens will be excluded.

•Jan. 21, 1942: A secret army intelligence report says there is an "espionage net containing Japanese aliens, first- and second-generation Japanese, and other nationals . . . thoroughly organized and working underground."

•Feb. 2, 1942: Registration of enemy aliens begins. The FBI also starts random search-and-seizure raids at the homes and businesses of Japanese aliens. California Governor Culbert L. Olson says removing the Japanese from California might mean the troublesome necessity of importing large numbers of black and Mexican laborers.

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