Visions Of Life
2004-06-10 17:45:36 (UTC)

Top 10 Lies


10. "I have been very candid about my past." Bush said this
during a press conference a few days before Election Day
2000. He was then in the middle of media firestorm that
followed the revelation that he had once been arrested for
drunken driving. Of course, this statement was untrue. He
uttered it while he was trying to explain why he had not
been "candid" about his arrest record. And during the
campaign, he had not been "candid" about other significant
matters, including what seemed to be a missing year in his
National Guard service (which did not jibe with what he
wrote about his service in his autobiography) and his
apparent (though unacknowledged) shift from supporting
abortion rights in the late-1970s to opposing them in the
1990s. He also was not "candid" about the tax plans he had
pushed while governor of Texas. He always referred to them
as "tax cuts" and did not mention that his major tax
proposal included both tax cuts for property owners and an
increase in the sales tax and the creation of a new
business tax.

9. "I'm a uniter not a divider." This was a Bush
catchphrase, a mantra. It was shorthand for his claim that
he engaged in positive, not negative, politics and could
heal a political culture ripped apart by the bitter
ideological and partisan combat of the Clinton years. Yet
during the 2000 presidential campaign and the Florida
fracas, Bush and his lieutenants engaged in down-and-dirty
and divisive political maneuvers. Just ask Senator John
McCain, Bush's main Republican opponent, whose record on
veterans affairs was falsely attacked by a Bush surrogate
and who was accused falsely by the Bush campaign of
opposing research for breast cancer. As president-elect,
Bush nominated one of the most divisive ideologues in
Washington, former Senator John Ashcroft, to be attorney
general. During a pre-inauguration interview, Bush
acknowledged that he expected Ashcroft to be a lightning
rod. But would-be uniters-not-dividers do not shove
lightning rods up the backsides of their opponents. Another
example: during the 2002 congressional campaign, Bush
accused Democrats who differed with him on employment rules
for the new Department of Homeland Security of sacrificing
national security for their own petty purposes. He did this
to help elect Republicans to office. Such a move was well
within his rights as a political player, but not the action
of a fellow who cares more about uniting than dividing.

8. "My plan unlocks the door to the middle class of
millions of hard-working Americans." All the available
slots of this top-ten list could be filled by statements
Bush made to sell his tax cuts at various points?on the
campaign trail, in 2001 (for the first major tax-cuts
battle), and in 2003 (for the second major tax-cuts
battle). But I chose an assertion from 2001 that echoed
statements from the campaign trail, that would be reprised
in 2003, and that represented the best-sounding argument
for his tax cuts. Bush frequently claimed his tax cuts
would help low- and middle-income Americans, and in 2000
and 2001 he often spoke of a mythical single-mom waitress,
making $22,000 or so, who would be guided into the middle-
class by his tax cuts. The point was to make it seem as if
he truly cared for hard-pressed Americans and that his tax
cuts did indeed embody his promise of "compassionate
conservatism." (By the way, I am not placing on this list
Bush?s claim that he is a "compassionate conservative."
That?s a rather relative term more suitable for judgment
than truth-based evaluation.) But when the accounting firm
of Deloitte & Touche reviewed his tax plan for Time
magazine during the 2000 campaign, it found that his
beloved waitress would receive no reduction in her taxes.
Zippo. In 2001, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
found that this waitress might gain $200 from Bush?s tax
cuts if she managed to pull in $25,000 a year. But such a
sum would not place her on the highway to the middle class.
In fact, about 12 million low- and moderate-income families
received no tax relief from Bush?s 2001 tax cuts (and
millions of families were left out of his 2003 package).
His plan unlocked few doors. Instead, about 45 percent of
the 2001 package was slated to go to the top 1 percent of
income earners. In 2003, Citizens for Tax Justice
calculated that individuals earning between $16,000 and
$29,000 would net about $99 from Bush?s proposed tax cuts.
Again, not an amount that would cover the entrance fee for
a middle-class life.

7. "This allows us to explore the promise and potential of
stem cell research." That was what Bush said during an
August 9, 2001, speech, announcing his decision to permit
the federal funding of stem cell research that only used
stem cells lines that existed before his speech. Bush was
presenting his policy as a Solomon-like compromise.
Religious right leaders and the Catholic Church were
opposed to all stem cell research because it uses cells
extracted from five-day old blastocysts (or embryos) in a
process that destroys the embryos. (These embryos usually
are leftovers created by in vitro fertilization at
fertility clinics and no longer needed by the couples for
which they were produced). But many prominent Republican
donors and patient advocacy groups supported stem cell
research, noting that scientists believed that studying
stem cells (which have the potential to grow into any one
of the more than 200 different types of human cells) could
lead to treatments for Parkinson?s, Alzheimer?s and other
terrible diseases. In his speech, Bush said that 60 stem
cell lines already existed?"where the life and death
decision has already been made"--and that these lines could
support a vital and vibrant research effort. Consequently,
he said, federally funding could be limited to underwriting
research that employed only these lines. Bush was trying to
have it both ways. He could appease his social conservative
supporters by saying no to any federal support for new stem
cell lines, and he could claim to support research that
might potentially help millions of people. There was one
problem. The 60 pre-existing lines did not exist. The
number was closer to a dozen?if that?an amount that experts
in the field did not consider sufficient for research
purposes. And when scientists and media reports
convincingly discredited Bush?s count?which Bush might have
initially assumed to be correct?the Bush administration
kept repeating its untruthful position. Sticking to the 60-
lines fantasy (or lie) permitted Bush to avoid making an
explicit decision to curtail stem cell research. But in
effect that was what he had done without admitting it.

6. "We must uncover every detail and learn every lesson of
September the 11th." Bush said this in November 2002, as he
appointed Henry Kissinger to be chairman of an independent
9/11 commission that Bush had orignially opposed.
(Kissinger lasted two weeks in the job.) But Bush has not
encouraged the uncovering of every detail. His
administration did not turn over information to the
congressional 9/11 inquiry about intelligence warnings the
White House reviewed before 9/11. The administration also
refused to say whether certain pre-9/11 intelligence
warnings?including a July 2001 report noting that Osama bin
Laden was poised to launch a "spectacular" attack "designed
to inflict mass casualties against U.S. facilities or
interests"?were shared with Bush and what he did in
response, if he had received them. Moreover, the
administration claimed that Bush?s awareness of these
warnings (not the warnings themselves) was classified
information?an argument unprecedented in the modern history
of national security secrets. Bush also refused to let the
congressional inquiry release the portion of its final
report that concerned connections between the 9/11
hijackers and Saudi citizens or officials. By resorting to
such secrecy?which happened to keep hidden information that
might be embarrassing or inconvenient for the Bush
administration--Bush made it impossible for investigators
to "uncover every detail" and for the nation to "learn
every lesson."

5. "[We are] taking every possible step to protect our
country from danger." Bush said that a month after 9/11,
and he has repeated that vow several times since then,
including at the start of his recent month-long vacation at
his Texas ranch. Every possible step? A reassuring line,
but it is not true. Two years after the attacks, there
still is no plan for enhanced security at the nation?s
thousands of chemical plants. (Over a hundred of them
handle chemicals that if released could threaten a million
or so Americans.) According to the General Accounting
Office, the Bush administration has not
even "comprehensively assessed the chemical industry?s
vulnerabilities to terrorist attacks." In October 2002, Tom
Ridge, Bush?s chief homeland security official, said that
voluntary regulations for the chemical industry would not
suffice, but that is the policy the administration has been
slowly pursuing. And less-than-everything has been the
approach in other critical areas. A recent report from a
Council on Foreign Relations task force?headed up by former
Republican Senator Warren Rudman?says that not enough has
been done to improve the abilities of first responders and
that their basic needs will be underfunded by $100 billion
over the next five years. The nation?s ports have asked for
$1 billion to beef up security; the Bush administration has
announced grants of $300 million. Various reports note that
the federal government has not done all that is necessary
to improve its biodefense capabilities. The administration
has opposed efforts to mandate the screening of commercial
cargo carried by passenger aircraft. (Most of this sort of
cargo is not currently screened?creating one large security
loophole.) So "every possible step" has not been taken.

4. "I first got to know Ken [Lay in 1994]." As the Enron
scandal reached the White House in early 2002, Bush uttered
this remark, claiming he had nothing to do with Lay until
after winning the 1994 Texas gubernatorial election. It was
an apparent and clumsy effort to diminish his relationship
with the now-disgraced Enron chief. But in1994, Lay and
Enron had been leading contributors to Bush?s campaign. And
Lay?long a patron of Bush?s father?had worked with Bush in
political settings prior to 1994. In a pre-scandal
interview, Lay noted he had been "very close to George W."
for years before1994. (In the mid-1980s, Bush?s oil venture
was in a partnership with Enron.) Bush also claimed that
his administration had been of absolutely no help to Enron.
That might have been true during the scam-based company?s
final days. But in the months preceding that, the Bush
administration had assisted Enron in a variety of ways.
This included appointing individuals recommended by Lay as
top energy regulators and opposing wholesale price caps on
electricity during the California energy crisis, a move
that came after Lay (whose electricity-selling company was
using manipulative tactics to gouge California) urged the
White House to block price caps.

3. "Intelligence gathered by this and other governments
leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess
and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised."
And, "[Saddam Hussein is] a threat because he is dealing
with al Qaeda." These two Bush remarks go hand in hand,
even though the first was said on March 17, 2003, two days
before Bush launched the invasion of Iraq, and the other
came during a November 7, 2002, press conference. Together
they represented his argument for war: Hussein possessed
actual weapons of mass destruction and at any moment could
hand them to his supposed partners in al Qaeda. That is why
Hussein was an immediate threat to the United States and
had to be taken out quickly. But neither of these
assertions were truthful. There has been much media debate
over all this. But the postwar statements of Richard Kerr,
a former deputy director of the CIA, provide the most
compelling proof. He has been conducting a review of the
prewar intelligence, and he has told reporters that the
intelligence on Hussein?s WMDs was full of caveats and
qualifiers and based mostly on inferential or
circumstantial evidence. In other words, it was not no-
doubt material. He also has said that prewar intelligence
reports did not contain evidence of links between Hussein
and al Qaeda. The best information to date indicates that
the prewar intelligence did not leave "no doubt" about WMDs
and did not support Bush?s claim that Hussein was in
cahoots with al Qaeda. Bush?s primary reason for war was
founded on falsehoods

2. "We found the weapons of mass destruction." Bush issued
this triumphant remark in late May 2003, while being
interviewed by a Polish television reporter. He was
referring to two tractor-trailers obtained by U.S. forces
in Iraq. The CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency had
concluded these vehicles were mobile bio-weapons plants.
Yet they had found not a trace of biological agents on
either. (And no bio-weapon facility could be scrubbed
completely clean.) In subsequent weeks, it turned out that
State Department analysts and even DIA engineering experts?
as well as outside experts?did not accept the CIA and DIA
conclusion, and some of these doubters believed the
explanation of Iraqis who claimed the trucks were built to
produce hydrogen for weather balloons. Whichever side might
be ultimately right about the trailers, this all-important
piece of evidence was hotly contested. It was hardly solid
enough to support Bush?s we-found-them declaration or to
justify a war.

1. "It?s time to restore honor and dignity to the White
House." Bush said that many a time during the 2000
presidential campaign, and in at least one ad pledged
to "return honor and integrity" to the Oval Office. See