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Bill Press is a syndicated columnist, the co-host of CNN's Crossfire, which airs Monday-Friday at 7:30 p.m., and author of the newly-published book Spin This!

Bill Press: Run for the bunker!

By Bill Press
Tribune Media Services

WASHINGTON (Tribune Media Services) -- This is a test.

How gullible are you? How big a sucker are you for spin? How willing are you to believe everything your government tells you without thinking for yourself? You're about to find out.

George Bush says we have to have a bunker government up and operating at all times because Osama bin Laden is about to drop a nuclear bomb on Washington and wipe out the federal bureaucracy.

This is a test. If you believe him, you flunk. You are a born sucker. On a gullibility scale from 1 to 10, you score an 11. You probably also believe that Ken Lay knew nothing about Enron's problems when he was dumping all his company stock and urging employees to buy more.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, man your bunkers!" According to the Washington Post, that was the order given by President Bush in the days immediately following September 11.

In a sense, this was nothing new. Ever since the Cold War, we have wisely had a few secret locations on standby. The first was a huge cavern near the famous Greenbriar resort in West Virginia, and its two premier golf courses, where top federal officials could flee and conduct business in case of nuclear attack.

What's different about Bush's plan is that he didn't just make sure the bunkers were ready in case we needed them. He's already put them in operation.

Yes, you heard it right, American taxpayers. We are now paying for not one government, but two: the real one, in Washington; and the phony one, in two secret bunkers somewhere outside of Washington, where up to 150 government bureaucrats, from the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Education, the IRS and every other federal agency, are stationed around the clock, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. People are rotated in and out every 90 days.

Now, aside from the bad news that the IRS can no longer be wiped out by a nuclear bomb, Bush's shadow government does make you scratch your head and wonder.

What the hell do these people do all day? While the real government still is in operation, they aren't making any decisions. So what do they do? Just sit around, watching CNN, waiting for the bomb to drop?

Those bunkers must be pinochle heaven. It's like a forced, 90-day vacation, away from your family, with members of both sexes. Might even be fun, if you weren't underground, living in dormitories.

Here's another question: How much is this costing us? We're already in the red, running one government. Can we really afford to pay for another? And remember, these guys are getting paid 24-7. Plus the cost of housing, food and government helicopters to whisk them there and back. The local Chinese restaurants must be making a fortune on takeout.

But the most important question is: Why are we doing this? What's the threat? The Pentagon reported last week that, contrary to earlier rumors, searches of bin Laden's former training camps and caves revealed ZERO evidence of any nuclear capacity, of either the suitcase or long-range-missile variety.

This is typical Washington doublespeak. On the one hand, the Pentagon assures us there's no nuclear threat from Osama bin Laden. On the other, the White House warns us the threat is so great we must have a bunker government up and running. Any day now, they'll tell us to start building bomb shelters in our backyards.

This is madness. Not even at the height of the Cold War, when hundreds of Soviet nuclear missiles were aimed at the United States, did we have a standby government in operation. Nor during the Cuban missile crisis. Maybe because Americans were not so gullible then.

If we weren't so gullible now, we would see Bush's bunker plan for what it really is. It has nothing to do with national security. It is all about politics. Like John Ashcroft's monthly terrorist alerts, it's all part of the White House attempts to scare the public, keep the focus on the war and enable Dubya to keep his favorable ratings high by playing commander in chief.

One final note about the bunker government: Only members of the Executive Branch have been assigned to the bunkers.

George Bush has already decided that, if nuclear war comes, he won't need Congress or the Supreme Court.




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