I have to say that I’m astonished at the speed with which bureaucrats in Washington are scrambling for cover in advance of the arrival of the Republican majority in the House of Representatives.
Already this week we’ve seen two examples where government entities whose funding is directly controlled by Congress have compromised their core missions in the face of political pressure, mostly from conservatives.
A video in an art exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery that contains an image of a crucifix with ants crawling on it gets yanked by the museum after the right-wing goes nuts.
The Library of Congress, the world’s largest library and for more than 200 years a symbol of the maxim that knowledge is power, restricts its staff, scholars, researchers and the general public from using its computers to access Wikileaks.
Lurking behind all this is the soon-to-be Republican House majority. What I’ve been picking up this week is that federally funded entities are scaling back, pulling in their wings, and trying to keep their heads down to avoid becoming the target of right-wing attacks that could cause Republicans to cut their budgets.
No matter that Democrats control the Senate and the White House. Nervous bureaucrats are in preemptive retreat in hopes of staying out of the crosshairs of the Republican House committee chairmen who oversee their operations and partly control their budgets.
Sure, bureaucrats cravenly protecting their budgets is nothing new. But it says a lot about the current environment that this is happening already, that it involves in the two examples above scaling back activities that are core to the mission, and that even though Democrats control the one chamber and the Presidency the bureaucrats don’t see that as much protection.
I know we have a lot of readers within the government, many of whom follow these things closely. We’re very interested in documenting this retreat as it happens in all sectors of the federal government. We need you to be our eyes and ears on this. Tell us what you’re picking up and point us in the right direction so that we can bring this under-the-radar effect of Republican control of the House to all our readers.
David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.