corporate and think-tank researcher

Donald Gutstein

22 Nov '04

George Bush’s Real Agenda

Hoover Institute channels neocon demands through Condi Rice.

Ronald Reagan obtained most of his ideas from the big business-backed Heritage Foundation. Ten days after Reagan’s 1980 victory, the foundation delivered a 3000-page, 20-volume report entitled Mandate for Leadership to the Reagan transition team – whose ranks included 11 Heritage staff and fellows. The mandate contained 2000 recommendations to serve as “a blueprint for the construction of a conservative government.” Included in the document were ideas like Star Wars and deep tax cuts for the rich. A year later the foundation issued a follow-up report which claimed that about 60% of the initial report’s recommendations had been implemented, at least in part.

George W Bush taps a different source of reactionary advice  the big business-backed Hoover Institution for War, Peace and Revolution on the campus of Stanford University. That’s where Bush’s national security adviser and soon-to-be secretary of state Condoleezza Rice learned that the US had to manufacture a big, bad enemy to scare the people enough so they would rally to the corporate cause.

Rice went to the Hoover Institution just when Ronald Reagan’s “evil empire,” also known as the Soviet Union, was collapsing. As an expert on Soviet affairs, Rice had to find a new line of work and she helped fabricate another scary enemy  Iraq, a member in good standing of the Axis of Evil.

Rice’s career has consisted of a revolving door between increasingly powerful posts in succeeding Republican administrations and propaganda work at the Hoover, where she is subsidized by Tom Stephenson, a prominent venture capitalist and a Republican “super ranger,” meaning he contributed at least $300,000 to the 2004 Bush campaign.

Little is said in media analysis of the Bush victory about the role of big business in financing an elaborate, well-coordinated reactionary propaganda machine of think tanks like Heritage and Hoover, which pushed America far to the right. Business worked for 30 years to win this election and Bush knows exactly what it wants in return  more tax cuts, continued dismantling of publicly-supported programs like education, health care and pensions, and expanding US hegemony and business around the globe.

Is it fair to label these think tanks reactionary rather than just conservative, which is what they call themselves? Sociologist Albert Hirschman notes that each major advance in civilization – civil rights in the eighteenth century, political rights in the nineteenth and social and economic rights in the twentieth – has been followed by “ideological counterthrusts of extraordinary force” as elites attempt, with all their power, to hold on to their privilege. Often these backlashes have led to convulsive social and political struggles and to setbacks for progressive programs and to much human suffering and misery.

In the twentieth century, the New Deal in the United States and similar social reforms in Canada led to widely held beliefs that minimal conditions of education, health, economic well-being and security are rights to be enjoyed by all.

Business went along for the ride during the post-World War II economic boom but in the ’70s decided enough was enough. Rather than resort to the violent suppression of previous democratic advances, wealthy businessmen like Adolph Coors and John Olin made common cause with former liberals and Trotskyites like David Horowitz and Irving Kristol to launch a war of ideas that would destroy the welfare state and role back the social gains of the twentieth century (and at the same time reverse some of the civil and political gains of earlier centuries).

The investment paid off handsomely with the victories of Margaret Thatcher in 1979 and Ronald Reagan in 1980, Newt Gingrich and his Contract with America in 1994, and now, Bush.

Today, think tanks like the Hoover Institution play a bigger role in setting Bush’s agenda than the legions of faithful who trooped out to the polls at the command of their pastors.

Hoover specializes in foreign and defence policy. Its $25-million-a-year budget is funded largely by conservative foundations and big corporations like ExxonMobil, which has a lot at stake in Bush’s Iraq and mid-East policies. Ford and General Motors are other backers.

Condoleezza Rice was a director of Chevron, another Hoover backer, and even had a Chevron supertanker named after her (quietly renamed just before Bush appointed her national security adviser).

What do these corporations receive for their money? Dozens of reports and studies calling for oil security and American hegemony in the Middle East, ideas that would be laughed off if proposed directly by ExxonMobil or ChevronTexaco. These studies are widely reported in the corporate media, ensuring they become part of public discourse.

The corporate backers also get the Hoover people. Besides Rice, there is Elliott Abrams of Iran-Contra fame, who was a Hoover senior fellow during the Clinton years. He is George Bush’s special assistant for the Near East. Critics complained he had no credentials for this important post except his ideology but surely that’s the point of the exercise. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was a Hoover Institution overseer and eight Hoover fellows including Newt Gingrich are members of the Bush Administration’s Defense Policy Board advising Rumsfeld.

On the domestic front, the Hoover motto is ‘freedom or welfare state’. Hoover promoted the flat tax for over a decade and helped pull economic policy to the right. With ExxonMobil such a important backer, attacking the science of climate change and the Kyoto Accord is a Hoover mainstay. One Hoover senior fellow is on the ExxonMobil board and was head of George Bush Senior’s Council of Economic Advisors. Another senior fellow was deputy assistant secretary of the Treasury under Reagan, and was responsible for Reagan’s tax cuts for the rich. Yet another Hoover senior fellow is George W Bush’s Treasury undersecretary for international affairs.

And on it goes. Dozens of think tanks churn out thousands of studies and op-ed pieces every year and their senior fellows hold important posts in the Bush administration. Business and right-wing foundations pump hundreds of millions of dollars into these enterprises. That’s how the agenda gets set.

First published in Straight

Buy Now