Blindfolding the Public
President Bush needed to blindfold the public, and he succeeded. He ran the most secretive presidency since Watergate, thirty years ago: secretive as to both foreign and domestic affairs, secretive about matters that lie outside the scripted presidential “message” prescribed for Congress and the public, and particularly secretive about plans for achieving conservative political and ideological goals. 1 Along with formal uses and manipulations of law—such as secrecy policies, concealment measures, invocations of privilege, and strategies for fending off lawsuits for information and stalling or disabling congressional probes—also comes brilliant stagemanaging. The formal and what we might term “informal” uses of law work in combination and have a common purpose: to deter, divert, or otherwise diminish efforts that might otherwise circumvent Bush's structure of information confinement, the key to his conservative triumphs.
We may thus distinguish between the administration's formal and less formal uses of the law for political purposes, but the two efforts reinforce each other. The administration maintains and employs secrecy formally when it blocks probes or lawsuits and informally when it assigns a high priority to confining information from public view through nonlegal means. For example, it chooses subordinates who can be trusted not to reveal the conservative ideological drift of policy efforts; directs subordinates to maintain such secrecy; takes measures to make sure any information released to the public conforms to the approved “message”; minimizes