Saturday, February 26, 2005

Eric Alterman of The Nation has written a book about the four biggest presidential lies about matters of war and peace: Roosevelt misrepresenting the Yalta agreement to disguise the fact that it ceded Eastern Europe to the Soviets, Kennedy hiding the fact that he got the Russians to remove missiles from Cuba by agreeing to take our missiles out of Turkey, Johnson inventing the Gulf of Tonkien incident, and Reagan lying about the Iran-Contra connection. Bush's lies are just a coda in this book, but the review in American Prospect points out that Bush's lies are unique:
Two things distinguish Bush from his predecessors on the subject of lying. First, Bush’s grandest lies have not been about covering up what has already happened but about persuading the public to go along with what he has decided to do but has yet to implement. Tax cuts, Iraq, now Social Security -- each major policy move has been accompanied by a campaign of deception. Lying is not a defensive reaction to a crisis but a carefully crafted strategy. Second, and perhaps most troubling, is that Bush seems unconcerned about getting caught. Indeed, the administration’s damn-the-torpedoes fearlessness is the source of much of its political success. ... Go ahead, these officials seem to be saying, call us a bunch of liars -- we really don’t care.
One of the common threads running through [Alterman's book] is that in case after case, the press went along with whatever the administration told it. Watergate may have temporarily cured reporters of this credulousness, but the remission lasted only so long. When the history of the Bush administration is written, the abject cowardice of the press in confronting an administration that held it in undisguised contempt and lied in its face will be one of the most depressing chapters.

Also depressing is that, when revealed, other presidential lies have had consequences. Not so, it seems, with Bush:
As of yet, not only has neither Bush nor his party paid a price for the lies about Iraq but there is little reason to think they will anytime soon. In no small part, the administration is able to evade consequence for its mendacity because its supporters have adopted a siege mentality, hunkered behind the castle walls of their loyalty to the president. Presented with irrefutable evidence that the war in Iraq was sold on a series of deceptions, many of them simply stick their fingers in their ears and chant, “La la la, I can’t hear you.” . . .
One trembles to contemplate the lesson of the Bush administration’s deceptions: Admit nothing, even when caught; continue to lie, even after the lie has been exposed; define anyone who questions the lie as an enemy of the nation or, failing that, of “the troops.” If your partisans stand firm, ... you can get away with just about anything.

I think one of the reasons Bush hasn't paid for his lies is that Democrats haven't attacked. Sure Dick Durbin, Henry Waxman, and Barbara Boxer have. Howard Dean wasn't shy. But where were the rest of them? Where are they now?
Click here if you're interested in reading the article.


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