] j "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes an act of rebellion." / - George Orwell ___________________________________ / Q. Based on what you've read and seen in the media, what is not being said in the mainstream press about President Bush's policies and the impending war in Iraq? / A: That they are nonsense. / / - Kurt Vonnegut interview, February 10, 2003 / / "If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it." / - Joseph Goebbels / "See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda." / - George W. Bush, Rochester, N.Y., May 24, 2005 ____________________________________________________________
there are such things as roving wiretaps. Now, by the way,
any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap,
it requires--a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists,
we're talking about
getting a court order before we do so. It's
important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think
Patriot Act, constitutional
guarantees are in place when
it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because
we value the
- George W. Bush, White House Press Release, April 20, 2004
It may have been the guy in the hood teetering on the stool, electrodes clamped to his genitals. Or smirking Lynndie England and her leash. Maybe it was the smarmy memos tapped out by soft-fingered lawyers itching to justify such barbarism. The grudging, lunatic retreat of the neocons from their long-standing assertion that Saddam was in cahoots with Osama didn't hurt. Even the Enron audiotapes and their celebration of craven sociopathy likely played a part. As a result of all these displays and countless smaller ones, you could feel, a couple of months back, as summer spread across the country, the ground shifting beneath your feet. Not unlike that scene in The Day After Tomorrow, then in theaters, in which the giant ice shelf splits asunder, this was more a paradigm shift than anything strictly tectonic. No cataclysmic ice age, admittedly, yet something was in the air, and people were inhaling deeply. I began to get calls from friends whose parents had always voted Republican, "but not this time." There was the staid Zbigniew Brzezinski on the staid NewsHour with Jim Lehrer sneering at the "Orwellian language" flowing out of the Pentagon. Word spread through the usual channels that old hands from the days of Bush the Elder were quietly (but not too quietly) appalled by his son's misadventure in Iraq. Suddenly, everywhere you went, a surprising number of folks seemed to have had just about enough of what the Bush administration was dishing out. A fresh age appeared on the horizon, accompanied by the sound of scales falling from people's eyes. It felt something like a demonstration of that highest of American prerogatives and the most deeply cherished American freedom: dissent.
Oddly, even my father's funeral contributed. Throughout that long, stately, overtelevised week in early June, items would appear in the newspaper discussing the Republicans' eagerness to capitalize (subtly, tastefully) on the outpouring of affection for my father and turn it to Bush's advantage for the fall election. The familiar "Heir to Reagan" puffballs were reinflated and loosed over the proceedings like (subtle, tasteful) Mylar balloons. Predictably, this backfired. People were treated to a side-by-side comparison - Ronald W. Reagan versus George W. Bush - and it's no surprise who suffered for it. Misty-eyed with nostalgia, people set aside old political gripes for a few days and remembered what friend and foe always conceded to Ronald Reagan: He was damned impressive in the role of leader of the free world. A sign in the crowd, spotted during the slow roll to the Capitol rotunda, seemed to sum up the mood - a portrait of my father and the words NOW THERE WAS A PRESIDENT.
The comparison underscored something important. And the guy on the stool, Lynndie, and her grinning cohorts, they brought the word: The Bush administration can't be trusted. The parade of Bush officials before various commissions and committees - Paul Wolfowitz, who couldn't quite remember how many young Americans had been sacrificed on the altar of his ideology; John Ashcroft, lip quivering as, for a delicious, fleeting moment, it looked as if Senator Joe Biden might just come over the table at him - these were a continuing reminder. The Enron creeps, too - a reminder of how certain environments and particular habits of mind can erode common decency. People noticed. A tipping point had been reached. The issue of credibility was back on the table. The L-word was in circulation. Not the tired old bromide liberal. That's so 1988. No, this time something much more potent: liar.
Politicians will stretch the truth. They'll exaggerate their accomplishments, paper over their gaffes. Spin has long been the lingua franca of the political realm. But George W. Bush and his administration have taken "normal" mendacity to a startling new level far beyond lies of convenience. On top of the usual massaging of public perception, they traffic in big lies, indulge in any number of symptomatic small lies, and, ultimately, have come to embody dishonesty itself. They are a lie. And people, finally, have started catching on.
None of this, needless to say, guarantees Bush a one-term presidency. The far-right wing of the country - nearly one third of us by some estimates - continues to regard all who refuse to drink the Kool-Aid (liberals, rationalists, Europeans, et cetera) as agents of Satan. Bush could show up on video canoodling with Paris Hilton and still bank their vote. Right-wing talking heads continue painting anyone who fails to genuflect deeply enough as a "hater," and therefore a nut job, probably a crypto-Islamist car bomber. But these protestations have taken on a hysterical, almost comically desperate tone. It's one thing to get trashed by Michael Moore. But when Nobel laureates, a vast majority of the scientific community, and a host of current and former diplomats, intelligence operatives, and military officials line up against you, it becomes increasingly difficult to characterize the opposition as fringe wackos.
Does anyone really favor an administration that so shamelessly lies? One that so tenaciously clings to secrecy, not to protect the American people, but to protect itself? That so willfully misrepresents its true aims and so knowingly misleads the people from whom it derives its power? I simply cannot think so. And to come to the same conclusion does not make you guilty of swallowing some liberal critique of the Bush presidency, because that's not what this is. This is the critique of a person who thinks that lying at the top levels of his government is abhorrent. Call it the honest guy's critique of George W. Bush.
The most egregious examples of distortion and misdirection - which the administration even now cannot bring itself to repudiate - involve our putative "War on Terror" and our subsequent foray into Iraq.
During his campaign for the presidency, Mr. Bush pledged a more "humble" foreign policy. "I would take the use of force very seriously," he said. "I would be guarded in my approach." Other countries would resent us "if we're an arrogant nation." He sniffed at the notion of "nation building." "Our military is meant to fight and win wars. . . . And when it gets overextended, morale drops." International cooperation and consensus building would be the cornerstone of a Bush administration's approach to the larger world. Given candidate Bush's remarks, it was hard to imagine him, as president, flipping a stiff middle finger at the world and charging off adventuring in the Middle East.
But didn't 9/11 reshuffle the deck, changing everything? Didn't Mr. Bush, on September 12, 2001, awaken to the fresh realization that bad guys in charge of Islamic nations constitute an entirely new and grave threat to us and have to be ruthlessly confronted lest they threaten the American homeland again? Wasn't Saddam Hussein rushed to the front of the line because he was complicit with the hijackers and in some measure responsible for the atrocities in Washington, D. C., and at the tip of Manhattan?
As Bush's former Treasury secretary, Paul O'Neill, and his onetime "terror czar," Richard A. Clarke, have made clear, the president, with the enthusiastic encouragement of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz, was contemplating action against Iraq from day one. "From the start, we were building the case against Hussein and looking at how we could take him out," O'Neill said. All they needed was an excuse. Clarke got the same impression from within the White House. Afghanistan had to be dealt with first; that's where the actual perpetrators were, after all. But the Taliban was a mere appetizer; Saddam was the entrée. (Or who knows? The soup course?) It was simply a matter of convincing the American public (and our representatives) that war was justified.
The real - but elusive - prime mover behind the 9/11 attacks, Osama bin Laden, was quickly relegated to a back burner (a staff member at Fox News -- the cable-TV outlet of the Bush White House -- told me a year ago that the mere mention of bin Laden's name was forbidden within the company, lest we be reminded that the actual bad guy remained at large) while Saddam's Iraq became International Enemy Number One. Just like that, a country whose economy had been reduced to shambles by international sanctions, whose military was less than half the size it had been when the U. S. Army rolled over it during the first Gulf war, that had extensive no-flight zones imposed on it in the north and south as well as constant aerial and satellite surveillance, and whose lethal weapons and capacity to produce such weapons had been destroyed or seriously degraded by UN inspection teams became, in Mr. Bush's words, "a threat of unique urgency" to the most powerful nation on earth.
Fanciful but terrifying scenarios were introduced: Unmanned aircraft, drones, had been built for missions targeting the U. S., Bush told the nation. "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud," National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice deadpanned to CNN. And, Bush maintained, "Iraq could decide on any given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group or individual terrorists." We "know" Iraq possesses such weapons, Rumsfeld and Vice-President Cheney assured us. We even "know" where they are hidden. After several months of this mumbo jumbo, 70 percent of Americans had embraced the fantasy that Saddam destroyed the World Trade Center.
All these assertions have proved to be baseless and, we've since discovered, were regarded with skepticism by experts at the time they were made. But contrary opinions were derided, ignored, or covered up in the rush to war. Even as of this writing, Dick Cheney clings to his mad assertion that Saddam was somehow at the nexus of a worldwide terror network.
And then there was Abu Ghraib. Our "war president" may have been justified in his assumption that Americans are a warrior people. He pushed the envelope in thinking we'd be content as an occupying power, but he was sadly mistaken if he thought that ordinary Americans would tolerate an image of themselves as torturers. To be fair, the torture was meant to be secret. So were the memos justifying such treatment that had floated around the White House, Pentagon, and Justice Department for more than a year before the first photos came to light. The neocons no doubt appreciate that few of us have the stones to practice the New Warfare. Could you slip a pair of women's panties over the head of a naked, cowering stranger while forcing him to masturbate? What would you say while sodomizing him with a toilet plunger? Is keeping someone awake till he hallucinates inhumane treatment or merely "sleep management"?
Most of us know the answers to these questions, so it was incumbent upon the administration to pretend that Abu Ghraib was an aberration, not policy. Investigations, we were assured, were already under way; relevant bureaucracies would offer unstinting cooperation; the handful of miscreants would be sternly disciplined. After all, they didn't "represent the best of what America's all about." As anyone who'd watched the proceedings of the 9/11 Commission could have predicted, what followed was the usual administration strategy of stonewalling, obstruction, and obfuscation. The appointment of investigators was stalled; documents were withheld, including the full report by Major General Antonio Taguba, who headed the Army's primary investigation into the abuses at Abu Ghraib. A favorite moment for many featured John McCain growing apoplectic as Donald Rumsfeld and an entire table full of army brass proved unable to answer the simple question Who was in charge at Abu Ghraib?
The Bush administration no doubt had its real reasons for invading and occupying Iraq. They've simply chosen not to share them with the American public. They sought justification for ignoring the Geneva Convention and other statutes prohibiting torture and inhumane treatment of prisoners but were loath to acknowledge as much. They may have ideas worth discussing, but they don't welcome the rest of us in the conversation. They don't trust us because they don't dare expose their true agendas to the light of day. There is a surreal quality to all this: Occupation is liberation; Iraq is sovereign, but we're in control; Saddam is in Iraqi custody, but we've got him; we'll get out as soon as an elected Iraqi government asks us, but we'll be there for years to come. Which is what we counted on in the first place, only with rose petals and easy coochie.
This Möbius reality finds its domestic analogue in the perversely cynical "Clear Skies" and "Healthy Forests" sloganeering at Bush's EPA and in the administration's irresponsible tax cutting and other fiscal shenanigans. But the Bush administration has always worn strangely tinted shades, and you wonder to what extent Mr. Bush himself lives in a world of his own imagining.
And chances are your America and George W. Bush's America are not the same place. If you are dead center on the earning scale in real-world twenty-first-century America, you make a bit less than $32,000 a year, and $32,000 is not a sum that Mr. Bush has ever associated with getting by in his world. Bush, who has always managed to fail upwards in his various careers, has never had a job the way you have a job - where not showing up one morning gets you fired, costing you your health benefits. He may find it difficult to relate personally to any of the nearly two million citizens who've lost their jobs under his administration, the first administration since Herbert Hoover's to post a net loss of jobs. Mr. Bush has never had to worry that he couldn't afford the best available health care for his children. For him, forty-three million people without health insurance may be no more than a politically inconvenient abstraction. When Mr. Bush talks about the economy, he is not talking about your economy. His economy is filled with pals called Kenny-boy who fly around in their own airplanes. In Bush's economy, his world, friends relocate offshore to avoid paying taxes. Taxes are for chumps like you. You are not a friend. You're the help. When the party Mr. Bush is hosting in his world ends, you'll be left picking shrimp toast out of the carpet.
All administrations will dissemble, distort, or outright lie when their backs are against the wall, when honesty begins to look like political suicide. But this administration seems to lie reflexively, as if it were simply the easiest option for busy folks with a lot on their minds. While the big lies are more damning and of immeasurably greater import to the nation, it is the small, unnecessary prevarications that may be diagnostic. Who lies when they don't have to? When the simple truth, though perhaps embarrassing in the short run, is nevertheless in one's long-term self-interest? Why would a president whose calling card is his alleged rock-solid integrity waste his chief asset for penny-ante stakes? Habit, perhaps. Or an inability to admit even small mistakes.
Mr. Bush's tendency to meander beyond the bounds of truth was evident during the 2000 campaign but was largely ignored by the mainstream media. His untruths simply didn't fit the agreed-upon narrative. While generally acknowledged to be lacking in experience, depth, and other qualifications typically considered useful in a leader of the free world, Bush was portrayed as a decent fellow nonetheless, one whose straightforwardness was a given. None of that "what the meaning of is is" business for him. And, God knows, no furtive, taxpayer-funded fellatio sessions with the interns. Al Gore, on the other hand, was depicted as a dubious self-reinventor, stained like a certain blue dress by Bill Clinton's prurient transgressions. He would spend valuable weeks explaining away statements - "I invented the Internet" - that he never made in the first place. All this left the coast pretty clear for Bush.
Scenario typical of the 2000 campaign: While debating Al Gore, Bush tells two obvious - if not exactly earth-shattering - lies and is not challenged. First, he claims to have supported a patient's bill of rights while governor of Texas. This is untrue. He, in fact, vigorously resisted such a measure, only reluctantly bowing to political reality and allowing it to become law without his signature. Second, he announces that Gore has outspent him during the campaign. The opposite is true: Bush has outspent Gore. These misstatements are briefly acknowledged in major press outlets, which then quickly return to the more germane issues of Gore's pancake makeup and whether a certain feminist author has counseled him to be more of an "alpha male."
Having gotten away with such witless falsities, perhaps Mr. Bush and his team felt somehow above day-to-day truth. In any case, once ensconced in the White House, they picked up where they left off.
In the immediate aftermath and confusion of 9/11, Bush, who on that day was in Sarasota, Florida, conducting an emergency reading of "My Pet Goat," was whisked off to Nebraska aboard Air Force One. While this may have been entirely sensible under the chaotic circumstances - for all anyone knew at the time, Washington might still have been under attack - the appearance was, shall we say, less than gallant. So a story was concocted: There had been a threat to Air Force One that necessitated the evasive maneuver. Bush's chief political advisor, Karl Rove, cited "specific" and "credible" evidence to that effect. The story quickly unraveled. In truth, there was no such threat.
Then there was Bush's now infamous photo-op landing aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln and his subsequent speech in front of a large banner emblazoned MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. The banner, which loomed in the background as Bush addressed the crew, became problematic as it grew clear that the mission in Iraq - whatever that may have been - was far from accomplished. "Major combat operations," as Bush put it, may have technically ended, but young Americans were still dying almost daily. So the White House dealt with the questionable banner in a manner befitting a president pledged to "responsibility and accountability": It blamed the sailors. No surprise, a bit of digging by journalists revealed the banner and its premature triumphalism to be the work of the White House communications office.
More serious by an order of magnitude was the administration's dishonesty concerning pre-9/11 terror warnings. As questions first arose about the country's lack of preparedness in the face of terrorist assault, Condoleezza Rice was dispatched to the pundit arenas to assure the nation that "no one could have imagined terrorists using aircraft as weapons." In fact, terrorism experts had warned repeatedly of just such a calamity. In June 2001, CIA director George Tenet sent Rice an intelligence report warning that "it is highly likely that a significant Al Qaeda attack is in the near future, within several weeks." Two intelligence briefings given to Bush in the summer of 2001 specifically connected Al Qaeda to the imminent danger of hijacked planes being used as weapons. According to The New York Times, after the second of these briefings, titled "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside United States," was delivered to the president at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, in August, Bush "broke off from work early and spent most of the day fishing." This was the briefing Dr. Rice dismissed as "historical" in her testimony before the 9/11 Commission./..////////////////
What's odd is that none of these lies were worth the breath expended in the telling. If only for self-serving political reasons, honesty was the way to go. The flight of Air Force One could easily have been explained in terms of security precautions taken in the confusion of momentous events. As for the carrier landing, someone should have fallen on his or her sword at the first hint of trouble: We told the president he needed to do it; he likes that stuff and was gung-ho; we figured, What the hell?; it was a mistake. The banner? We thought the sailors would appreciate it. In retrospect, also a mistake. Yup, we sure feel dumb now. Owning up to the 9/11 warnings would have entailed more than simple embarrassment. But done forthrightly and immediately, an honest reckoning would have earned the Bush team some respect once the dust settled. Instead, by needlessly tap-dancing, Bush's White House squandered vital credibility, turning even relatively minor gaffes into telling examples of its tendency to distort and evade the truth.
But image is everything in this White House, and the image of George Bush as a noble and infallible warrior in the service of his nation must be fanatically maintained, because behind the image lies . . . nothing? As Jonathan Alter of Newsweek has pointed out, Bush has "never fully inhabited" the presidency. Bush apologists can smilingly excuse his malopropisms and vagueness as the plainspokenness of a man of action, but watching Bush flounder when attempting to communicate extemporaneously, one is left with the impression that he is ineloquent not because he can't speak but because he doesn't bother to think.
George W. Bush promised to "change the tone in Washington" and ran for office as a moderate, a "compassionate conservative," in the focus-group-tested sloganeering of his campaign. Yet he has governed from the right wing of his already conservative party, assiduously tending a "base" that includes, along with the expected Fortune 500 fat cats, fiscal evangelicals who talk openly of doing away with Social Security and Medicare, of shrinking government to the size where they can, in tax radical Grover Norquist's phrase, "drown it in the bathtub." That base also encompasses a healthy share of anti-choice zealots, homophobic bigots, and assorted purveyors of junk science. Bush has tossed bones to all of them - "partial birth" abortion legislation, the promise of a constitutional amendment banning marriage between homosexuals, federal roadblocks to embryonic-stem-cell research, even comments suggesting presidential doubts about Darwinian evolution. It's not that Mr. Bush necessarily shares their worldview; indeed, it's unclear whether he embraces any coherent philosophy. But this president, who vowed to eschew politics in favor of sound policy, panders nonetheless in the interest of political gain. As John DiIulio, Bush's former head of the Office of Community and Faith-Based Initiatives, once told this magazine, "What you've got is everything -- and I mean everything -- being run by the political arm."
This was not what the American electorate opted for when, in 2000, by a slim but decisive margin of more than half a million votes, they chose . . . the other guy. Bush has never had a mandate. Surveys indicate broad public dissatisfaction with his domestic priorities. How many people would have voted for Mr. Bush in the first place had they understood his eagerness to pass on crushing debt to our children or seen his true colors regarding global warming and the environment? Even after 9/11, were people really looking to be dragged into an optional war under false pretenses?
If ever there was a time for uniting and not dividing, this is it. Instead, Mr. Bush governs as if by divine right, seeming to actually believe that a wise God wants him in the White House and that by constantly evoking the horrible memory of September 11, 2001, he can keep public anxiety stirred up enough to carry him to another term.
Understandably, some supporters of Mr. Bush's will believe I harbor a personal vendetta against the man, some seething resentment. One conservative commentator, based on earlier remarks I've made, has already discerned "jealousy" on my part; after all, Bush, the son of a former president, now occupies that office himself, while I, most assuredly, will not. Truth be told, I have no personal feelings for Bush at all. I hardly know him, having met him only twice, briefly and uneventfully - once during my father's presidency and once during my father's funeral. I'll acknowledge occasional annoyance at the pretense that he's somehow a clone of my father, but far from threatening, I see this more as silly and pathetic. My father, acting roles excepted, never pretended to be anyone but himself. His Republican party, furthermore, seems a far cry from the current model, with its cringing obeisance to the religious Right and its kill-anything-that-moves attack instincts. Believe it or not, I don't look in the mirror every morning and see my father looming over my shoulder. I write and speak as nothing more or less than an American citizen, one who is plenty angry about the direction our country is being dragged by the current administration. We have reached a critical juncture in our nation's history, one ripe with both danger and possibility. We need leadership with the wisdom to prudently confront those dangers and the imagination to boldly grasp the possibilities. Beyond issues of fiscal irresponsibility and ill-advised militarism, there is a question of trust. George W. Bush and his allies don't trust you and me. Why on earth, then, should we trust them?
Fortunately, we still live in a democratic republic. The Bush team cannot expect a cabal of right-wing justices to once again deliver the White House. Come November 2, we will have a choice: We can embrace a lie, or we can restore a measure of integrity to our government.
We can choose, as a bumper sticker I spotted in Seattle put it, SOMEONE ELSE FOR PRESIDENT.
- Ron Reagan is the son of a famous republican president. http://www.esquire.com/features/articles/2004/040729_mfe_reagan_1.htm//
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ /v "We are on the precipice of being so ignorant that our democracy is threatened."
c Walter Cronkite, "The Most Trusted Man in America" says Democracy is Threatened, election "Most Important Since Civil War"
press release: Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
SANTA BARBARA, CA -- -- Walter Cronkite, selected by the American people in the mid 1990s as the most trusted man in America, has called the upcoming presidential election the "most important since the Civil War." Cronkite, who was in Santa Barbara on October 23rd to receive the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation's 2004 Distinguished Peace Leadership Award, stated that the November presidential election provides an opportunity to reverse the Bush administration's dangerous doctrine of preemptive war, a doctrine that he believes is setting the wrong example for countries throughout the world.
FULL ARTICLE ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
"In government, the lie has many fathers, whilst the truth remains an orphan." - Thomas Jefferson ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ / "Democracies are not well-run nor long-preserved with secrecy and lies." / (MOW editorial insert) / / Secrets and Lies Becoming Commonplace / by Walter Cronkite King Features Syndicate
The initial refusal of President Bush to let his national security adviser appear under oath before the 9/11 Commission might have been in keeping with a principle followed by other presidents -- the principle being, according to Bush, that calling his advisers to testify under oath is a congressional encroachment on the executive branch's turf.
(Never mind that this commission is not a congressional body, but one he created and whose members he handpicked.)
But standing on that principle has proved to be politically damaging, in part because this administration -- the most secretive since Richard Nixon's -- already suffers from a deepening credibility problem. It all brings to mind something I've wondered about for some time: Are secrecy and credibility natural enemies?
When you stop to think about it, you keep secrets from people when you don't want them to know the truth. Secrets, even when legitimate and necessary, as in genuine national-security cases, are what you might call passive lies.
Take the recent flap over Richard Foster, the Medicare official whose boss threatened to fire him if he revealed to Congress that the prescription-drug bill would be a lot more expensive than the administration claimed. The White House tried to pass it all off as the excessive and unauthorized action of Foster's supervisor (who shortly after the threatened firing left the government).
Maybe. But the point is that the administration had the newer, higher numbers, and Congress had been misled. This was a clear case of secrecy being used to protect a lie. I can't help but wonder how many other faulty estimates by this administration have actually been misinformation explained as error.
The Foster story followed by only a few weeks the case of the U.S. Park police chief who got the ax for telling a congressional staffer -- and The Washington Post -- that budget cuts planned for her department would impair its ability to perform its duties. Chief Teresa Chambers since has accepted forced retirement from government service.
Isolated incidents? Not really. Looking back at the past three years reveals a pattern of secrecy and of dishonesty in the service of secrecy. Some New Yorkers felt they had been lied to following the horrific collapse of the World Trade Center towers. Proposed warnings by the Environmental Protection Agency -- that the air quality near ground zero might pose health hazards -- were watered down or deleted by the White House and replaced with the reassuring message that the air was safe to breathe.
The EPA's own inspector general said later that the agency did not have sufficient data to claim the air was safe. However, the reassurance was in keeping with the president's defiant back-to-work/business-as-usual theme to demonstrate the nation's strength and resilience. It also was an early example of a Bush administration reflex described by one physicist as "never let science get in the way of policy."
In April 2002, the EPA had prepared a nationwide warning about a brand of asbestos called Zonolite, which contained a form of the substance far more lethally dangerous than ordinary asbestos. However, reportedly at the last minute, the White House stopped the warning. Why? The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which broke the story, noted that the Bush administration at the time was pushing legislation limiting the asbestos manufacturer's liability. Whatever the reason, such silence by an agency charged with protecting our health is a silent lie in my book.
One sometimes gets the impression that this administration believes that how it runs the government is its business and no one else's. It is certainly not the business of Congress. And if it's not the business of the people's representatives, it's certainly no business of yours or mine.fr98yf\yufpfyufp0
But this is a dangerous condition for any representative democracy to find itself in. The tight control of information, as well as the dissemination of misleading information and outright falsehoods, conjures up a disturbing image of a very different kind of society.
Democracies are not well-run nor long-preserved with secrecy and lies.
Write to Walter Cronkite c/o King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019, or e-mail him at email@example.com. (In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)
"One sometimes gets the impression that this administration believes that how it runs the government is its business and no one else's." / - Walter Cronkite (above) jjhe "I'm the commander, I do not need to explain why I say things. That's the interesting thing about being the President. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don't feel like I owe anybody an explanation...." / - And this means you, AMERICA! George W. Bush, in an interview with Bob Woodward / SEE ALSO: Bush to America: "Who Cares What You Think?"
cAnyone But Bush By William Rivers Pitt t r u t h o u t | Perspective Wednesday 22 October 2003
Looking at both sides of the debate over the looming 2004 Presidential campaign, one finds weirdness on both sides of the political aisle. From the mouths of those who advocate for the current administration, we find this feigned outrage directed at those who criticize George W. Bush. The critics, we are told, have no substance to them. They just hate Bush for the sake of simple hatred. Many who argue from the liberal/progressive realm, conversely, cast their eyes across the nine Democratic candidates for the office and find each and every one of them sorely wanting in one way or another.
In other words, liberals just hate Bush because they just hate Bush, and simultaneously dislike all the Democratic candidates because they do not pass the purity test. Those within the liberal realm who argue the 'ABBA' perspective ('ABBA' being the 'Anyone But Bush Association') are denounced by a segment of their fellow liberals for having no standards, no morals, no integrity.
ABBA people tend to be upfront about the fact that they would vote for a baloney sandwich before voting Bush in 2004. This does not pass the smell test for many of their fellow progressives. Has the baloney sandwich ever held office before? Does the baloney sandwich have a record it can run on? Did the baloney sandwich vote for the Iraq war? Did the baloney sandwich vote for the Patriot Act? Where does the baloney sandwich stand on the Israel/Palestine issue?
There is no doubt that these are important issues, and there is no doubt that ABBA advocates will have to swallow a degree of their liberal integrity when they stand to support whomever wins the Democratic nomination in Boston this coming summer. Yet the conservative defenses of Bush and his 'haters,' along with liberal denunciations of the ABBA perspective as being without integrity, do not pass my own personal smell test.
The thing is, the conservative White House defenders are spot-on correct about one thing. I despise George W. Bush. I despise his Vice President, his Senior Political Advisor, his Chief of Staff, his Defense Secretary, his Assistant Defense Secretary, his Attorney General, his National Security Advisor, and his chosen Ambassador to the United Nations. Those names, in case you are confused, are Cheney, Rove, Card, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Ashcroft, Rice and Negroponte.
I despise his Congressional allies, who have shredded their constitutional duties by refusing to investigate a variety of incredible crimes. For the record, these crimes include the fabrication of Iraq war evidence, the outing of a WMD-hunting CIA agent in an act of political revenge, and the serious questions about how four commercial aircraft fooled the entire domestic defense shield and the entire intelligence community long enough to kill three thousand people.
I despise any and all of his people who fanned out two years ago to pound into the American consciousness the idea that criticizing Bush is treason. If you think that is over, take a gander at the first paragraph of an editorial entitled 'Kennedy, Other Critics, Are Traitors' that appeared today in a local Philadelphia paper called the Daily Local. The author, one Harlan "Buck" Ross, does an admirable job of describing the attitude the Bush administration has about its critics:
"According to my dictionary a 'traitor' is a person who behaves disloyally; one who betrays his country. What I hear from U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., is nothing short of traitorous. The nine (10?) would-be candidates for the presidency in 2004 are but a short distance behind him with their ranting and raving and irresponsible blaspheming of the president of the United States."
Call me old-fashioned, but I could have sworn that one can only blaspheme against God. When criticism of this President, or any President, is rhetorically raised to the level of blasphemy, we the people have an enormous problem on our hands.
Yeah, I hate them all. Do I hate for the simple sake of hatred? Do I hate Bush because he is a Republican, a Texan, a white male, a meat-eater? Certainly not. I hate George W. Bush and all of his people because they have done an incredible amount of damage to this nation I hold so dear. I hate them because they are professional liars, thieves, brigands without conscience. I hate them, fully and completely, on the record.
They lied about the need for this war. If you won't take it from me, take it from an avowed conservative and Bush voter named Paul Sperry, who wrote an editorial entitled 'Yes, Bush Lied' on October 6. This was published, if you can believe it, on the ultra-right-wing website WorldNetDaily.com, the same page that carries such luminaries as Ann Coulter. Feast:
"According to the consensus of Bush's intelligence services, there was 'low confidence' before the war in the views that 'Saddam would engage in clandestine attacks against the U.S. Homeland' or 'share chemical or biological weapons with al-Qaida.' Their message to the president was clear: Saddam wouldn't help al-Qaida unless we put his back against the wall, and even then it was a big maybe. If anything, the report was a flashing yellow light against attacking Iraq. Bush saw the warning, yet completely ignored it and barreled ahead with the war plans he'd approved a month earlier (Aug. 29), telling a completely different version of the intelligence consensus to the American people. Less than a week after the NIE was published, he warned that 'on any given day' - provoked by attack or not, sufficiently desperate or not - Saddam could team up with Osama and conduct a joint terrorist operation against America using weapons of mass destruction."
In essence, Bush used the attacks of September 11 against the American people to gin up fear and dread, which he then used to push a war which did not need to be fought. Sperry, some devastating paragraphs later, concludes:
"Forget that Bush lied about the reasons for putting our sons and daughters in harm's way in Iraq; and forget that he sent 140,000 troops there with bull's-eyes on their backs, then dared their attackers to bring it on. It was the height of irresponsibility to have done so in the middle of a war on al-Qaida, the real and proven threat to America. Bush diverted those troops and other resources - including intelligence assets, Arabic translators and hundreds of billions of tax dollars - from the hunt for Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaida leaders along the Afghan-Pakistani border. And now they've regrouped and are as threatening as ever. That's inexcusable, and Bush supporters with any intellectual honesty and concern for their own families' safety should be mad as hell about it - and that's coming from someone who voted for Bush."
Mr. Sperry, in all likelihood, will remember these gems:
"This is a man that we know has had connections with al-Qaida. This is a man who, in my judgment, would like to use al-Qaida as a forward army." - Bush, October 14, 2002
"Yes, there is a linkage between al-Qaida and Iraq." - Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, September 26, 2002
"There have been contacts between senior Iraqi officials and members of al-Qaida going back for actually quite a long time." - National Security Advisor Rice, September 25, 2002
The list of lies this administration told is long and distinguished. The number of lies told specifically about Iraq - his claim in May that "We found the weapons of mass destruction," his claim that Iraq refused to let the inspectors in when they demonstrably had, his claims about Iraq procuring uranium from Niger, his claims that Iraq was a threatening nation capable of attacking within 45 minutes, the mobile weapons labs, the aluminum tubes story, the mushroom clouds - boggle the mind. A few more to consider:
* He lied about wanting Osama bin Laden "Dead or alive" in September of 2001 because he turned around that March and claimed bin Laden was of no importance.
* His National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice, said, "We had no way of predicting that terrorists would hijack planes and crash them into buildings." This was a lie. I have spoken to several engineers in the building-building business. Large buildings, and especially large government buildings, are constructed with a number of potential catastrophes in mind. A purposefully crashed airplane has been on that hazard list for a very long time. This, in combination with the warnings given to this administration by foreign intelligence services that were specifically about hijacked aircraft being used as aerial bombs, makes the whole sordid excuse reek.
* He lied about making America a "humble nation," and lied about "changing the tone." America has virtually no friends left within the international community because we have been violently belligerent instead of humble. The cries of "Traitor!" against administration critics have certainly changed the tone, but for the worse.
* He said, "By far the vast majority of my tax cuts go to the bottom end of the spectrum." This was a fantastic lie. The tax cuts benefited the vast majority of very rich people across the entire spectrum of very rich people. Those truly at the bottom of the spectrum received a pittance, and have watched the social programs they depend on die from lack of funding, because said funding was squandered by the tax cuts. By the end of the decade, Bush's tax cuts will substantially increase the tax burden on middle-class families.
* He lied when he said he did not know Mr. Enron, Ken Lay, before 1996. Lay was one of Bush's most generous benefactors well before 1996. The number of lies told about the specifics of Bush's relationship to Lay and Enron, and the many ways Bush tried to rescue that criminal company, would require a list that stretches around the moon. When Bush said, "Ken who?" after being questioned by the press about his Enron connections, this stretched the definition of bold lying into impressive new shapes.
* He lied about the reasons for the attacks of September 11. It was "enemies who hate our freedom," and not a constellation of foreign policy decisions made by this administration as well as its predecessors reaching back before 1978, that caused the attack. This lie, in particular, is diabolical. An American populace who are not given the understanding that actions have consequences is an American populace that can be easily led into an unnecessary war in the Mideast.
* He lied when he took credit for a Patients Bill of Rights as Governor of Texas. In fact, he vetoed the bill. Likewise, he took credit for reforms to the Texas educational system that had been put in place by Ann Richards and Mark White, among others.
* He lied broadly and often about his military service, despite the fact that no one in his Texas Air National Guard unit can remember laying eyes on him for almost two years of his tour. "I've been to war. I've raised twins. Given a choice, I'd rather go to war," said Bush to the Houston Chronicle on January 27, 2002. Cute, George. Problem: You've never been to war. Liar. The swagger across the aircraft carrier, by default, is a nauseating lie as well.
* He lied to the entire city of New York, and to the cops, firefighters and EMTs in particular. He said the air in New York was fine after 9/11 when he knew from his EPA chief that it was poison. He promised vast new funding to the police, fire and EMT departments in New York. Not a dime has been provided. It all went to the tax cuts and the Iraq war...which means it went to Bush's wealthy allies and friends in the defense industry. Fancy that.
We would be here all day if this list were constructed to be comprehensive. The above is representative: George W. Bush has lied about September 11, the Iraq war, the economy, his record as governor of Texas, his relationship with corporate criminals, and his own military record. In short, he has lied day after day after day about all of the issues he and his administration claim to hold dear.
I do not hate George W. Bush merely for the sake of hatred, or because he is a Republican. I hate him because he is a cancer that is rotting out the guts of this country. I hate him because he would not know the truth if it crawled up his leg and grabbed him by the nose. Truth does not advance the profit motive.
For liberals who denounce the ABBA perspective as being without integrity, my response is simple. Voting for anyone who can remove Mr. Bush, his administration, and all of these deadly lies from the highest office in the land is an act of singular integrity and patriotism. All hail the baloney sandwich, and never mind the blasphemy.
William Rivers Pitt is the Managing Editor of truthout.org. He is a New York Times and international best-selling author of three books - "War On Iraq," available from Context Books, "The Greatest Sedition is Silence," available from Pluto Press, and "Our Flag, Too: The Paradox of Patriotism," available in August from Context Books.
sdvvasavv "We need to counter the shock wave of the evildoer by having individual rate cuts accelerated and by thinking about tax rebates" - G.W. Bush 10/4/01) gddn "My pan plays down (sic) an unprecedented amount of our national debt." - G.W. Bush, Budget address to Congress, Feb. 27, 2001 gddn "...Cheney made clear why the tax cuts would be pushed: "We won the midterms [elections]. This is our due." - "Passing the Bill to our Children", by James O. Goldsborough / "The President, his father, the Vice President, a whole host of powerful government officials, along with stockholders and executives from Halliburton and Carlyle, stand to make a mint off this war. Long-time corporate sponsors from the defense, construction and petroleum industries will likewise profit enormously." - "Blood Money" By William Rivers Pitt (below) / "I didn't -- I swear I didn't -- get into politics to feather my nest or feather my friends' nests." - George W. Bush, to the Houston Chronicle
"By far the vast majority of my tax cuts go to the bottom end of the spectrum." - G.W. Bush, February 15, 2000, South Carolina presidential debate / _________________________________________________________________________________________ jfmmf "He said, "By far the vast majority of my tax cuts go to the bottom end of the spectrum." This was a fantastic lie. The tax cuts benefited the vast majority of very rich people across the entire spectrum of very rich people. Those truly at the bottom of the spectrum received a pittance, and have watched the social programs they depend on die from lack of funding, because said funding was squandered by the tax cuts. By the end of the decade, Bush's tax cuts will substantially increase the tax burden on middle-class families." "Truth does not advance the profit motive." - William Rivers Pitt, "Anyone But Bush" jfmmf "...The point, of course, is that if anyone had tried to sell this package honestly - - "Let's raise taxes and cut benefits for working families so we can give big tax cuts to the rich!" - voters would have been outraged. So the class warriors of the right engaged in bait-and-switch." - "Maestro of Chutzpah" by Paul Krugman, The New York Times March 2, 2004 / / / Bush Tax Cuts Heavily Favor Rich, Congressional Budget Office Says fjrjjr By REUTERS August 13, 2004 http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=topNews&storyID=5966749
NEW YORK (Reuters) - President Bush's tax cuts have transferred the federal tax burden from the richest Americans to middle-class families, with one-third of them benefiting people with the top 1 percent of income, according to a government report cited in newspapers on Friday.
The Congressional Budget Office report, to be released Friday, is likely to fuel the debate over the cuts between Bush and his Democratic challenger in November, John Kerry.
The report said the top 1 percent, with incomes averaging $1.2 million per year, will receive an average $78,460 tax cut this year, and have seen their share of the total tax burden fall roughly 2 percentage points to 20.1 percent, according to The New York Times.
In contrast, households in the middle 20 percent, with incomes averaging $57,000 per year, will receive an average cut of only $1,090, the newspaper said, citing the CBO report.
Taxpayers whose incomes range from $51,500 to around $75,600, saw their share of federal tax payments increase, according to CBO figures cited by The Washington Post.
The calculations, requested by congressional Democrats, confirm the long-held view by independent tax analysts that the tax cuts, enacted in 2001 and 2003, have heavily favored the wealthiest taxpayers, the Times said.
Bush has said the cuts provided crucial support to the U.S. economy after the Sept. 11 attacks and the three-year decline in U.S. stocks.
But Kerry, who wants to roll back the cuts for households whose incomes top $200,000 per year, has said the cuts did little for the economy, and helped cause the federal budget to swing from a more than $100 billion surplus in 2001 to a projected deficit exceeding $400 billion this year.
The newspapers, citing the CBO report, said about two-thirds of the benefits from the cuts went to households in the top 20 percent, with an average income of $203,740.
People in the lowest 20 percent of earnings, which averaged $16,620, saw their effective tax rate fall to 5.2 percent from 6.7 percent, though their average tax cut was only $250.
My pan plays down (sic) an unprecedented amount of our national debt." - G.W. Bush, Budget address to Congress, Feb. 27, 2001 styjnttjryjthtyjbbsb ghdr Budget deficit hits record $395.8B ghdr Treasury says July deficit was bigger than expected; final 2004 gap could set a new record. CNN August 11, 2004 http://money.cnn.com/2004/08/11/news/economy/budget_deficit.reut/
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. federal government ran a larger-than-expected budget deficit in July, bringing the year-to-date shortfall between receipts and spending to a record of nearly $400 billion, the Treasury Department said Wednesday. GO TO FULL ARTICLE
"Dear Ken, One of the sad things about old friends is that they seem to be getting older- - just like you! 55 years old. Wow! That is really old. Thank goodness you have such a young, beautiful wife. Laura and I value our friendship with you. Best wishes to Linda, your family, and friends. Your younger friend, George W. Bush." /s - George W. Bush, in a letter to Kenneth Lay, Enron CEO, on his birthday in 1997, contradicting claims that the two were not close; reprinted in USA Today, February 26, 2002
Large majorities in almost every country surveyed think that American and British leaders lied when they claimed, prior to the Iraq war, that Saddam Hussein's regime had weapons of mass destruction. On balance, people in the United States and Great Britain disagree. Still, about three-in-ten in the U.S. (31%) and four-in-ten in Great Britain (41%) say leaders of the two countries lied to provide a rationale for the war. In that regard, opinions of both President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair are negative. Large majorities in every country, except for the U.S., hold an unfavorable opinion of Bush.
- PEW RESEARCH CENTER POLL, "A Year After Iraq War: Mistrust of America in Europe Ever Higher, Muslim Anger Persists", March 16, 2004
/ Bush Disavows 'Mission Accomplished' Link The Guardian UK Wednesday 29 October 2003
WASHINGTON (AP) - Six months after he spoke on an aircraft carrier deck under a banner proclaiming "Mission Accomplished," President Bush disavowed any connection with the war message. Later, the White House changed its story and said there was a link.
The "Mission Accomplished" boast has been mocked many times since Bush's carrier speech as criticism has mounted over the failed search for weapons of mass destruction and the continuing violence in Iraq.
When it was brought up again Tuesday at a news conference, Bush said, "The 'Mission Accomplished' sign, of course, was put up by the members of the USS Abraham Lincoln, saying that their mission was accomplished."
"I know it was attributed somehow to some ingenious advance man from my staff - they weren't that ingenious, by the way."
That explanation hadn't surfaced during months of questions to White House officials about proclaiming the mission in Iraq successful while violence continued.
After the news conference, a White House spokeswoman said the Lincoln's crew asked the White House to have the sign made. The White House asked a private vendor to produce the sign, and the crew put it up, said the spokeswoman. She said she did not know who paid for the sign.
Later, a Pentagon spokesman called The Associated Press to reiterate that the banner was the crew's idea.
"It truly did signify a mission accomplished for the crew," Navy Cmdr. Conrad Chun said, adding the president's visit marked the end of the ship's 10-month international deployment.
The president's appearance on the Abraham Lincoln, which was returning home after service in the Persian Gulf, included his dramatic and much-publicized landing on the ship's deck.
Bush's disavowal Tuesday brought new criticism from at least three of the Democrats seeking their party's nomination to run against the president - John Kerry, Wesley Clark and Joe Lieberman.
"Today was another banner day in George Bushs quest to bring honor and integrity to the White House," Lieberman said. "If he wanted to prove he has trouble leveling with the American people, mission accomplished."
A banner proclaiming "mission accomplished" on the aircraft carrier where President George W. Bush declared an end to major combat in Iraq came back to haunt him as the death toll rises.
Bush's attempt to explain the banner at a press conference Tuesday only heightened the controversy, with the White House attempting to dig itself out.
The White House said on October
29, 2003 that it had helped with the production of a 'Mission
Accomplished' banner as a backdrop for President George W. Bush's
speech onboard the USS Abraham Lincoln to declare combat operations
over in Iraq. This file photo shows Bush delivering a speech to
crew aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, as the carrier
steamed toward San Diego, California on May 1, 2003. (Larry Downing/Reuters)
"What (the president) said was that it was put up by the Navy, by people on board the ship and that was correct," his spokesman Scott McClellan said Wednesday.
"It was an idea that was suggested by those on the ship as a way to honor the sailors and crew on board the USS Lincoln for accomplishing their mission."
He acknowledged however: "The Navy asked us to take care of the production of the banner."
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota, asked by reporters about the incident, called it "one of the most significant embarrassments of the entire Iraq experience so far."
NASA photo analyst: Bush wore a device during debate Physicist says imaging techniques prove the president's bulge was not caused by wrinkled clothing. By Kevin Berger Salon
Oct. 29, 2004 | George W. Bush tried to laugh off the bulge. "I don't know what that is," he said on "Good Morning America" on Wednesday, referring to the infamous protrusion beneath his jacket during the presidential debates. "I'm embarrassed to say it's a poorly tailored shirt."
This Isn't America / By Paul Krugman New York Times Tuesday 30 March 2004 sdfbvs "This administration's reliance on smear tactics is unprecedented in modern U.S. politics even compared with Nixon's. Even more disturbing is its readiness to abuse power to use its control of the government to intimidate potential critics."
Last week an opinion piece in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz about the killing of Sheik Ahmed Yassin said, "This isn't America; the government did not invent intelligence material nor exaggerate the description of the threat to justify their attack."
So even in Israel, George Bush's America has become a byword for deception and abuse of power. And the administration's reaction to Richard Clarke's "Against All Enemies" provides more evidence of something rotten in the state of our government.
The truth is that among experts, what Mr. Clarke says about Mr. Bush's terrorism policy isn't controversial. The facts that terrorism was placed on the back burner before 9/11 and that Mr. Bush blamed Iraq despite the lack of evidence are confirmed by many sources including "Bush at War," by Bob Woodward.
And new evidence keeps emerging for Mr. Clarke's main charge, that the Iraq obsession undermined the pursuit of Al Qaeda. From yesterday's USA Today: "In 2002, troops from the Fifth Special Forces Group who specialize in the Middle East were pulled out of the hunt for Osama bin Laden to prepare for their next assignment: Iraq. Their replacements were troops with expertise in Spanish cultures."
That's why the administration responded to Mr. Clarke the way it responds to anyone who reveals inconvenient facts: with a campaign of character assassination.
Some journalists seem, finally, to have caught on. Last week an Associated Press news analysis noted that such personal attacks were "standard operating procedure" for this administration and cited "a behind-the-scenes campaign to discredit Richard Foster," the Medicare actuary who revealed how the administration had deceived Congress about the cost of its prescription drug bill.
But other journalists apparently remain ready to be used. On CNN, Wolf Blitzer told his viewers that unnamed officials were saying that Mr. Clarke "wants to make a few bucks, and that [in] his own personal life, they're also suggesting that there are some weird aspects in his life as well."
This administration's reliance on smear tactics is unprecedented in modern U.S. politics even compared with Nixon's. Even more disturbing is its readiness to abuse power to use its control of the government to intimidate potential critics.
To be fair, Senator Bill Frist's suggestion that Mr. Clarke might be charged with perjury may have been his own idea. But his move reminded everyone of the White House's reaction to revelations by the former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill: an immediate investigation into whether he had revealed classified information. The alacrity with which this investigation was opened was, of course, in sharp contrast with the administration's evident lack of interest in finding out who leaked the identity of the C.I.A. operative Valerie Plame to Bob Novak.
And there are many other cases of apparent abuse of power by the administration and its Congressional allies. A few examples: according to The Hill, Republican lawmakers threatened to cut off funds for the General Accounting Office unless it dropped its lawsuit against Dick Cheney. The Washington Post says Representative Michael Oxley told lobbyists that "a Congressional probe might ease if it replaced its Democratic lobbyist with a Republican." Tom DeLay used the Homeland Security Department to track down Democrats trying to prevent redistricting in Texas. And Medicare is spending millions of dollars on misleading ads for the new drug benefit ads that look like news reports and also serve as commercials for the Bush campaign.
On the terrorism front, here's one story that deserves special mention. One of the few successful post-9/11 terror prosecutions a case in Detroit seems to be unraveling. The government withheld information from the defense, and witnesses unfavorable to the prosecution were deported (by accident, the government says). After the former lead prosecutor complained about the Justice Department's handling of the case, he suddenly found himself facing an internal investigation and someone leaked the fact that he was under investigation to the press.
Where will it end? In his new book, "Worse Than Watergate," John Dean, of Watergate fame, says, "I've been watching all the elements fall into place for two possible political catastrophes, one that will take the air out of the Bush-Cheney balloon and the other, far more disquieting, that will take the air out of democracy."
Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company (In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)
On the Late Show last week, David Letterman played a series of clips of a recent George W. Bush speech, which featured a teenage boy in the background yawning and checking his watch. Clearly amused by the boy's antics, CNN's Daryn Kagan ran the clips the following morning on CNN Live Today. And here's where it starts to get weird. After breaking for a commercial, Kagan came back and told her viewers that, "that video was from David Letterman. We're being told by the White House that the kid, as funny as he was, was edited into that video, which would explain why the people around him weren't really reacting. So, that from the White House." Hey, nice fact-checking Daryn! So the White House calls to tell you the "truth" and you just blurt it out right there on air? Does this have anything to do with all those missing weapons of mass destruction by any chance? But as if reporting spin directly from the White House isn't bad enough, there's even more idiocy to this than meets the eye. See, it turned out Letterman hadn't edited the boy into the clips - they were 100% real - and not only that, but CNN claimed they hadn't even had a call from the White House. Apparently it was all just "a misunderstanding among staff." Fascinating! So this is how the cable news networks really operate - they just make it up as they go along.
// "The White House is completely disconnected from reality." "It's like they're just making it up as they go along." / - REPUBLICAN Senator Chuck Hagel // _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ / Smear Without Fear By Paul Krugman New York Times April 2, 2004
A funny thing happened to David Letterman this week. Actually, it only started out funny. And the unfunny ending fits into a disturbing pattern.
On Monday, Mr. Letterman ran a video clip of a boy yawning and fidgeting during a speech by George Bush. It was harmless stuff; a White House that thinks it's cute to have Mr. Bush make jokes about missing W.M.D. should be able to handle a little ribbing about boring speeches.
CNN ran the Letterman clip on Tuesday, just before a commercial. Then the CNN anchor Daryn Kagan came back to inform viewers that the clip was a fake: "We're being told by the White House that the kid, as funny as he was, was edited into that video." Later in the day, another anchor amended that: the boy was at the rally, but not where he was shown in the video.
On his Tuesday night show, Mr. Letterman was not amused: "That is an out and out 100 percent absolute lie. The kid absolutely was there, and he absolutely was doing everything we pictured via the videotape."
But here's the really interesting part: CNN backed down, but it told Mr. Letterman that Ms. Kagan "misspoke," that the White House was not the source of the false claim. (So who was? And if the claim didn't come from the White House, why did CNN run with it without checking?)
In short, CNN passed along a smear that it attributed to the White House. When the smear backfired, it declared its previous statements inoperative and said the White House wasn't responsible. Sound familiar?
On Tuesday, I mentioned remarks by CNN's Wolf Blitzer; here's a fuller quote, just to remove any ambiguity: "What administration officials have been saying since the weekend, basically, that Richard Clarke from their vantage point was a disgruntled former government official, angry because he didn't get a certain promotion. He's got a hot new book out now that he wants to promote. He wants to make a few bucks, and that his own personal life, they're also suggesting there are some weird aspects in his life."
Stung by my column, Mr. Blitzer sought to justify his words, saying that his statement was actually a question, and also saying that "I was not referring to anything charged by so-called unnamed White House officials as alleged today." Silly me: I "alleged" that Mr. Blitzer said something because he actually said it, and described "so-called unnamed" officials as unnamed because he didn't name them.
Mr. Blitzer now says he was talking about remarks made on his own program by a National Security Council spokesman, Jim Wilkinson. But Mr. Wilkinson's remarks are hard to construe as raising questions about Mr. Clarke's personal life.
Instead, Mr. Wilkinson seems to have questioned Mr. Clarke's sanity, saying: "He sits back and visualizes chanting by bin Laden, and bin Laden has a mystical mind control over U.S. officials. This is sort of `X-Files' stuff." Really?
On Page 246 of "Against All Enemies," Mr. Clarke bemoans the way the invasion of Iraq, in his view, played right into the hands of Al Qaeda: "Bush handed that enemy precisely what it wanted and needed. . . . It was as if Usama bin Laden, hidden in some high mountain redoubt, were engaging in long-range mind control of George Bush." That's not " `X-Files' stuff": it's a literary device, meant to emphasize just how ill conceived our policy is. Mr. Blitzer should be telling Mr. Wilkinson to apologize, not rerunning those comments in his own defense.
Look, I understand why major news organizations must act respectfully toward government officials. But officials shouldn't be sure - as Mr. Wilkinson obviously was - that they can make wild accusations without any fear that they will be challenged on the spot or held accountable later.
And administration officials shouldn't be able to spread stories without making themselves accountable. If an administration official is willing to say something on the record, that's a story, because he pays a price if his claims are false. But if unnamed "administration officials" spread rumors about administration critics, reporters have an obligation to check the facts before giving those rumors national exposure. And there's no excuse for disseminating unchecked rumors because they come from "the White House," then denying the White House connection when the rumors prove false. That's simply giving the administration a license to smear with impunity.
Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company (In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)
By JOHN F. DICKERSON From the Jan. 19, 2004 issue of TIME magazine vsdVS "These people are nasty and they have a long memory," he tells Suskind. But he also believes that by speaking out even in the face of inevitable White House wrath, he can demonstrate loyalty to something he prizes: the truth. "
Saturday, Jan. 10, 2004
If anyone would listen to him, Paul O'Neill thought, Dick Cheney would. The two had served together during the Ford Administration, and now as the Treasury Secretary fought a losing battle against another round of tax cuts, he figured that his longtime colleague would give him a hearing.
O'Neill had been preaching that a fiscal crisis was looming and more tax cuts would exacerbate it. But others in the White House saw a chance to capitalize on the historic Republican congressional gains in the 2002 elections. Surely, Cheney would not be so smug. He would hear O'Neill out. In an economic meeting in the Vice President's office, O'Neill started pitching, describing how the numbers showed that growing budget deficits threatened the economy. Cheney cut him off. "Reagan proved deficits don't matter," he said. O'Neill was too dumbfounded to respond. Cheney continued: "We won the midterms. This is our due."
A month later, Paul O'Neill was fired, ending the rocky two-year tenure of Bush's first Treasury Secretary, who became known for his candid statements and the controversies that followed them. Rarely had a person who spoke so freely been embedded so high in an Administration that valued frank public remarks so little.
Now O'Neill is speaking with the same bracing style in a book written by Pulitzer prizewinning journalist Ron Suskind. The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House and the Education of Paul O'Neill traces the former Alcoa CEO's rise and fall through the Administration: from his return to Washington to work for his third President, whom he believed would govern from the sensible center, through O'Neill's disillusionment, to his firing, executed in a surreal conversation with Cheney, a man he once considered a fellow traveler. Suskind had access not only to O'Neill but also to the saddlebags he took with him when he left town, which included a minute-by-minute accounting of his 23 months in office and 19,000 pages of documents on CD-ROM.
So, what does O'Neill reveal? According to the book, ideology and electoral politics so dominated the domestic-policy process during his tenure that it was often impossible to have a rational exchange of ideas. The incurious President was so opaque on some important issues that top Cabinet officials were left guessing his mind even after face-to-face meetings. Cheney is portrayed as an unstoppable force, unbowed by inconvenient facts as he drives Administration policy toward his goals.
O'Neill's tone in the book is not angry or sour, though it prompted a tart response from the Administration. "We didn't listen to him when he was there," said a top aide. "Why should we now?"
But the book is blunt, and in person O'Neill can be even more so. Discussing the case for the Iraq war in an interview with TIME, O'Neill, who sat on the National Security Council, says the focus was on Saddam from the early days of the Administration. He offers the most skeptical view of the case for war ever put forward by a top Administration official. "In the 23 months I was there, I never saw anything that I would characterize as evidence of weapons of mass destruction," he told TIME. "There were allegations and assertions by people.
But I've been around a hell of a long time, and I know the difference between evidence and assertions and illusions or allusions and conclusions that one could draw from a set of assumptions. To me there is a difference between real evidence and everything else. And I never saw anything in the intelligence that I would characterize as real evidence." A top Administration official says of the wmd intelligence: "That information was on a need- to-know basis. He wouldn't have been in a position to see it.
From his first meeting with the President, O'Neill found Bush unengaged and inscrutable, an inside account far different from the shiny White House brochure version of an unfailing leader questioning aides with rapid-fire intensity. The two met one-on-one almost every week, but O'Neill says he had trouble divining his boss's goals and ideas. Bush was a blank slate rarely asking questions or issuing orders, unlike Nixon and Ford, for whom O'Neill also worked. "I wondered from the first, if the President didn't know the questions to ask," O'Neill says in the book, "or if he did know and just not want to know the answers? Or did his strategy somehow involve never showing what he thought? But you can ask questions, gather information and not necessarily show your hand. It was strange." In larger meetings, Bush was similarly walled off. Describing top-level meetings, O'Neill tells Suskind that during the course of his two years the President was "like a blind man in a roomful of deaf people."
In his interview with TIME, O'Neill winces a little at that quote. He's worried it's too stark and now allows that it may just be Bush's style to keep his advisers always guessing. In Suskind's book, O'Neill's assessment of Bush's executive style is a harsh one: it is portrayed as a failure of leadership. Aides were left to play "blind man's bluff," trying to divine Bush's views on issues like tax policy, global warming and North Korea. Sometimes, O'Neill says, they had to float an idea in the press just to scare a reaction out of him. This led to public humiliation when the President contradicted his top officials, as he did Secretary of State Colin Powell on North Korea and Environmental Protection Agency administrator Christine Todd Whitman on global warming. O'Neill came to believe that this gang of three beleaguered souls--only Powell remains--who shared a more nonideological approach were used for window dressing. We "may have been there, in large part, as cover," he tells Suskind.
If the President was hard to read, the White House decision-making process was even more mysterious. Each time O'Neill tried to gather data, sift facts and insert them into the system for debate, he would find discussion sheared off before it could get going. He tried to build fiscal restraint into Bush's tax plan but was thwarted by those who believed, as he says, that "tax cuts were good at any cost." He was losing debates before they had begun. The President asked for a global-warming plan one minute and then while it was being formulated, announced that he was reversing a campaign pledge to cut carbon dioxide emissions and pulling out unceremoniously from the Kyoto global- warming treaty, short-circuiting his aides' work. The President was "clearly signing on to strong ideological positions that had not been fully thought through," says O'Neill. As for the appetite for new ideas in the White House, he told Suskind, "that store is closed."
To grope his way out of the wilderness, O'Neill turned to his old friends from the Ford Administration, Alan Greenspan and Dick Cheney. According to the book, Greenspan agreed with many of his proposals but could not do much from his Delphian perch. When O'Neill sought guidance from the Vice President about how to install a system that would foster vigorous and transparent debate, he got grumbles and silence but little sympathy. Soon O'Neill concluded that his powerful old colleague was rowing in a different direction."I realized why Dick just nodded along when I said all of this, over and over, and nothing ever changed," he says in the book. "This is the way Dick likes it."
Where ideology did not win, electoral politics did. Overruling many of his advisers, the President decided to impose tariffs on imported steel to please voters in key swing states like Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio.
When the corporate scandals rocked Wall Street, O'Neill and Greenspan devised a plan to make CEOs accountable. Bush went with a more modest plan because "the corporate crowd," as O'Neill calls it in the book, complained loudly and Bush could not buck that constituency. "The biggest difference between then and now," O'Neill tells Suskind about his two previous tours in Washington, "is that our group was mostly about evidence and analysis, and Karl (Rove), Dick (Cheney), Karen (Hughes) and the gang seemed to be mostly about politics. It's a huge distinction."
A White House that seems to pick an outcome it wants and then marshal the facts to meet it seems very much like one that might decide to remove Saddam Hussein and then tickle the facts to meet its objective. That's the inescapable conclusion one draws from O'Neill's description of how Saddam was viewed from Day One. Though O'Neill is careful to compliment the cia for always citing the caveats in its findings, he describes a White House poised to overinterpret intelligence. "From the start, we were building the case against Hussein and looking at how we could take him out and change Iraq into a new country," he tells Suskind. "And, if we did that, it would solve everything. It was about finding a way to do it. That was the tone of it. The President saying, 'Fine. Go find me a way to do this.'"
Cheney helped bring O'Neill into the Administration, acting as a shoehorn for O'Neill, who didn't know the President but trusted the wise counselor beside him. So it was perhaps fitting that Cheney would take O'Neill out. Weeks after Bush had assured O'Neill that rumored staff changes in the economic team did not mean his job was in peril, Cheney called. "Paul, the President has decided to make some changes in the economic team. And you're part of the change," he told O'Neill. The bloodless way he was cut loose by his old chum shocked O'Neill, Suskind writes, but what came after was even more shocking. Cheney asked him to announce that it was O'Neill's decision to leave Washington to return to private life. O'Neill refused, saying "I'm too old to begin telling lies now."
(M.O.W. editorial insert)
Suskind's book-informed by interviews with officials other than O'Neill-is only a partial view of the Bush White House. Bush's role on key topics like education, stem-cell research and aids funding is not explored. Bush's role as a military leader after 9/11 is discussed mostly through O'Neill's effort to stop terrorist funding. Bush comes across as mildly effective and pleased with O'Neill's work. The book does not try to cover how Bush engaged with his war cabinet during the Afghan conflict or how his leadership skills were deployed in the making of war. On the eve of the Iraq war, however, O'Neill does tell Suskind that he marvels at the President's conviction in light of what he considers paltry evidence: "With his level of experience, I would not be able to support his level of conviction."
There is no effort to offer an opposing analysis of O'Neill's portrayal of his tenure. The book lists his gaffes-he ridiculed Wall Street traders, accused Democrats of being socialists and disparaged business lobbyists who were seeking a tax credit that the President supported-but it portrays these moments as examples of brave truth telling in a town that doesn't like it. White House aides have a different view: It wasn't just that O'Neill was impolitic, they say; his statements had real consequences-roiling currency markets and Wall Street. What O'Neill would call rigor, Bush officials say, was an excessive fussiness that led to policy gridlock and sniping within the economic team.
O'Neill says he hopes that straight talk about the broken decision-making process in the White House will highlight the larger political and ideological warfare that has gripped Washington and kept good ideas from becoming law. Perhaps naively or arrogantly, or both, he even believes it may help change the climate. Ask him what he hopes the book will accomplish, and he will talk about Social Security reform in earnest tones: tough choices won't be made in Washington so long as it shuns honest dialogue, bipartisanship and intellectual thoroughness. O'Neill may not have been cut out for this town, but give him this: he does exhibit the sobriety and devotion to ideas that are supposed to be in vogue in the postironic, post- 9/11 age.
Loyalty is perhaps the most prized quality in the White Hoeus. In the book, O'Neill suggests a very dark understanding of what happens to those who don't show it. "These people are nasty and they have a long memory," he tells Suskind. But he also believes that by speaking out even in the face of inevitable White House wrath, he can demonstrate loyalty to something he prizes: the truth. "Loyalty to a person and whatever they say or do, that's the opposite of real loyalty, which is loyalty based on inquiry, and telling someone what you really think and feel-your best estimation of the truth instead of what they want to hear." That goal is worth the price of retribution, O'Neill says. Plus, as he told Suskind, "I'm an old guy, and I'm rich. And there's nothing they can do to hurt me."
- From the Jan. 19, 2004 issue of TIME magazine
Presidential assistant Donald Rumsfeld, right, and his deputy Richard Cheney meet with reporters at the White House in Washington, D.C., Thursday, Nov. 7, 1975. At that time Rumsfeld and Cheney were persuading Ford to veto one of the most important Watergate-inspired reforms, an enhanced Freedom of Information Act, designed to guarantee public and media scrutiny of the FBI and other agencies. - from "Restoring the imperial presidency" by Bruce Shapiro, Salon
TTY Lifting the Shroud By PAUL KRUGMAN New York Times March 23, 2004
From the day it took office, U.S. News & World Report wrote a few months ago, (Keeping Secrets , By Christopher H. Schmitt and Edward T. Pound) , the Bush administration "dropped a shroud of secrecy" over the federal government. After 9/11, the administration's secretiveness knew no limits - Americans, Ari Fleischer ominously warned, "need to watch what they say, watch what they do." Patriotic citizens were supposed to accept the administration's version of events, not ask awkward questions.
But something remarkable has been happening lately: more and more insiders are finding the courage to reveal the truth on issues ranging from mercury pollution - yes, Virginia, polluters do write the regulations these days, and never mind the science - to the war on terror.
It's important, when you read the inevitable attempts to impugn the character of the latest whistle-blower, to realize just how risky it is to reveal awkward truths about the Bush administration. When Gen. Eric Shinseki told Congress that postwar Iraq would require a large occupation force, that was the end of his military career. When Ambassador Joseph Wilson IV revealed that the 2003 State of the Union speech contained information known to be false, someone in the White House destroyed his wife's career by revealing that she was a C.I.A. operative. And we now know that Richard Foster, the Medicare system's chief actuary, was threatened with dismissal if he revealed to Congress the likely cost of the administration's prescription drug plan.
The latest insider to come forth, of course, is Richard Clarke, George Bush's former counterterrorism czar and the author of the just-published "Against All Enemies."
On "60 Minutes" on Sunday, Mr. Clarke said the previously unsayable: that Mr. Bush, the self-proclaimed "war president," had "done a terrible job on the war against terrorism." After a few hours of shocked silence, the character assassination began. He "may have had a grudge to bear since he probably wanted a more prominent position," declared Dick Cheney, who also says that Mr. Clarke was "out of the loop." * (What loop? Before 9/11, Mr. Clarke was the administration's top official on counterterrorism.) It's "more about politics and a book promotion than about policy," Scott McClellan said.
* - (On the Rush LImbaugh show, no less!)
Of course, Bush officials have to attack Mr. Clarke's character because there is plenty of independent evidence confirming the thrust of his charges.
Did the Bush administration ignore terrorism warnings before 9/11? Justice Department documents obtained by the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, show that it did. Not only did John Ashcroft completely drop terrorism as a priority - it wasn't even mentioned in his list of seven "strategic goals" - just one day before 9/11 he proposed a reduction in counterterrorism funds.
Did the administration neglect counterterrorism even after 9/11? After 9/11 the F.B.I. requested $1.5 billion for counterterrorism operations, but the White House slashed this by two-thirds. (Meanwhile, the Bush campaign has been attacking John Kerry because he once voted for a small cut in intelligence funds.)
Oh, and the next time terrorists launch an attack on American soil, they will find their task made much easier by the administration's strange reluctance, even after 9/11, to protect potential targets. In November 2001 a bipartisan delegation urged the president to spend about $10 billion on top-security priorities like ports and nuclear sites. But Mr. Bush flatly refused.
Finally, did some top officials really want to respond to 9/11 not by going after Al Qaeda, but by attacking Iraq? Of course they did. "From the very first moments after Sept. 11," Kenneth Pollack told "Frontline," "there was a group of people, both inside and outside the administration, who believed that the war on terrorism . . . should target Iraq first." Mr. Clarke simply adds more detail.
Still, the administration would like you to think that Mr. Clarke had base motives in writing his book. But given the hawks' dominance of the best-seller lists until last fall, it's unlikely that he wrote it for the money. Given the assumption by most political pundits, until very recently, that Mr. Bush was guaranteed re-election, it's unlikely that he wrote it in the hopes of getting a political job. And given the Bush administration's penchant for punishing its critics, he must have known that he was taking a huge personal risk.
So why did he write it? How about this: Maybe he just wanted the public to know the truth.
Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company (In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)
- From "For Cheney, Tarnish From Halliburton - Firm's Fall Raises Questions About Vice President's Leadership There",By Dana Milbank,Washington Post Staff Writer, July 16, 2002
"...Despite these connections, Harken did badly. But for a time it concealed its failure - sustaining its stock price, as it turned out, just long enough for Mr. Bush to sell most of his stake at a large profit - with an accounting trick identical to one of the main ploys used by Enron a decade later. (Yes, Arthur Andersen was the accountant.)"
By Paul Krugman New York Times Tuesday 30 March 2004
On Tuesday, George W. Bush is scheduled to give a speech intended to put him in front of the growing national outrage over corporate malfeasance. He will sternly lecture Wall Street executives about ethics and will doubtless portray himself as a believer in old-fashioned business probity.
Yet this pose is surreal, given the way top officials like Secretary of the Army Thomas White, Dick Cheney and Mr. Bush himself acquired their wealth. As Joshua Green says in The Washington Monthly, in a must-read article written just before the administration suddenly became such an exponent of corporate ethics: "The `new tone' that George W. Bush brought to Washington isn't one of integrity, but of permissiveness. . . . In this administration, enriching oneself while one's business goes bust isn't necessarily frowned upon."
Unfortunately, the administration has so far gotten the press to focus on the least important question about Mr. Bush's business dealings: his failure to obey the law by promptly reporting his insider stock sales. It's true that Mr. Bush's story about that failure has suddenly changed, from "the dog ate my homework" to "my lawyer ate my homework - four times." But the administration hopes that a narrow focus on the reporting lapses will divert attention from the larger point: Mr. Bush profited personally from aggressive accounting identical to the recent scams that have shocked the nation.
In 1986, one would have had to consider Mr. Bush a failed businessman. He had run through millions of dollars of other people's money, with nothing to show for it but a company losing money and heavily burdened with debt. But he was rescued from failure when Harken Energy bought his company at an astonishingly high price. There is no question that Harken was basically paying for Mr. Bush's connections.
Despite these connections, Harken did badly. But for a time it concealed its failure - sustaining its stock price, as it turned out, just long enough for Mr. Bush to sell most of his stake at a large profit - with an accounting trick identical to one of the main ploys used by Enron a decade later. (Yes, Arthur Andersen was the accountant.) As I explained in my previous column, the ploy works as follows: corporate insiders create a front organization that seems independent but is really under their control. This front buys some of the firm's assets at unrealistically high prices, creating a phantom profit that inflates the stock price, allowing the executives to cash in their stock.
That's exactly what happened at Harken. A group of insiders, using money borrowed from Harken itself, paid an exorbitant price for a Harken subsidiary, Aloha Petroleum. That created a $10 million phantom profit, which hid three-quarters of the company's losses in 1989. White House aides have played down the significance of this maneuver, saying $10 million isn't much, compared with recent scandals. Indeed, it's a small fraction of the apparent profits Halliburton created through a sudden change in accounting procedures during Dick Cheney's tenure as chief executive. But for Harken's stock price - and hence for Mr. Bush's personal wealth - this accounting trickery made all the difference.
Oh, and Harken's fake profits were several dozen times as large as the Whitewater land deal - though only about one-seventh the cost of the Whitewater investigation.
Mr. Bush was on the company's audit committee, as well as on a special restructuring committee; back in 1994, another member of both committees, E. Stuart Watson, assured reporters that he and Mr. Bush were constantly made aware of the company's finances. If Mr. Bush didn't know about the Aloha maneuver, he was a very negligent director.
In any case, Mr. Bush certainly found out what his company had been up to when the Securities and Exchange Commission ordered it to restate its earnings. So he can't really be shocked over recent corporate scams. His own company pulled exactly the same tricks, to his considerable benefit. Of course, what really made Mr. Bush a rich man was the investment of his proceeds from Harken in the Texas Rangers - a step that is another, equally strange story.
The point is the contrast between image and reality. Mr. Bush portrays himself as a regular guy, someone ordinary Americans can identify with. But his personal fortune was built on privilege and insider dealings - and after his Harken sale, on large-scale corporate welfare. Some people have it easy.
/ "Choose your leaders with wisdom and forethought. / To be led by a coward is to be controlled by all that the coward fears. To be led by a fool is to be led by the opportunists who control the fool. To be led by a thief is to offer up your most precious treasures to be stolen. To be led by a liar is to ask to be lied to. To be led by a tyrant is to sell yourself and those you love into slavery." / - Octavia Butler /
"Let us not talk falsely now because the hour is getting late..." / - Bob Dylan, "All Along the Watchtower" (1968) _______________________ /
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