Lies Lies Lies

Leaving aside the central issue of whether the Bush administration lied (or at least overstated) about the Iraqi weapons of mass destructions, there’s the tangent but still compelling issue as to why people are so willing to believe the Bush administration lied (or at least overstated) about the Iraqi weapons of mass detruction. From my point of view, there are two not mutually exclusive explanations.

1) The people bitching about Bush hate him with the white-hot intensity of a thousand suns, and will use any excuse to bring him down. This is naturally the position of the conservatives and most people who supported the war. It also has the virtue of being true: People who hate Dubya really hate Dubya. It would be interesting to find some way to gauge whether people who truly hate Dubya hate him more intensely than the people who truly hated Clinton hated him; possibly the best way to discover this would be to lock them all in a very large box, toss in some bludgeoning implements, and see who eventually crawls out of the box’s bloody interior. Naturally, I’m for doing this right this very second.

2) The Bush administration appears to many people to be patronizing, guarded and stingy with the truth, an appearance based on fact that the adminstration is patronizing, guarded and stingy with the truth; it’s not even so much that the Bush folks lie as it is about the overall impression that they don’t feel obligated to share what they know with the likes of us. Let’s face it, any presidential administration that wants to classify information already in the public domain is not an administration that engenders many feelings of trust and goodwill.

The first of these is of course nothing the Bush people can do much about — Bush haters would hate Bush even if he were to up the top marginal rate to 80%, line the pockets of the poor with gold, and ban oil drilling within 1000 nautical miles of the United States shoreline. But the second of these is definitely of their own doing. If you want people to trust you, don’t give them the distinct impression that their role is to shut up and unquestioningly do as they’re told, because you know what’s best for them, and that should be enough.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m entirely at peace with our having gone to war with Iraq. It was the right thing to do, and I’m glad we did it, and I’m glad that Bush decided it needed doing. But I’m also perfectly peachy keen with the Bushies being accused of dishonesty and duplicity regarding what was the primary reason for going to war, and taking their lumps therein. I don’t expect it’ll make the Bush administration any more open — rather the opposite — but I think it’ll remind people that we should be able to hold our government accountable not only for its actions, but for the stated reasons for those actions as well. Despite the whining of Conservatives crying foul, this expectation of accountability is not a bad thing.

21 Comments on “Lies Lies Lies”

  1. I find it both amusing and ironic that the presidency that was supposed to restore ethics to the White House following the “evils and excesses” of Bill Clinton is running into some of the same problems that Clinton’s administration experienced, i.e., people thinking that the admin is lying about something. When you behave as if you have something to hide, regardless of whether you really do or not, people will tend to think that you have something to hide…

  2. I think the current wisdom before the war was that dislike for Bush was because of his style, as you aptly described above. The idea was that any quibles with style would evaporate once the the success of hi s programs became apparent.


  3. “Bush haters would hate Bush even if he were to up the top marginal rate to 80%, line the pockets of the poor with gold, and ban oil drilling within 1000 nautical miles of the United States shoreline.”

    If he did any of those things, I for one would be in favor of him. If he did them *all*, I’d be as ready to elect him God as so many Republicans are.

    But with all due respect, John, that’s a hell of a big “if” there. I (again, speaking only for me and the mouse in my pocket) have no more reason to believe he’s *capable* of doing all (or, indeed, any) of those things, let alone that he *intends* to do them, than I have to believe he’s capable of flapping his arms and flying to the moon.

  4. In response to Jason, who wrote,”When you behave as if you have something to hide, regardless of whether you really do or not, people will tend to think that you have something to hide…”

    First Saddam now Bush. Should we “shock and awe” the Republican party come election day? Remove Bush and his Weapons of Mass Hysteria?

  5. “The people bitching about Bush hate him with the white-hot intensity of a thousand suns, and will use any excuse to bring him down.”

    This is very true. My wife and mother-in-law spit at the tv every time he’s on or is mentioned. This is very annoying because I keep having to clean the tv screen.

    Of course, their hatred is ironic for me because I felt the same way about Clinton and even more so about Hillary. It’s also given me pause because I felt at the time that my ‘hatred’ of Clinton was justified, and, this time around as a a disinterested outsider (I don’t hate Bush so much as merely think he’s a dufus in the style of Ford), I wonder what Bush did, other than taking up space on the planet, that earned him the ire of my wife and mother-in-law. This dispationate wondering must be what others felt when I went off on Clinton. It’s not that I like Clinton now, that’s just not possible, but the passage of time has cooled my flames of passion against him and Hillary.

    The lesson I learned from this is to not take it personally. It is just politics, after all. Beyond the odd stupid law and changes in the tax code, politicians do not affect my everyday existence.

  6. The third factor that does Bush in is that he’s clearly incapable of articulating any intelligent thought more complex than “either you’re for us or against us.”

    Tony Blair presented a far more compelling case for war than Bush. Furthermore, he seems incapable of getting anyone in his administration to realize that you have to make the case to the American people. You have to stand out there and defend your positions.

    For example, the “Bush is lying” contingent would love to have you forget that the U.N. and Blix believed from their own inspections that Saddam had at least chemical and biological weapons, that he was trying (if failing) to acquire some nuclear capability, and that Powell released in his U.N. speech evidence (from taps) that Iraqi officials were actively engaged in hiding something from the inspectors. Shoot, everyone seems to be forgetting that Saddam has refused to follow any U.N. resolutions on this matter. But I haven’t been hearing any of this from anyone in the administration, which means that the agenda has been allowed to be hijacked to no good purpose.

    I’m not suggesting that they dig up Churchill, but even Clinton was far more able to articulate his positions.

  7. Whatever his other faults, Clinton is an extremely articulate man and I, for one, wish more of our elected leaders were as well. I might have a far easier time swallowing the policies of the Bush administration if the guy could at least explain them in any meaningful way and develop an argument for why they’re good ideas.

    Dane, I’m with you in ’04!

  8. I’m always disturbed when I hear comments like, “it’s just politics, it doesn’t *really* matter.”

    For example, at this point my most-likely-to-be-true Occam’s Razor explanation of the absence of WMD in Iraq: the inspectors were right that Saddam had some stocks and wanted more. But the administration trumped up the actual danger of Saddam’s possession of these; there weren’t many and he had no way of using them on US territory. But now, what *was* there is gone because it’s been bartered for ideological or cash reasons, and God only knows where it is now.

    So the end result is that the Iraq war made the world *more* dangerous for us, and that’s before you get into touchy-feely things like, well, Al-Qaeda was formed as a result of the first Gulf War, and who knows what’s coming next as a result of this one?

    The point is, this stuff matters. Handwaving to say that it really doesn’t matter is what allows people with power to continue abusing it.

  9. I didn’t think I was trying to say that politics didn’t matter. I was making the point that there was no good reason to get all emotional about it, like I did when Clinton was president and my wife and M.I.L does now with Bush.

    Politics do matter. It just doesn’t need to be personal to the extent that it become emotional.

    Especially here in California, where Davis and the Democrats want to tax everything that isn’t nailed down to get them out of a budget crisis they created.

  10. It is interesting to note that, as some political thinkers have postulated, the era of ‘the president is lying’ and/or his administration is doing something dirty/underhanded/illegal began with Tricky Dick. Once that particular evil was out of Pandora’s box, then the cover was blown on any of a number of things from Kennedy’s alleged affairs to FDR’s incapacity in the closing days of WWII.

    Thus the media, and the public, have come to EXPECT that things are amiss and search, justifiably or not, for deceit — and in world where conspiracy theorists need nothing more than a fervent wishful thinking to see vast, implacable subterfuges, the snipe hunts begin.

    One more note: I remember working for a producer whose boss was strong Democratic supporter and a key Demo player in the California scene. My boss, too, was a Democrat, but incurred his boss’s ire when he said, “I support Clinton and I’m glad he’s in office…I just wish he were a BETTER president.” You’re either with us or against us, indeed.

    I suppose I think something similar these days. Not so happy with the way Bush is driving, sometimes, but generally pleased with the trip and the anticipated destination.

    Oh, and a shout out to Jon Stewart/The Daily Show, who did some nice political reporting by juxtaposing in a nice video debate Candidate Bush with President Bush. Cogent political analysis from Comedy Central — the apocalypse is near.

    Politically yours,

    Roger Baker!

  11. The Daily Show has been the best source of news on Television for a couple years now.

    Basically, once Jon Stewart settled in.

  12. John,
    you say “I’m entirely at peace with our having gone to war with Iraq. It was the right thing to do, and I’m glad we did it”. Does that mean you would support US military intervention, with or without the support of other nations, in Somalia, The Congo, North Korea and a dozen or more similarly miserable shitholes whose awfulness can be directly attributed to the abuse of power and/or the absence of the rule of law? What should the US do about Turkish abuse of their Kurdish population? Is it the place of the US to decide whether the people of Ache and West Papua have a reasonable case for independence, and if so to force Indonesia to go along with it? When is the world’s policeman going to get around to returning independence to Tibet, or democracy to Burma?

    I’m not even saying that those would be bad things to do; but bringing the world to peace and democracy one war at a time seems like a big job for any nation, even one as powerful as the US. Just what did Saddam and his pals have that other corrupt, oppressive governments do not have, and what gives the USA the right to decide who gets to stay in power and who gets to eat depleted uranium?

  13. Jason: Clinton is articulate. In, Dick Morris’ memoirs, “Behind the Oval Office: Getting Reelected Against All Odds,” Clinton was described as knowing more about any topic under discussion than anyone else who was present in the Oval Office during staff meetings.
    Unfortunately, the traits that make an efficient president can not be seen outright. Bush, the senior, was percieved as a “wimp,” although he was formerly the chief of the C.I.A., and in charge of number of spooks who could off everyone on this website if we weren’t in our bunkers, today. In the words of Pogo (comic strip), “We have met the enemy, and it is ourselves.” That, in the context of judging our presidents by the berth of their persona instead of their grit. If, we can now make chickens grow teeth, perhaps it’s possible to cross-breed a donkey with an elephant in order to get an administration that isn’t scandal-prone, even if this would mean starving the general public of political nutrition. A specific case is Hillary. None of the arguments, against her running for president in 2008, have their basis in some personal act that she, herself, was the genesis of, yet, she can not get an official divorce from such criticisms by consenting adults. Is anyone in favor of Jesse Ventura? By sheer force of personality and some choke-holds, he could reduce dissent on the political mat. Gerald Ford was percieved as “playing too much college football without a helmet,” and Dubya is probably one step above that image.

  14. It’s easier for me to believe that Bush was misled by his advisors than that Bush himself was actively involved in any deception. Actually, I don’t think George has enough imagination to be dishonest. I suspect that Dubya has probably spent most of his administration (maybe most of his life) carefully insulated from any information or point of view that might contradict Republican orthodoxy. I don’t hate Bush; on the contrary, I occasionally feel sorry for the poor schmuck.

  15. Roger’s comment about him, his wife, mother-in-law, Clinton, Bush, etc., is very interesting, and touches on what worries me. We’ve had two presidents in a row, from the two major parties, for whom their opponents don’t just oppose, they practically spit blood from their eyes at the mention of THAT HORRIBLE MAN!!

    This troubles me. Part of it, I think, is that in each case the opposing party just could not accept the legitimacy of the election. In Clinton’s case, after the patrician Bush Sr., a lot of the Republican party just could not accept the election of someone they saw as a Bubba with a whiff of the trailer park about him. (Never mind that he was a Rhodes scholar.) With Bush, well, there’s Florida and all that, don’t need to rehash it.

    But this is two presidencies in a row where the opposing party, or at least big parts of it, are unable even to respect the occupant of the Oval Office, almost to the point of being unable to respect the office he holds. Now, these may be two special cases, but if it happens again, and a pattern sets in, we’re in trouble.

  16. Brennan: That’s another thing that worries me about Bush. During the campaign, it was practically a bragging point that W did not read the major papers on a daily basis, but relied on staff to prepare executive briefings for him.

    Orwell made the case best, but you don’t have to have read him to understand the point: If you control totally a man’s sources of information, you don’t have to control his mind, make his decisions for him, because he will never consider an option other than the ones you have constructed for him. You may then allow him to make a free choice between them, content with whatever he chooses, and he himself will indignantly protest any suggestion that he was manipulated.

    It’s been happening in government for thousands of years (hell, I’ve played this trick myself), but W seems to be a pretty bad case of it.

  17. I never understood the hatred for Clinton. Dubya, yes: I mean, during his campaign he made hay of the fact that he wasn’t nearly as smart as Gore (FFS!), y’know, the whole anti-intellectual “I’m from the heartland of REAL AMERICA, and I don’t need no knowledge of English or interest in current events” thing. It’s only natural that people would start to call him an idiot (whether it’s true or not). And then, yes, there’s the whole Florida thing (again, whether he stole the election or not — it really doesn’t matter at this point).

    So I can see why people would hate him, even though I don’t agree with it.

    But what was with the hatred of Clinton? What? He’s a likable liberal? Is that it? Or is it that they’d spent so long with a conservative regime in America that the idea of the government of the day actually *disagreeing* with their politics shocked the brains out of them and they never recovered? What did Clinton *do*? Every bad thing I can come up with that he’s been involved in, I can imagine right-wingers doing the same thing (Dubya, on the other hand…).

  18. Steve: How old are you? I’m not old enough to remember much before the first Bush presidency but I recall those years as pretty fraught with partisan hatred as well. From reading the history, I can surmise that this animosity extends back to at least LBJ. I don’t know that this is a new thing – I could be wrong.

    Mark: It’s not really hard to understand how people would hate Bush or Clinton. I think you’ve got your blinders on. Clinton may have seemed cuddely if you were a left-leaning democrat or even a middle of the roader. And People who don’t pay attention loved the man. But he was downright mean to conservatives. Would someone on the right do the same thing? Sure, but then they’ll be hated by those on the left.

    Question: Re – your last comment. What did Dubya do that you couldn’t imagine a left-winger doing?

    It seems to me that they are cut from the same cloth – the opportunistic politician.

  19. Well, there’s the tax cuts by the wealthy, for the wealthy, and only the wealthy to start with. Then there’s the jingoism of the war against Iraq — I must admit I can’t think of a reason *why* a centreist or lefty couldn’t come up with the same sort of rhetoric, but I just can’t imagine it.

    Personally, I wasn’t a fan of Clinton — not even close. If I were American, and he was the first Democratic President in over a decade, I might start to get warm and fuzzy feelings towards him simply because he was closer to my own political beliefs than his predecessors. But I’m not, so meh. I just don’t understand the hatred directed towards him. And not just by lunatics like Ann Coulter (who, let’s face it, should be locked up as a danger to herself — and others), either.

    What do you mean by “mean to conservatives”?

    OT, but I’d also just like to note: from a non-American point of view, you *have* no mainstream left-wing party. Well, I guess there’s the Greens. But the Democrats are centre-right, and the Republicans are right, occasionally moving into far-right territory whenever the religions start howling at the moon again.

  20. Dude, put yourself in someone elses shoes for once. I’m not a big fan of Clinton or Bush – they’re both too far left for me. But I can imagine what it would be to be someone oppossed to their policies and/or taking the brunt of a political attack. Come on.

    What do I mean by “mean”? Not nice.

  21. “What do I mean by “mean”? Not nice.”

    Well, anything specific (wedge politics, *extremely* aggressive slur campaigns, voting booth fraud, etc), or just calling them “der-heads” and accusing them of wetting the bed?

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