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Photo by Joeff Davis

The curse of the second term — it’s been around for decades.
Clinton had Monica. Reagan had Iran-Contra. Nixon had Watergate. So what will
be the “best” scandals of the Bush administration in the coming year
or so? Here’s a look ahead.

Carlyle-gate. The Al Jazeera network reveals (and The
New York Times
confirms) that shortly before the recent election, the board
of the Carlyle Group — the gargantuan global investment firm that counts the
elder George Bush and former Secretary of State James Baker as advisers — voted
George W. Bush a seat on its board. A sitting president on the board of a company
that owns military contractors and can benefit from his decisions? The White
House calls it an innocent mistake and that Carlyle’s board had passed a resolution
guaranteeing Bush a spot on the board in the “unlikely event” that
he was defeated. “Seems as if there was a typo in the resolution that was
finally approved,” a White House spokesperson explains. “And after
the election, Carlyle simply forgot about it. By the way, they didn’t even bother
to tell the president about it.”

The Oil-for-Guns Scandal. In an operation run out of the
Defense Department’s recreational-supplies division, U.S. officials — overseen
by a member of a book group regularly attended by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul
Wolfowitz — siphon oil from Iraqi supplies, sell it on the black market to North
Korean representatives, and use the proceeds to buy weapons for a band of Iranian
fundamentalist Christians plotting to overthrow the government of Tehran. When
asked about the unfolding scandal, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld replies,
“Would I want to have an unlimited budget that nobody in Congress had any
say over in order to try all sorts of neat things I’d rather not read about
in the papers? You betcha. Did I have any foreknowledge of this operation? Good
gracious, I’d be a fool to answer that.”

Americagate. In response to an “informal” suggestion
from Dick Cheney to PBS — conveyed while Congress was considering the network’s
budget — PBS launches a new show on United States history called Up With
America
. Its host is Lynne Cheney. In the first segment, she explores whether
slaves brought over from Africa ended up in better living conditions than their
relatives back home. The second episode is titled “The Benefits of Ignoring
the Native American Experience.” After the program starts airing, the White
House approves a 7 percent increase in PBS funding. Asked whether there was
any quid pro quo, Bush says no and adds, “Laura and I have just loved watching
Antiques Roadshow and NOW With Bill Moyers.” Cheney’s office
maintains that he has nothing to do with Halliburton’s underwriting the series.

The Uygur Affair. As part of a plea-bargain arrangement,
former Enron chief Ken Lay discloses a scheme that he says he developed with
the White House to divert money in the Social Security trust fund to a private
hedge fund based on Turkestan natural-gas futures. When a journalist at a press
conference politely questions Bush about this, Bush remarks, “Ken? Ken
who?” The reporters laugh.

The BushBucks Scandal. Under a confidential program called
“Government for You,” the Republican Party and the White House
offer campaign contributors who raise a million dollars several special services.
These donors can choose from various options: look at (but not copy) tax returns
of any individual or corporation; order their own customized CIA analyses; or
talk to SEC investigators about the agency’s latest probes and targets. For
$2 million or more, they can have the FBI accuse a person of their choice of
being connected to terrorist activities. The program is first disclosed in a
private e-mail obtained by Jon Stewart and The Daily Show. Initially,
the media consider it a joke. “Who you going to believe?” White House
Press Secretary Scott McClellan says. “Me or an ill-mannered comic who
called Tucker Carlson a ‘dick’?” But the story breaks open after a middle-class
Ohio housewife comes forward and reveals that she was able to have a next-door
neighbor deported after donating $2.3 million to the Republican Senatorial Campaign
Committee. The money was fronted by George Soros.

The Neil Bush Sex Scandal. After being placed on the board
of a semiconductor firm managed by the son of a former Chinese president, Neil
Bush — brother of the U.S. president, former S&L scammer, and a fellow who
knows nothing about the semiconductor businesses — receives sex from beautiful
Asian women who show up unannounced at his door when he is staying in hotels
in Thailand and Hong Kong . . . Oh, whoops, sorry — this scandal already happened.
These revelations came out in 2003 and received little media attention.