09/12/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Bush's Swan Song -- Bad News for the Swans?

It's the latest Bush administration tactic: scorched earth.

His scorching, our earth.

It's a tactic used by troops fleeing or retreating from the enemy -- to destroy everything that might be of use. We had Sherman's March to the Sea during the Civil War, and now we have Bush's March from the White House. Five months left -- slag it all, boys, we're outta here.

Administration policies with names like ''Healthy Forests'' have already laid waste the waterways and landscapes, and now it's the animals' turn again.

A new administration draft policy, according to the Associated Press, would let individual agencies decide for themselves whether their projects -- like highways and mines and even dams -- would damage endangered species.

And while it would give carte blanche on this front, the policy would prohibit agencies from calculating emissions from these projects and what impact they'd have on global warming and on endangered animals and their vital habitats.

This is the most radical change in the Endangered Species Act in 20 years, and one of the most corrosive since the act was launched under Richard Nixon. And because it's regulatory and under the control of the executive branch, Congress can't do a darned thing about it -- in fact, it's an end-run around Congress, because it's refused to roll over and play dead to the administration on the Endangered Species Act.

By this point, it's no surprise at all that the Bush administration would pull a stunt like this with five months left on its play clock. But it's a very important political lesson for voters during an election year: electing a president fills more jobs than just the one at the desk in the Oval Office.

By selecting a president and his or her party, we also fill tens of thousands of regulatory and policy jobs with political appointees from that president's party. In the Bush administration's case, some of those people have been anti-government Republicans in the Grover Norquist mold who don't see their jobs as fulfilling government's role, but dismantling it.

Think of the political appointees who fiddled with NASA and its scientists' findings and mission statement to fit a political agenda, and the Justice Department that hired not the best lawyers for legal jobs, but the best partisans for what were being turned into political jobs.

So if it's bye-bye to protections for hundreds of imperiled species, you know that it's because the buck doesn't just stop at that Oval Office desk -- it starts there too, and reaches into virtually every executive branch policy and practice that touches your life and the world around you.