VEERING RIGHT by Charles Tiefer


How the Bush Administration Subverts the Law for Conservative Causes
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The Bush administration has taken rightist ideology into the realm of the antisocial, borderline illicit, and even illegal in the service of its tiny constituency.

So suggests Tiefer (Law/Univ. of Baltimore), former solicitor of the US House of Representatives, who admonishes a hundred-odd pages into his study: “The guiding rule in understanding politics is always to ask: who benefits? And then: who serves them? And, what do they get in return?” In the matter of Bush’s huge tax cut early in his administration, Tiefer adds, “a Sherlock Holmes is not needed”: the beneficiaries were America’s wealthy, totaling some 1 to 1.5 percent of the population, while the rest of the nation suffered the resultant “economic misery of 2002–2004.” The giveaway was just one of the efforts the administration has made to undo the New Deal, to cut away the social safety net that even Ronald Reagan realized the vast majority of Americans endorsed, and to serve only the very wealthy. The administration has been doing so, writes Tiefer, by making the federal judiciary into an instrument of right-wing activism, so that the court could “assist the unified government in cleansing the statute books of legislation left over from the prior system.” Added to this court-packing activism, Tiefer argues, is Attorney General John Ashcroft’s campaign against constitutionally guaranteed civil rights—to say nothing of his reversal from his confirmation hearing promise that he would not do anything to overturn Roe v. Wade. Ashcroft, Tiefer thunders, “would not let the FBI investigate terrorist suspects’ gun buys—the NRA wouldn’t like that—but sent out the FBI fifty times to demand public-library patron information,” as clear an indication of priorities as there could be. And those are but a few of the charges on Tiefer’s overstuffed docket. “Subversions of the law . . . may just involve straining it and manipulating it in a way that causes voters, if fully informed, to shake their heads,” writes Tiefer.

An impressive work of argumentation, well timed for the election year, that will cause plenty of head-shaking indeed.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2004
ISBN: 0-520-24286-6
Page count: 442pp
Publisher: Univ. of California
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2004