WASHINGTON, DC—Citing the need to safeguard "America's most vital institutions and politicians" against potentially devastating attacks, President Bush asked Congress to sign off Monday on a $30 billion funding package to help fight the ongoing War On Criticism.
"Sadly, the threat of criticism is still with us," Bush told members of Congress during a 2 p.m. televised address. "We thought we had defeated criticism with our successes in Afghanistan and Iraq. We thought we had struck at its very heart with the broad discretionary powers of the USA Patriot Act. And we thought that the ratings victory of Fox News, America's News Channel, might signal the beginning of a lasting peace with the media. Yet, despite all this, criticism abounds."
Critical activities, Bush noted, have not returned to pre-Sept. 11 levels, when well-organized, coordinated attacks on his administration were carried out on a near-daily basis. But in spite of the National Criticism Alert Level holding steady at yellow (elevated), administration officials warn of severe impending attacks.
"We've become too complacent," Attorney General John Ashcroft said. "We've grown accustomed to thinking of criticism as something that only happens to people in other political parties. But this administration needs this funding to counter a very real threat to its reputation."
Ashcroft said the Justice Department, working closely with the CIA and FBI, has identified more than 300 potential targets, ranging from the Bush Administration's inability to produce the weapons of mass destruction used to justify the war with Iraq to its deficit-ballooning fiscal policies.
"I doubt I could protect my ongoing Halliburton cronyism from critical strikes with just a few million dollars—especially if it was not accompanied by powerful preemptive legislation," Vice-President Dick Cheney said. "We need to build stronger anti-criticism defense shields in this country. And the time to act is now, before the media say something negative about us."
If the funding is approved, the Bush Administration will act swiftly to shore up numerous areas of vulnerability. Among the actions: ensuring that the White House is defended against verbal snipers, safeguarding the president's past illicit actions from biographical weapons, and sealing off the largest sources of domestic criticism by securing and patrolling the nation's newsrooms.
Congressional leaders are already pledging their support for the plan.
"As government officials, we have an absolute obligation to protect the leader of this country from future acts of criticism," U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) said. "And it will not be cheap, easy, or quick."
"We're all in this together," Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert said. "You attack one American politician, you attack us all."