Litany Of Lies
David Corn, Washington editor of The Nation, is the author of The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception (Crown Publishers), which will be released on September 30, 2003.
George W. Bush has not told the truth about a great many matters -- WMD in Iraq, tax cuts, global warming, homeland security, Social Security, the deficit, his own past and political practices, and more. We asked David Corn to pull together a sampling of lies and distortions from the voluminous examples in his new book, The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception (Crown Publishers) -- you can read more about the book at www.bushlies.com.
Grease the Way to War
During Bush's 2003 State of the Union -- which included those 16 controversial (and disputable) words in which he charged that Saddam Hussein had gone uranium-shopping in Africa -- Bush maintained that the International Atomic Energy Agency "confirmed in the 1990s that Saddam Hussein had an advanced nuclear weapons development program." Bush had left out the fact that the IAEA also reported then it had demolished this "advanced" nuclear program during the inspections process of the 1990s. And the day before Bush's speech, its inspectors had said there were no signs of a vigorous nuclear weapons program in Iraq. Bush had spoken words that were technically true, but they were designed to mislead the American public. Bush's aim was not to tell the truth but to grease the way to war.
In his first debate with Democratic nominee Al Gore, Bush refused to accept Gore's invitation to endorse a campaign finance reform bill. And Bush exclaimed, "This man has outspent me." Not even close. Bush at this point had spent more than $121 million on his campaign-more than double the $60 million Gore had doled out. And in the July-to-October 2000 period, the Republican Party had banked $100 million to the Democrats' $55 million.
To prove his first set of proposed tax cuts were responsible, Bush had to demonstrate that the projected ten-year budget surplus was large enough to cover them. "There is enough money," he told White House reporters. And in an address to a joint session of Congress, he maintained his budget, even with his tax cuts and his promise not to touch the Social Security surplus, would still leave "almost a trillion dollars... for additional needs." But to get the numbers to line up right, the White House engaged in two shifty actions at once: it low-balled the fiscal impact of the tax cuts, and it inflated projections of the budget surplus.
The Bush administration claimed the cost of the tax cuts would be $1.6 trillion over ten years. But the White House's cost estimate ignored two key elements. It did not include the presumed cost of fixing a design flaw in the Alternative Minimum Tax, which was created to make sure corporations could not use loopholes to escape all their tax liability. This glitch was about to cause the AMT to be applied to middle-class taxpayers. Most tax experts assumed the out-of-control AMT would be reined in, but Bush's estimate was counting on $200 billion of these unintended AMT revenues to offset the full $1.8 trillion price tag of his tax cuts. The Bush estimate also did not include the higher federal interest costs that would result from the tax legislation. Put this all together, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and Bush's proposed tax cuts could be expected to draw $2.1 trillion over ten years from the projected surplus.
As for the size of the surplus, the Congressional Budget Office was forecasting a $3.1 trillion surplus. Using this CBO figure and its own too-modest estimate of the tax plan's costs, the White House could claim that Bush's package would consume only slightly more than half the available surplus. But the Brookings Institution, the Concord Coalition and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities -- policy groups of different political stripes -- each pointed out that the CBO included in its calculations various tax increases and program cuts that were highly unlikely to occur. When these groups used real-world assumptions, the available surplus became $2.0 trillion or less -- and that was less than the estimated full cost of Bush's tax cuts. According to the realistic numbers, Bush's tax plan, contrary to what he was saying, would gobble up the entire surplus.
Enron? What's Enron?
During a brief session with reporters in the Rose Garden on January 28, 2002, Bush was asked if his administration had afforded Enron special treatment, particularly regarding the energy plan Cheney had produced the previous year. "Enron had made contributions to a lot of people around Washington, DC," Bush answered. "And if they came to this administration looking for help, they didn't find any." That may have been the case during Enron's final days -- when Lay was on the phone to members of Bush's cabinet and apparently received no help -- but that was not true during the preceding months when Enron was not yet radioactive. Before Enron's crack-up, the Bush administration had been of tremendous assistance to the company on several fronts. In response to requests from Ken Lay and Enron, the Bush administration had appointed Enron-favored regulators to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, opposed wholesale price caps during the California energy crisis (which was exacerbated by Enron's underhanded market manipulations), and helped Enron in a billion-dollar contract dispute in India.
At a Republican debate during the 2000 presidential campaign, Steve Forbes, the millionaire-publisher/candidate, accused Bush of having dumbed down education standards "to the point where in Texas your SAT ranking has gone from 40th in the nation to 46th in the nation." Bush chuckled, "So many half-stories, so little time." He then replied, "Test scores in my state, on the NAEP [National Assessment of Educational Progress] test, which compares state to state, showed dramatic improvement. And that's -- objective analysis after objective analysis has ranked Texas as one of the best education states in the country.... Our SAT scores have improved since I've been the governor. You need to get your research to do a better job."
But it was Bush's research that required fact-checking. Texas' NAEP scores, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, had risen significantly in only one category: mathematics. Not so on reading and science. And according to the College Entrance Examination Board, the average verbal/math combined SAT score in Texas had dipped 3 points during Bush's administration; over the same period, the national average had improved 9 points.
After the Republicans succeeded in the congressional elections of 2002, Bush maintained that his party's candidates had fared well because of their clean campaigns. "Their accent was on the positive," he remarked. "If you want to succeed in American politics, change the tone." But the accent had not been on the positive. In mid-October, Bush had attended a fundraiser for Representative Saxby Chambliss, a Georgia Republican trying to unseat Senator Max Cleland, and Bush blamed Democrats (and Cleland by association) for trying to stop him from carrying out "one of our most solemn duties, which is to protect the homeland" - all because they disagreed with him on workplace rules for the new Department of Homeland Security. Weeks earlier, Bush had said at a campaign stop that Democrats were "more interested in special interests in Washington and not interested in the security of the American people." While Bush was stumping for Chambliss, Chambliss was airing a television ad that flashed photos of bin Laden and Saddam Hussein as it assailed Cleland for supposedly voting against "homeland security" and lacking the "courage to lead." The Republicans were smearing Cleland, a Vietnam vet who had lost three limbs in a grenade accident, as being weak on national security. Bush had decidedly not changed the tone while campaigning for GOPers who had hit low and hard. As The Washington Post noted, "some of [Bush's] hand-picked candidates ran tough negative campaigns.... Bush occasionally joined in the attack."
On his first workday in the Oval Office Bush signed a directive reviving a controversial 1984 Ronald Reagan order known as the Mexico City policy, which had been rescinded by Clinton. This policy prohibited U.S. government family-planning funds from going to overseas groups that provide abortion services, lobby for abortion rights, or counsel pregnant women that abortion is an option. In a two-paragraph announcement, Bush noted, "It is my conviction that taxpayer funds should not be used to pay for abortions or advocate or actively promote abortion, either here or abroad."
But the funds in question -- $425 million in foreign aid -- did not underwrite abortion-related activity. This money could only be used by these groups for their family-planning activities that did not involve abortion. A 1973 law had rendered it illegal for any organization to use U.S. government funds to pay for abortions overseas. The Bush White House, though, was selling the reinstatement of the policy as a direct step in defunding abortions overseas. At a White House press briefing, Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer defended the directive by saying that Bush "did not support use of taxpayer dollars to fund abortion abroad." A reporter pointed out that these funds did not finance abortion overseas: "Is the president aware that under the 1973 law, the use of American money for abortions abroad is banned? This money isn't used for abortions." Fleischer replied: "I would urge you to wait until you read the executive order, and then you'll be able to see this for yourself." But that executive order -- issued two months later -- in no way explained why the Bush White House had promoted the policy's revival with misinformation.
When Bush released the Bush-Cheney energy plan, he declared, "We've yelled at -- we've yelled at each other enough; now it's time to listen to each other." Yet he and Dick Cheney had not been keen on listening to environmentalists. In February 2001, while the plan was being drafted, the Green Group -- a collection of the leading environmental outfits in Washington -- requested separate meetings with Cheney and Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham to discuss the energy proposals under construction. Both men slammed the door on the greens. Abraham's office claimed his schedule was too "busy." But Energy Department documents released a year later showed that Abraham had possessed enough time to meet with 109 executives, trade association leaders and lobbyists from the energy industry during the drafting of the plan.
As for Vice President Cheney, he passed off the Green Group to Andrew Lundquist, his energy task force staff director, and Lundquist waited nearly two months before seeing the enviros. The session, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (one of 14 groups represented at the meeting), lasted less than an hour and was mostly consumed by introductions. Not until June 5, six weeks after the plan had been issued, did Cheney meet with a delegation of environmentalists. (In January 2002, Cheney appeared on Fox News Sunday and said of his energy task force work, "I talked to energy companies, I talked to labor members, talked to environmentalists." He was trying to make it appear he had solicited advice from environmentalists and neglected to mention he had spoken to the enviros only after his energy plan was out the door.)
~Did You Miss These?~
Just a Reminder - Tuesday, Nov. 04, 2003
Ravyne Is Moving - Friday, Oct. 17, 2003
The Mission - Sunday, Oct. 12, 2003
Siege Heil - Thursday, Oct. 09, 2003
Litany Of Lies - Wednesday, Oct. 08, 2003
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