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Balanced Fare: We Report, You Deride

Monday, November 11, 2002

The Resolutely Non-hunting Dog

TAPPED is aglow with this:

BUSH IS A LIAR, PART XIV. The always-excellent Spinsanity has the definitive take on the Bush administration's serial mendacity. Unlike Tapped, Spinsanity is free of cant or rage. They stick to the facts. And the facts are devastating enough.

Oh, I bet this will be devastating. Let's check it out:

Making Bush Tell The Truth

...the White House has dissembled wildly rather than admit mistakes or mendacity.

WARNING! Is it Bush that is lying, or "the White House"? I suspect this is a significant distinction to the American people. Carry on:

Take Bush's false claim to have publicly listed three exceptions during the campaign under which budget deficits would be acceptable. As revenues declined last year and deficits appeared imminent, the president claimed the following to try to protect himself from criticism: "As I said in Chicago during the campaign, when asked about should the government ever deficit spend, I said only under these circumstances should government deficit spend: if there is a national emergency, if there is a recession, or if there's a war."

Oh my goodness, they are leading with the Trifecta! This was beaten endlessly a while back. Let's see if they provide the rebuttal, or make us do the dirty work.

After much investigation, it was discovered that Vice President Al Gore listed the exceptions during the campaign, not Bush. A Bush advisor did indicate at the time that he also supported them...

Yes, that was Larry Lindsey, now Economic Advisor to the President, then the campaign's leading economic advisor. So, the "trifecta" was authoritatively part of the Bush economic message during the campaign, a fact not in dispute. The rest is "who said what, and where", and frankly, who cares?

Continuing with "the mendacity":

Then, in July, the Office of Management and Budget issued a press release that severely underestimated the percentage decline in the 10-year federal budget surplus caused by the Bush tax cut (apparently an inadvertent error). Rather than admit its mistake publicly, OMB deleted the error and posted an altered version of the release (Adobe PDF file) on its Web site with no indication that it had been changed. After my initial report on this was picked up by New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, OMB was finally forced to add a disclosure to the release (Adobe PDF file).

So, the OMB made what Spinsanity is prepared to admit was an inadvertent error. They failed to trumpet the correction. Oh, dear. And, although the headline says "Making Bush Tell The Truth", this mistake is attributable to the Administration, not Bush personally.

Well, it must get worse:

Now, with matters far more grave at stake in the debate over Iraq, the administration has been no less brazen in its dishonesty. At a Sept. 7 appearance with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Bush said, "I would remind you that when the inspectors first went into Iraq and were denied -- finally denied access, a report came out of the Atomic -- the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency], that they were six months away from developing a [nuclear] weapon. I don't know what more evidence we need."

An IAEA report in 1998 (around the time that inspectors were "finally denied access") did say Iraq was six to 24 months away from developing a weapon before the Gulf War in 1991, but its efforts to produce weapons-grade uranium were largely crippled by the war and subsequent inspection regime. It appears Bush was referring to that estimate to underscore the point that Iraq has already come close to developing nuclear weapons and will try to do so again.

However, he should have been clearer about when that capacity was discovered. By tying the pre-Gulf War estimate to when inspectors were "finally denied access," Bush appears to imply that IAEA's conclusion that Iraq was "six months away from developing a weapon" dated from 1998, rather than 1991.

Oh my goodness. Bush should have been clearer at a live press conference! Was he so wrong, and so misleading, that this can be called a lie? No, he should have been clearer.

But surely there must be whoppers ahead of us. This cannot be the entiire indictment that set hearts aflutter at TAPPED. Sorry, that's all, folks. Big finish:

This dissembling is a betrayal of Bush's promise to restore honor and dignity to the White House. With so much at stake domestically and abroad, it's time to hold the president and his administration to a higher standard of truth.

And my big finish, which will be clear: Rubbish. An uncertain but irrelevant story, a bureaucratic mistake, and a reasonable statement open to misinterpretation? A story about lies probably ought to feature some.

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